A 21-hit outburst lifted Kearney Runza to a 10-7 win over the North Platte First Nationals in the opening game of the Class A, Area 7 Senior Baseball Tournament on Friday at Cleveland Field in Scottsbluff.
Every hitter in the Kearney lineup had at least one hit. Matt Moore led the offensive attack by going 4-for-5.
“It's always nice to get that first win,” Kearney coach Brad Archer said. “For the most part, I thought we played real well. We hit the ball extremely well.”
The win advances the seven-time defending A-7 champions into a winner's bracket showdown Saturday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will move into the championship and secure one of the area's two berths into next week's state tournament.
North Platte struck first by scoring the game's first two runs in the bottom of the first inning when Darian Allberry singled in Drew Beyer and Ben Sukraw.
After a scoreless second inning, Kearney pulled even at 2-2 when Anthony Pacheco roped a double into the left-centerfield gap to chase home Moore and Dakota Schriner. That jumpstarted Kearney's offense as Runza proceeded to score nine unanswered runs to build a comfortable 9-2 advantage.
Moore's two-run double highlighted a five-run fourth inning for Kearney. Runza later tacked on three insurance runs in the seventh and ninth innings.
Ben Borer earned the win on the mound. He allowed five runs on five hits, walked two, and struck out six in 7 1/3 innings of work. After allowing two runs in the opening frame, Borer settled into a zone that saw him hold North Platte scoreless for five straight innings.
“Benny did a great job,” Archer said. “He kind of ran into a pitch count situation late so we got him out of the game. He did a good job of mixing up his pitches. But the main thing is he started getting ahead and he threw strikes. That always helps.”
After North Platte managed to close within three in its last at bat, Alec Kowalski took the mound to get the last out of the game and earn the save.
In addition to Moore, six other hitters finished with multiple hits for Kearney. Pacheco and Kowalski both had three hits, while Schriner, Hunter King, Thomas Connely and Jamieson Oertle all had two hits each.
Pacheco drove in three runs and doubled twice. Moore and Schriner both knocked in two runs and scored a pair of runs. Connely and Kowalski also plated two runs each.
North Platte was led at the plate by Alec Wesslund, who went 3-for-4 with a double. Sukraw went 2-for-4 with a double, two runs batted in, and two runs scored. Allberry and Alex Harms both drove in two runs, while Sukraw and Drew Beyer each scored a pair of runs.
Dalton Pflughaupt took the loss on the mound for North Platte. He allowed five earned runs on seven hits and struck out three in three innings.
North Platte will play an elimination game Saturday at 4 p.m.
Although Kearney is off to a good start in pursuit of an eighth straight area title, Archer said his squad is going to be in for quite a battle to get back to the state tournament.
“Our kids realize that this isn't going to be a cakewalk by any means,” he said. “We're going to have to come out and really play solid baseball. We do a good job of hitting the baseball, but we don't necessarily have the quality pitching we've had in past years. We've got to come out and pitch well, play solid defense, and try to score enough runs to win.”
Kearney Runza (25-17) ............... 002 500 201 — 10 21 1
North Platte (22-26) ..................... 200 000 122 — 7 9 2
WP — Ben Borer. LP — Dalton Pflughaupt.
2B — Anthony Pacheco (2), Matt Moore, Thomas Connely, Alec Kowalski, Jamieseon Oertle, Ben Sukraw, Alec Wesslund.