They walked-off before they could walk.
“It’s definitely one of the best days I’ve had,” Appleton North senior Connor Wollersheim said. “Great game and then finish it with graduation.”
The Lightning clinched the regional final victory over Hortonville in epic fashion. It took extra innings – 10 in all – before finally knocking off the Polar Bears with a Kody Fiorito walk-off single, 1-0. And then they followed it up by receiving their diplomas.
The finale – with the graduation encore – was dramatic but that climax was set up with an incredible feat of it’s own. Wollersheim threw nine innings and records 20 strikeouts while only allowing a pair of hits and zero runs. His performance carried Appleton North to the victory, but even Wollerstein couldn’t have predicted it.
“To be honest, when I first got out there for my warm-ups I was a little nervous,” the Kent State recruit admitted. “I didn’t throw a strike and then that first pitch the nerves just went away after I heard that strike. From then on I just went with it.”
As the innings mounted Wollersheim got stronger. He convince his coaches to allow him to go back out there and even had hopes of continuing on into the tenth.
“You always have it in the back of your mind, but you don’t want to think about it too much,” said of his mental construct as the strikeouts and innings continued on. “You just want to focus on getting outs and throwing strikes.”
Jack Harvath replace Wollersheim in the 10th inning and picked up right where he left off. The senior got through the inning unscathed and the Lightning were finally able to strike in the next half inning.
Fiorito came up with a man in scoring position and knew he wanted to make sure to put in play, and hit it hard. He did just that, and the ball slipped over a stumbling center fielder for the game-winning hit.
“To get that final hit, it really feels good. I haven’t hit a walk-off since little league so it was a perfect time to get that,” the senior said. Hunter Rolain touched home and the tandem was each mobbed by enthusiastic teammates. “Get the win and move on. That’s all that matters.”
Appleton North is moving on to face either Kimberly or Oshkosh West in the sectional semi-finals, but that game can wait. It’s time to walk, for the second time Thursday.
“This is amazing,” Fiorito said. “In my senior year too and I get to graduate today so this is a pretty special day that I’ll never forget.”