HASTINGS-The North Platte First National Bank Juniors won their first district championship since 2002 on Tuesday by defeating Hastings twice by scores of 13-6 and 5-2 at Duncan Field.The Juniors (28-11) will be playing in the state tournament for the second straight year. Last year, they played as the host team after finishing third in districts but this year they earned their way in as the Area 7 champions. The state tournament at Elkhorn starts on Saturday.
In the first of two games played on Tuesday, North Platte fell behind 2-0 in the first inning. But the First Nationals scored four runs in the third inning.
Both teams traded runs in the fourth before the Nationals broke it open in the fifth with six runs. Behind the pitching of Kevin Hancock, North Platte never looked back and they forced a deciding second game.
Dylan Petersen had three hits and three RBIs to lead North Platte in the first game.
The second game started out as a pitcher's dual between the First Nationals' Caden Comer and Hastings ace Matt Krontz. Like in the first game, Hastings (32-17) had the early lead as they scored first in the fourth inning.
But in the fifth, North Platte got to Krontz by scoring four runs and chasing him from the game. Hastings scored a run in the top of the sixth and Comer was relieved by Dominic Martinez. But the Nationals got the run back in the bottom half of the inning.
Martinez then finished Hastings off in the seventh and the First Nationals clinched their return trip to state.
In the second game, North Platte was led by Braiden Ruffin with two RBIs.