For better or worse, Wildcats even out

Carolyn Van Houten/The Herald
Jasper’s Landon Ball, left, tapped Evan Aders on the helmet after Aders scored during the Wildcats’ 16-3 thrashing of Evansville Central in the consolation game of Saturday’s Jasper Four-Team Invitational at Ruxer Field. The Class 3A No. 3 Cats were denied a shot at playing in the championship after losing a two-run lead in a 5-2 defeat to Columbus East in the morning semifinals. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

JASPER — The law of averages would surely dictate that no one could get plunked with a pitch three times in four at-bats. Tell that to Jasper’s Austin Alles and his trio of welts that are likely still festering two days after Saturday’s Jasper Four-Team Invitational at Ruxer Field.

Similarly, things have to even out eventually for Cal Krueger, right? Jasper’s sophomore right-hander could realistically wield a 5-0 record by this point in the season. Instead, he’s still waiting on win No. 1 after the Wildcats’ two-run lead vanished against Columbus East in a 5-2 setback in Saturday’s morning semifinal.

Alles

“It’s just baseball,” Krueger said of the anomaly. “Stats don’t mean anything to me, so (an) 0-4 record’s nothing. And I’d much rather be having those losses now than in about two months in the tournament.

“Baseball always evens out.”

It did for Jasper on Saturday as the Wildcats stumbled upon some oddities — some maddening, some welcome.

For the Class 3A No. 3 Cats, beating Columbus East in the semifinals of the tourney had been like clockwork. The Olympians (8-4) are rarely a pushover, but Jasper had vanquished them 10 straight times since East first began playing in the event in 2004. Hours after that late-game slip against the Olympians, Jasper flattened Evansville Central 16-3 in the third-place game — scoring all 16 runs in the first three innings against the same Bears team the Cats played 11 days earlier and needed a three-run rally in the seventh inning to beat 4-3.

Krueger

Krueger faced just two over the minimum through four innings before East evened things at 2 in the fifth then doubled its lead the next frame. Two Jasper errors were the culprit when the Olympians busted the tie, and Wildcat coach Terry Gobert continued his exasperation at “self-inflicted” damage. Shortly later, Gobert was applauding how the Cats “came out with a good approach” and gave a quality team no chance.

“The good thing is we’re seeing good pitchers and it’s going to make us better,” Gobert said. “As long as we keep our head above water, we’re going to get better from this.”

In one inning against Central (8-4), the Cats unlocked what they’d been missing earlier in the day.

With two outs and the bases clean, Alles popped a single, Spencer Otto walked and Evan Aders — who likewise joined the bruise club with Alles by getting drilled with a pitch in his next two at-bats — slapped an infield hit. Scott Stallwood, who tallied six RBIs on the day, pasted a three-run triple. Then, Krueger unloaded a two-run home run over the left-field wall.

The early opportunities evaded the Cats (10-5) against Columbus East, when they marooned eight baserunners in the first three innings and stranded another man at third in the fourth. But in Game 2, the two-out production rolled on when Tyler Haskins pierced a two-run single to cap another five-run frame that drowned Central in a 10-0 hole after two innings.

“Big game, you’ve got to have those (hits). And it came back and bit us in the butt (against Columbus East). So we’ve just got to come out and every game, someone’s got to step up in that situation and get that big hit,” Krueger said.

“It wasn’t just me with that home run, a lot of people, everyone had a good mental approach and we really attacked the ball in that second game.”

At the very least, things evened out a bit for Krueger at the plate. After starting the season hitting in the top sector of the order, he shifted down to seventh and entered Saturday’s second game hitting .256 — the only starter south of .313. The two-year starter nudged that up a touch by crunching his third extra-base hit of the season.

Craig Shepherd, who was dinged for 10 runs in his last start against Heritage Hills following a stretch where he fired 14 straight scoreless innings, returned toward center, as well. Shepherd kept the Bears scoreless until they managed three harmless runs in the fourth. Ben Wendholt, who also clocked a double in his second varsity at-bat, tossed the fifth and punched out the Bears with two final strikeouts.

Gobert wanted the chance to replicate the sectional climate of winning a morning game and playing under the lights in the final. That fell through, but the consolation game bounce-back — fueled by eight walks and three hit batsmen from a carousel of six Central pitchers — was palatable.

“That’s the biggest lesson of the whole day, is we did not make it to the night game, and we want that format — play in the morning and play at night,” Gobert said. “Once that was gone, we told them, well, take the approach of ‘you’re playing the second game in a day, and you’ve got to win.’ That’s why we play these tournaments.”

The day sure made a mark on Alles, and not because he scored three times against Central, as did Otto and Aders.

It’s no surprise Alles found a way on base, since he’s second on the squad in on-base percentage (.537) despite ranking seventh in total hits. Each ticket on base came with a dollop of pain against Columbus East, though. Olympian hurler Peyton Grey drilled Alles in the leg. And again on the wrist. And another time below the left shoulder, making Alles, who also walked, a perfect 3-for-3 on “other” hits.

“I might feel a couple of them tomorrow, but I’ll be all right,” Alles assured.

“You play baseball long enough, watch enough games, weird stuff like that will happen.”

Contact Brendan Perkins




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