There’s more than one way to win a baseball game.
A common path might involve a strong pitching performance or several extra-base hits. A daring path might include tying the game by stealing home plate and winning on a walk-off single that is only the team’s second hit of the game.
For the North Platte American Legion baseball team, that’s just another Monday at the office.
North Platte scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat Anderson Ford (Lincoln North Star) 5-4 in a Class A American Legion state tournament elimination game at Den Hartog Field.
“I’m glad we’re playing at 7 (p.m.) tomorrow because my heart couldn’t take it. I need a little break,” North Platte coach Ricky Holm said.
North Platte’s third batter of the game, Jeremiah Seamann, singled during a two-run first inning, but it wouldn’t manage another base hit against Anderson Ford’s Kaden McCoy the rest of the way.
All the momentum seemed to be in Anderson Ford’s hands when Tyler Bishop hit a solo home run in the fifth inning that cut North Platte’s lead to 3-2, and Lynden Bruegman brought a pair of runs home on a bloop single in the sixth inning.
Anderson Ford’s 4-3 lead was its first of the game, and McCoy looked well on his way to a complete game after retiring 15 of his last 18 batters heading into the seventh.
But Derrick Kuhlmann reached base on a hit by pitch — and then it got crazy. With two outs and Kuhlmann standing on third base, he surprised everyone by stealing home for the game-tying run.
“Definitely a risky call with our best hitter up, but (McCoy) was throwing a two-hitter against us, and Derrick Kuhlmann has our best instincts on the bases,” Holm said. “If there’s anybody I could choose to have in that spot right there, it’s him.”
With his pitch limit reached, McCoy had to exit the game after a stellar 6 2/3 innings, and North Platte (35-20) wasted no time capitalizing on it. Carsen Johnson slapped a walk-off single into right field, and the bench mob soon engulfed him.
North Platte will now have a shot at redemption against Omaha Skutt, which defeated it 5-3 to open the state tournament.
Anderson Ford's season ends at 25-13.
Fremont 4, Omaha Skutt 2
In a battle of the only two unbeaten teams left in the National Division of the American Legion state tournament, the game was won and lost in a 10-foot piece of left field.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, Fremont left fielder Cal Janke made a jumping catch at the warning track that saved a run and preserved a 2-2 game. Immediately following that in the top of the sixth inning, Carter Sintek smacked a base hit to left field that missed Omaha Skutt left fielder Mason Kass’s glove by mere inches and scored two runs.
That slight difference was all it took for Fremont (24-11) to defeat Omaha Skutt 4-2 at Den Hartog Field on Monday.
Considering that the wind had been blowing out to left field for most of the game, it was no easy feat for Janke to sprint back and make an athletic grab.
“If that ball gets down, that’s a run for sure, that’s momentum back in their dugout,” Fremont coach Jeff Hayden said. "That was a huge play, and he just got a good jump on it and went and got it.”
As has been the case throughout the spring and summer seasons, Sintek played a big role in Fremont’s win. He struck out seven batters in six innings on the mound and also went 3 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs.
After the Fremont Bergan team that co-ops with Fremont made the state tournament in the spring, Fremont is having an even more impressive run in the summer. A game against Carpet Land (Lincoln East) awaits on Tuesday, and a win would put Fremont in pole position to win the National Division.
Carpet Land 13, Millard Sox Black 2
Carpet Land erupted for nine runs in the first inning en route to a 13-2 win against Millard Sox Black in an elimination game Monday at Den Hartog Field.
The first five Carpet Land hitters reached base, and the big inning was capped by Cooper Erikson's two-run single to right field.