OMAHA — In year one of Kearney baseball, the Bearcats will play in the state tournament.
Kearney defeated the state’s No. 1 seed, Millard West, 4-2, scoring two runs on an error in the top of the ninth inning Saturday evening.
Kearney pitcher Noah Carpenter went 8 ⅔ innings against the Wildcats (23-5), giving up five hits and striking out six. He walked three and gave up two earned runs.
Kearney (17-8) didn’t break through until the sixth inning. Corbin Foster, who was 2 for 5, led off the sixth with a triple then scored on a single by Brayden Miller.
Miller later scored from second on an infield error.
The score remained tied until the ninth when Sam Engberg led off with a single to left and advanced to second on an error by the left fielder.
Trey Rodriguez followed with a bunt single that brought Engberg home when the throw to get Rodriguez got past the first baseman.
Another error later in the inning, one of six committed by the Wildcats, allowed Rodriguez to score.
In the bottom of the ninth, Carpenter walked the lead-off batter but struck out the second batter and got a fly ball to center for the second out.
Chandler Welker came on to strike out the next batter to get the save.
The victory capped a long day for Bearcats, who beat Millard West 6-5 in the first game of the A1 District
Both teams had beaten Kearney earlier in the season.
A four-run third inning gave Kearney a 5-0 lead over Millard North, but the Mustangs scored three in the fifth and two in the seventh to put a scare in the Bearcats.
The Mustangs (12-12) had the bases loaded when Kearney pitcher Brandt Groskreutz struck out back-to-bak batters to end the game.
Millard North out-hit Kearney 11-7 but Miller’s sixth-inning home run and 2-for-4 performances by Foster and Engberg balanced the ledger. Foster and Korbin Rich had doubles.
Mason Casper drove in two runs and was the starting pitcher, lasting five innings and striking out six.
The double-elimination state tournament begins Saturday in Lincoln for Class A.