The North Platte First National Bank Juniors got two big wins at home on Saturday by beating Gretna 9-3 and 10-7.
After being swept by Hastings in a doubleheader on June 10, the Juniors (16-5) are trying to stay alive for the Cornhusker League West Division title. So their coach, Adam Sterup, was pleased with the result against conference newcomer, Gretna.
"Anytime you get wins in the Cornhusker League it's good," Sterup said. "We're playing catch-up with Hastings and we can't afford to lose anymore games in the league."
Gretna scored the first run of the day in the first inning. But North Platte answered with three in the third inning and three more in the fourth and never really looked back with Brendan Folk on the mound. Sterup said that Folk turned in a solid performance and that was a big key in the first game.
"Overall, Brendan threw pretty well," he said. "He threw strikes and we played good defense. We also got hits with runners on base."
Like in the first game, Gretna opened the scoring in the first inning in the second game. But the First Nationals answered again.
With two outs in the bottom of the first inning, Kade Wroot tied the game with a bloop single to right field. Then Dominic Martinez hit a two-run single up the middle before Trev Chase followed suit with his ground single into right that scored two more to double the North Platte lead at 5-1.
"We jumped on them early," Sterup said. "We had good approaches at the plate and we never gave up when we were down in the count."
In the third inning, Gretna took advantage of Bryce Byrn's erratic pitching as the Dragons pulled to within 5-3 with both runs coming home on wild pitches by Byrn.
Both teams traded runs after that. The Nationals got a run in the bottom of the third on a passed ball by catcher Gabe Shemwell. Gretna then made it a two-run game again in the fifth inning when A.J. Cotton got an RBI after hitting into a fielder's choice with one out.
But North Platte rallied again in the fifth. With two outs, Gabe Vyzourek, Dylan Petersen and Kevin Hancock each got RBI singles to make it 9-4 and chase Gretna's starting pitcher, Ryan Samuelson, from the game.
Then after Wroot, who relieved Byrn, held the Dragons scoreless in the top of the sixth, the First Nationals scored another run with two outs when Chase singled to right-center.
"Our lineup is solid from top to bottom," Sterup said. "We don't have a player at the bottom of the order that you can expect an out from and that's nice to have."
Wroot had a rocky seventh inning. Gretna scored two runs before North Platte got an out. But with the help of a controversial call where leftfielder Austin Orr was ruled to have caught a fly ball for the second out, the Nationals hung on to get the sweep.
"Today and Thursday, we did a better job of scoring runs both with runners on base and with two outs," Sterup said.