Appleton West’s close 4-3 victory over Appleton East on Friday may have been a game the Terrors lost a season ago.
The Terrors squandered a two-run lead in the seventh, but rebounded to get the Fox Valley Association victory thanks to Nick Kukurich’s walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the 10th at Nienhaus Sports Complex.
The win improved West to 3-1 on the season and kept the Terrors in a second-place logjam with several other FVA teams right behind league-leading Menasha.
“We still have to clean some stuff up. Making routine plays is huge for us, finishing the game which we almost didn’t do tonight,” West senior catcher Dan Jansen said. “I think we’re starting to figure stuff out on the field, which is definitely a plus and it’s really exciting. Everything’s clicking and starting to get going.”
West held a 3-1 lead heading into the seventh inning thanks to the strong pitching of ace Nathan Disch and a key two-run single from sophomore second baseman Jason Leadley in the second inning.
Disch struck out nine over seven innings and worked himself out of several jams throughout the game, but East tied the game in the top of the seventh on RBI singles from Taran Tierney and Kam Gahr.
Luke Curtis took over for Disch to pitch the extra frames and West’s bats finally awoke in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Jansen led off with a double and advanced to third on Disch’s single on the next at-bat. That brought up Kukurich, who collected the RBI single that scored Jansen.
“I was kind of nervous (at the plate),” said Kukurich, a junior third baseman. “I was just hoping to get a base hit and have someone score. That’s what I was going for.”
Said Appleton West coach Dave Gassner: “Kukurich did a nice job of staying calm with the infield in. He got something he could handle, hit it hard and good things happen when we barrel it.”
Curtis got the victory with Tierney taking the loss in relief of East starter Eric Hansen.
“Curtis came in and threw strikes and did everything we asked,” Gassner said. “We had good quality senior leadership today and they kept us alive and good things happen when you finish.”
Travis Forseth and Bennett Young each had three hits to lead East, which also got two hits apiece from Jordan Sherry and Ryne VanStippen.
“They showed spark. Our defense was strong and our pitching was fantastic,” East coach Randy Reed said. “I couldn’t ask anything more of Eric Hansen and Taran Tierney that they didn’t give us. We just need to execute now.”
Disch finished with three hits for West, with Matt Pudlo adding two hits.
“We tried to stay even-keel throughout the whole game,” Jansen said. “When they came back and scored, we came back and battled. It got a little quiet, but then we came back in the last inning jacked and ready to go and came away with the ‘W.’ “
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WP: Curtis. LP: Tierney. Leading hitters: Forseth AE 3×4, 2 R, 2B; Young AE 3×5; Sherry AE 2×4, 2B; Van Stippen AE 2×4, 3B; Jansen AW 3 BB, 2B; Disch AW 3×5, Pudlo AW 2×3; Mullin AW 2B; Leadley AW 2 RBI.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCRicardo