KIMBERLY — The last time Neenah and Kimberly faced each other on the baseball diamond the Rockets had their way with the Papermakers, winning 12-2.
Thursday, the teams met again and once again the final score was a 10-run margin. However, the result was flipped.
Fueled by a three-run first-inning home run by Nate Thyssen, the Papermakers won their fourth straight game, topping Neenah, 10-0, in five innings at Sunset Park in a Fox Valley Association game.
Afterwards, Kimberly coach Ryan McGinnis was asked to explain how his team turned the tables on Neenah.
“It’s very odd, but that’s the unpredictability in baseball,” McGinnis said. “That’s baseball. Part of if it’s pitching and part of it’s the time of the year and progress. That first day was brutal. We made eight errors.”
“I don’t think we were as prepared then as we are now,” Thyssen said. “I think we came out a little more energized than they were.”
Thursday, Kimberly (6-4, 5-3) committed one error, but it was harmless. Pitcher Ethan Taggart worked around the error and allowed just three hits.
With Taggart taming Neenah’s bats, he just needed his teammates to follow up a nine-run effort in their last game with more runs Thursday, and they obliged. Thyssen smacked a 3-run homer in the bottom of the first and that set the tone.
“I saw an easy ball coming in,” Thyssen said of his home run. “When we come to our at-bats, we go through, ‘See the ball, hit the ball.’ I thought it was going to hit the top of the fence, so I started running to try to get two.”
McGinnis said the early lead was big for Taggart.
“It just allows Ethan to relax and throw, so yeah, it was good,” McGinnis said. “It’s still a work in progress. Each day’s a test.”
The 10 runs marked the third time this season Kimberly has reached double figures, but the offense hasn’t been the consistent machine it has been in recent years. Kimberly also has had six games with three runs or less.
McGinnis, though, is more concerned with defense. He said that’s the key for Kimberly the rest of the season.
“Every year’s different for sure,” McGinnis said. “The biggest difference is last year our defense was phenomenal. We got to learn and learn what to do when the ball’s hit to us in different situations. When you have expectations put on us from past teams, you can’t run from that.
“They’re working hard. Defensively, we have to play a little better. There were a few balls on the infield we have to make plays on in a 1-run game. Are we coming around? They’ll continue to get better.”
Kimberly trails Appleton North by three games in the FVA standings and capturing a share of the FVA might not be possible, even with two games yet to play against North. Nonetheless, Thyssen feels his team is getting better.
“We’re not close to what we are supposed to be yet,” Thyssen said. “We are on the climb to getting better.”
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay