DEARBORN, Mo. — North Platte opened the season with a dominant performance but ended up settling for second in its home round robin.
East Buchanan, Lexington and North Platte all finished 2-1 on Saturday, Aug. 19 at Dean Park with East Buchanan taking the North Platte Invitational title on a tiebreaker. North Platte opened with a 6-1 win over rival West Platte, but a loss to East Buchanan ruined the Panthers’ bid to reclaim the title.
North Platte also finished second a year ago.
With eight starters back on each team, North Platte used senior Gracie Roach’s three-run home run to cap a big first inning on the way to the first win. McKenna Fulton and McKenzie Sams led off with back-to-back bunt singles against West Platte freshmen starter Karah Dunham, and senior shortstop Alley Rickel followed with a two-RBI double to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
Jordyn Smith, North Platte’s returning sophomore pitcher, stepped to the plate and hit a single to put runners at the corners with Roach coming up. On a two-strike count, she lifted a three-run home run over the left field fence to make it a five-run inning before an out was recorded.
Smith threw four perfect innings to start the game before West Platte broke through for its lone run in the fifth.
Kaitlin Larison, back with the team after a year away, singled and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, coming home on Dunham’s one-out single to make it 5-1. After allowing the first five batters to reach, Dunham came back to retire six straight batters before Rickel doubled to lead off the fourth.
North Platte made it 6-1 in the sixth on a pair of errors sandwiched around a sacrifice bunt.
“The first inning we scored five runs and turned around and didn’t do anything until very late innings,” North Platte coach Ron Resler said. “We kind of created that last run on small ball but as long as you’re one run ahead once the game is over, you did something right.”
After the perfect start, Smith finished with three strikeouts and just one walk to earn the win.
“I just didn’t want them to get on base at all,” Smith said. “They eventually did, but we held them down.”
Ryann Smith, a freshman, started the second game for North Platte against East Buchanan, allowing all seven runs in a 7-1 loss. Only four of the runs were earned. Roach had a double and a run scored, while Rickel had a triple.
North Platte came back to help force the tie at the top of the standings with an 11-1 win in five innings over Lexington. Coming off the loss, the Panthers pounded out 12 hits, including three apiece for Rickel and Jordyn Smith.
Roach added a pair of doubles, while Jordyn Smith had three RBIs and three runs scored. Rickel scored three times and drove in one.
Jordyn Smith again earned the win with five strikeouts and no walks in five innings.
West Platte’s tournament fell apart after a strong showing in the opener. The Bluejays finished 0-3 with lopsided losses to Lexington (16-1) and East Buchanan (17-2).
In the four-inning game with Lexington, West Platte took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Sikoya Richard led off with a single, stole second and scored when Rachel Heili reached on an error.
Lexington immediately answered with 10 runs, and West Platte managed just two runs the rest of the way — singles for Lea Moose and Sydney Sweeden.
East Buchanan never trailed in its four-inning win, tallying four in the top of the first. Down 5-0, West Platte managed two runs in the bottom of the third on Heili’s two-run double to right field, scoring Lindsay Goodwin and Richard.
Makayla Wardlow walked to start the inning but was thrown out stealing. Goodwin and Richard followed with singles before Heili hit the one-out double. She ended up stranded at second, and East Buchanan scored 12 runs in the top of the fourth.
North Platte’s non-tournament opener against Stanberry was pushed back due to inclement weather on Monday, Aug. 21.