Nick Westerheide struck out in his first two at-bats Thursday but made the most of his third trip to the plate.
Westerheide, a junior at Belleville West, stroked a two-out, two-run single to left that broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning and sparked the Maroons to a 5-3 victory over Belleville East.
“I knew I had to help my team out somehow,” said Westerheide, a right fielder. “The first two at-bats, I had runners on base, and I struck out twice and let them down. I was just trying to put a ball in play. Luckily, it got down and scored two runs.”
The win kept West (15-6) undefeated in the Southwestern Conference at 9-0. The Lancers, who led 2-0 entering the bottom of the third, fell to 10-13 and 3-6.
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Maroons coach Todd Baltz, whose team has won 10 in a row, credited Westerheide for turning around his game against junior left-hander Ryan Culley (3-1) of the Lancers.
“He wasn’t having the best day, but he hung in there and took a good at-bat and got one off the handle. He fisted it out there over the shortstop,” Baltz said. “It was good enough to do the job. Kudos to him for having the confidence and sticking in there and battling.”
Senior left-hander Jack Lanxon improved to 6-0 for West, limiting the Lancers to three runs (one earned) in six innings, with two walks and six strikeouts.
“Lanxon is such a competitor, and he’s so good,” Lancers coach Ryan Wiggs said. “West, one through nine, battled at the plate. They fight, and it takes a good outing to get them. I thought Culley did a really good job for us on the mound.”
Lanxon’s RBI single to right-center tied the game at 2 in the fifth. After an infield out advanced the runners to second and third, Westerheide came through with the clutch hit.
East got within 4-3 in the sixth. Sophomore Gage Cruz doubled and gave way to courtesy runner Evan Gray, who stole third and scored on senior catcher Ty Shylanski’s throwing error.
The Maroons, however, regained their two-run lead when senior Matt Sisk, who led off with a single against Culley, scored on a wild pitch by Lancers senior reliever Cody Freppon.
The Lancers went down in order in the seventh against junior Chad Sauls, who struck out two and earned the save.
Lanxon had three hits and two RBIs, and senior Buddy Gore scored two runs for West. Shylanski had a single and a walk.
The Lancers got RBI singles from junior Austin Hitt and sophomore Zechariah Georgian, both coming in the second. Culley allowed five runs (two earned) on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings, walking one and striking out five.