By TOMMY REZAC
St. Joseph Post
ROSENDALE - North Andrew and North Platte softball have both gotten off to hot starts in 2022, as the Cardinals and Panthers each went unbeaten in their first 11 games.
Both teams also entered Tuesday's contest coming off of their first loss of the season the day before. North Andrew fell 7-6 at Platte Valley, and North Platte lost 2-1 at home to Savannah.
So, it was hard telling what would happen when the two got together.
The lead changed hands twice and the game was tied in the seventh, but North Platte (12-1) scored three runs in the top of the eighth and fended off one last rally from North Andrew to win 8-7 Tuesday at North Andrew High School in a wildly entertaining contest.
"We had to grind through some issues," North Platte coach Farrah Seckel said. "We couldn't get the ball going like we normally could. We had good leadoff there. Our leadoff hitters did their job tonight. We just had to fight back. (North Andrew) is a good team and they were able to make good plays. Our offense really had to focus in and get runners on so we could score."
North Platte, who has now beaten North Andrew in four of the last five meetings, drew first blood in the top of the third, thanks to an RBI single by sophomore Camryn Kersten.
The Cardinals (10-2-1) hit back in the bottom of the third, putting up three runs on three hits and three errors. Sophomore Piper Cook and junior Kenzie Wilmes each had RBI singles to get North Andrew's offense going in that frame.
North Platte went back in front in the top of the fifth. A two-run RBI triple by senior Jaylin Burgess and another RBI triple by sophomore Lindsay Ramsey gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead.
Panthers' middle reliever, freshman Kate Wolf, kept North Andrew off the board in the middle portion of the game, and the Cardinals were held to just one total hit from the fourth through the sixth inning.
Wolf was the winning pitcher for North Platte, tossing four innings, striking out four batters and walking only one.
North Platte added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when senior and starting pitcher Scarlett Slugantz hit an RBI double to left, giving the Panthers a 5-3 edge.
Down 5-4 with two outs, senior Cassidy Brittain roped a single to shallow right, which scored junior Katryna Warren, knotting the game at 5-5.
North Platte punched right back in the top of the eighth. With two outs and nobody on, senior Olivia Rogers and Burgess had back-to-back doubles, and senior Carly Hinton then reached first on a fielding error.
Rogers went a team-best 4-for-5 at the plate with two runs scored. Burgess was 2-for-5 with a pair of runs. Hinton was 2-for-4 and also scored twice.
"It feels really great, coming off the loss (Monday)," Rogers said. "I'm glad we could come together and come back and beat them, and I'm really glad to be a part of this team."
An RBI single by Kersten put North Platte up 8-5 in the eighth. Safe lead, right? Not in this game.
North Andrew led off the bottom of the eighth with four consecutive singles and got two runs back, but a flyout to right and then a throw out at third for a double play nullified the threat, and North Andrew's Piper Cook was retired with two runners on base, allowing North Platte to escape with an 8-7 win.
"I think it really helps us grow and continue to get better," Rogers said, "so we can be conference champs and eventually district champs hopefully."
Despite giving up two earned runs in the final inning, junior pitcher Courtney Dehn got the save for North Platte, retiring the Cardinals in seven at-bats.
"We kind of have a rivalry with North Andrew," Dehn said, "and we just really wanted to push. We didn't want to lose and go into the next game with another loss. So, we needed to get this win."
Freshman Teigan Miller pitched the full game for North Andrew, striking out four and walking one. Only half of North Platte's runs scored were earned.
Offensively, four different Cardinals had two hits and five different Cardinals scored. Sybert and Warren each scored two runs. Sybert also had a team-best two RBIs.
A tough test awaits North Platte back in Dearborn Thursday, as the Panthers will face Mid-Buchanan (12-5).
"We have a big conference game Thursday," Seckel said. "I told them before this game that this is one step to get you ready and prepared for your own conference games. I knew (North Andrew) was tough and had a lot of hitters, too. So, I knew we were going to have to give them our best game."
North Andrew, who has lost back-to-back games for the first time all season, will play in the North Andrew tournament at home on Saturday.
You can follow Tommy on Twitter @TommyKFEQ and St. Joseph Post @StJosephPost.