BASEBALL ROUNDUP: North Platte struggles at plate, still splits doubleheader

BRYCE MERENESS/Citizen photo North Platte pitcher Blake Toliver watches a pitch he delivered in a game against South Nodaway on Monday, March 23 at Dean Park in Dearborn. Mo. DEARBORN, Mo. — North Platte struggled to find offense in a season-opening doubleheader but ultimately earned a split of the two games.

The Panthers collected just three hits in 14 innings against South Nodaway, losing the opener 5-0 but salvaging the nightcap with a 4-3 win Monday, March 23 at Dean Park. The Longhorns pitching staff struck out a total of 27 North Platte batters, and the win came despite just one hit in that game for the Panthers.

“We did some things well in the first game, especially defensively,” North Platte coach Grant Tysdahl said. “We were making plays and pitching really well. We really struggled to put the bat on the ball to try and make them make plays. Once we finally picked it up a little bit and put it in play and put pressure on them, we were able to get some guys around and score some runs.”

In the first game, South Nodaway starter Garrett LaMaster scattered two hits while striking out 14. Only six batters reached base for North Platte — two via walks and two on Longhorns errors in addition to two hits.

LaMaster took a no-hitter into the fourth inning.

North Platte senior Austin Shanks broke the effort up with a single up the middle to lead off that frame. LeMaster pitched around the hit with a strikeout, fielder’s choice and another strikeout to avoid a jam.

North Platte advanced runners into scoring position three different times but couldn’t come up with a clutch hit.

South Nodaway opened the scoring in the third inning after threats in each of the first two innings did not materialize. LeMaster reached first after a two-out error in the top of the third and stole second base. He moved to third on a passed ball on the next pitch and came around to score when a sinking liner to center got down in front of onrushing North Platte outfielder Aron Burke for a single.

South Nodaway added two more runs in the fourth and an insurance tally in the seventh to provide the final margin.

North Platte (1-1) started quick in the finale then staged a hitless comeback.

Hunter Oliver drew a two-out walk in the bottom of the second inning — one of eight in the game for the Panthers. He stole second, and Burke drove him in one pitch later with a single for the Panthers’ only hit of the game.

South Nodaway took the lead with two runs in the top of the fifth, but the Panthers immediately answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame to take the lead for good on three walks and three errors from the Longhorns.

“Getting the win was really important for these guys,” Tysdahl said, “especially with the low win total last year. We were still in the first game all the way to the seventh inning. We played seven innings. There were a lot of games (last year) that we didn’t even make it seven innings.”

North Platte starter Blake Toliver struck out eight batters in the win, including the final out with a runner on third base. Ben Jermain reached on a fielder’s choice with a runner on second who ran into an out at third base. Jermain stole third and stood helplessly as the last batter watched a called third strike from home plate umpire Chris Geinosky.

“It felt great.” Toliver said. “I knew I had my team behind me. That’s where the game was won tonight, with my team behind me.”

North Platte returns to action on Thursday — barring a weather interruption — in its KCI Conference opener against East Buchanan.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy 10, West Platte 4

The Junior Ravens took full advantage of base runners in the season opener on Monday, March 23 in Atchison, Kan.

Maur Hill drove in nine and scored 10 runs — all earned — to coast to the victory. The Bluejays stranded 16 runners in the loss and batted .250 in the game. West Platte starting pitcher Tanner Lintner took the loss after allowing five runs in 1 2/3 innings.

Clay Lambrecht pitched the remainder of the game, allowing five runs as well. Lintner and returning all-state player McKaulley Stephenson accounted for two West Platte RBIs.

Maur Hill-Mount Academy 6, West Platte 4

One costly error proved to be too much for the Bluejays to overcome, dropping the night-cap of a doubleheader with the private school. The Junior Ravens scored six runs in the third inning to take the lead — only one earned. Stephenson drove in a pair with doubles in the third and one in the sixth.

Liberty Leadoff Tournament

Park Hill went 1-2 over the weekend to start the Liberty Leadoff Tournament in Liberty, Mo. The Trojans lost 3-1 to Blue Springs on Friday before splitting a pair of games on Saturday.

Parker Sampson, a sophomore, sparked a 9-6 win against Smithville with a three-run home run, and junior Preston Cross scored three times.

Park Hill lost 11-0 in a run-rule shortened loss to Raymore-Peculiar. The Trojans wrap up tournament play with games scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 and Thursday, March 26.