WESTON, Mo. — After just four pitches, Andrew Roberts’ home run to center field — the first of the season for any North Platte batter — gave the underdog a surprise lead.
The Panthers ended up without another hit the rest of the way and slowly wilted in an 8-1 loss to top-seeded Mid-Buchanan on Wednesday, May 18 at Benner Park. A pair of defensive miscues helped the Dragons pull away, and with limited baserunners, North Platte simply couldn’t respond and play spoiler against the KCI Conference regular season champions.
Mid-Buchanan won the first two meetings between the two this year by a combined 30 runs.
“It was good wood on there, kind of got us fired up, got us out of the gates,” North Platte coach Grant Tysdahl said. “All day, we actually put the ball in play. We just hit a lot right at them. Mid-Buch, defensively, they’re just such a great team, and they’re a great team all around.”
North Platte finished up a respectable season at 8-14 and a 3-7 record in KCI games — the most league wins for the downtrodden program since 2009.
After advancing to the district semifinals with a 3-1 win against East Atchison, the Panthers received a shot of energy toward their upset hopes after Roberts’ leadoff shot. Mid-Buchanan starter Noah McClanahan then retired the next eight batters in a row, and by the time Roberts reached on a walk with two outs in the third, the Dragons were up 2-1.
Mid-Buchanan scored at least one in each of the first five innings.
Despite no hits after the first batter, North Platte ended up with two chances to draw back closer. McClanahan walked Bryntin Crockett with two outs in the fourth and then hit Halen Knapp with the next pitch.
A wild pitch advanced both into scoring position, but Mark Fisher grounded out to second base to end the inning.
In the fifth, McClanahan hit Roberts with a pitch, and he moved up to third on a stolen base and wild pitch. Hunter Oliver struck out to end that threat on a 3-2 pitch. McClanahan retired the final seven in a row to finish off the complete game.
North Platte made an error in each of the second, third and fourth innings, leading to four of Mid-Buchanan’s runs.
“We knew coming in that we were going to have to play a good game defensively, gonna have to put the ball in play and definitely need to catch some breaks,” Tysdahl said. “That just didn’t happen today. That’s baseball.”
North Platte won three of its final seven, doing so after losing pitcher Blake Toliver to a season-ending toe injury suffered during his rodeo schedule.
Roberts, who didn’t go out for baseball until his senior season, slowly developed into an ace while taking over leadoff duties in the lineup. He struck out four in his final start in addition to the solo home run.
“It was pretty rusty the beginning of the year,” Tysdahl said, “but without him, we probably would have struggled to win some of those games because he put it on his shoulders. He wants the ball. He wants the ball to come to him, and he just flat out wants to win. And he’ll give everything he’s got.”