KEARNEY-The North Platte First National Bank Juniors defeated Twin Cities 14-12 in a high-scoring game on Saturday night at the district tournament.With the win over Twin Cities, North Platte advances to Sunday's semifinals against Kearney.
"Twin Cities is a great offensive team and we helped them tonight with a lot of walks," said Juniors coach Adam Sterup. "But offensively, we played well too. It was a complete 360 from last night (against Lexington). We had solid approaches and great swings at the plate. We took advantage of their errors but we put the ball in play."
North Platte (23-29) jumped ahead of the Express and led 6-0 after the first three innings.
"That was a huge thing for us," Sterup said. "The first couple of times we played them this year, we started out slow. We're usually a late-inning team, so it was nice to see us get ahead."
First Nationals pitcher Levi Nekuda got himself into some trouble by walking batters in the first three innings. But he was able to get out of it by getting timely outs.
But in the fourth inning, he wasn't so lucky. Eric Olsen hit a double to center field with the bases loaded to score the first two runs for Twin Cities. Then Matt Mickey doubled off the wall in left to make it 6-4.
Fortunately for North Platte, their offense really picked up in the top of the fifth inning. Jace Barker scored the first run with a one-out single into right. Then Austin Chitty reached on an error by second baseman Brad Divan to score another run.
Kevin Hancock and Marcus Silos then drew bases loaded walks from Mickey and that spelled the end for the Twin Cities starter who was relieved by Traceten Halley.
Against Halley, Dylan Petersen hit a three-run double to left-center that made it 13-4.
Brendan Folk came in for Nekuda to start the bottom of the fifth and he couldn't find the strike zone. Folk only got one out before he was relieved by Hancock after the Express scored four runs.
Hancock didn't fare much better. Coming in with the bases loaded, he walked Trevor Garcia and Jason Amateis. Another run then came across on a wild pitch to make it a two-run game.
Then Divan brought in another run with a sacrifice fly to center to bring Twin Cities to within 13-12 before Hancock got out of the inning with a strikeout.
"That doesn't happen too often," said Sterup. "When you score seven runs, you think the inning is yours. But it came down to walks. They didn't hit the ball that well but because we walked so many guys, they scored runs when they did hit the ball."
In the top of the sixth, Hancock hit a two-out RBI double to center field in what turned out to be the last run of the game.
Dominic Martinez came in for the sixth inning and he threw two scoreless innings to get the save for the Nationals.
The seventh inning started out rocky. Andy Van Amburg led off with a single and then Garcia reached on an error by the shortstop, Barker. But Van Amburg ran too far past third base in hopes of scoring and Barker threw him out at third for the first out.
Martinez struck out Amateis and then he got Divan to fly out to center to end the game.
"I really didn't want to use him because he had been one of our most consistent pitchers as of late and I was hoping to use him for a start later on," Sterup said of Martinez. "But he did a good job coming in and throwing strikes."