Hurler whets urge in wet Wildcat win

Matthew Busch/The Herald
Jasper right fielder Spencer Otto laid out to squeeze a catch in foul ground that ended Tuesday’s Big Eight Conference clash against Princeton at Ruxer Field. The Class 3A No. 3 Wildcats collected a 4-2 victory and notched their 10th victory of the season against zero losses. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By JOHN PATISHNOCK
Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — New guy. New gameplan. Same result. This was Tuesday night for the Jasper baseball team, only after former Wildcat coach and hall of famer Ray Howard stumped the team in movie trivia.

Hollinden

Senior Seth Hollinden, who played for the first time all season after sitting out because of a code of conduct violation, fired five innings of four-hit ball and struck out seven batters in Class 3A No. 3 Jasper’s 4-2 win over Big Eight Conference foe Princeton on Tuesday night at Ruxer Field.

This wasn’t the demolition of an opponent that Jasper (10-0, 2-0) is capable of pretty much every time out. The Wildcats’ six hits were just one more than the Tigers amassed. Jasper also stranded four runners and left Spencer Otto standing on second base after a leadoff double in the sixth.
Instead, Jasper needed Devon Traylor’s two-run single in the second inning — a ball Traylor took the opposite way — and Princeton (4-4, 0-1) to get lackadaisical around the plate to score its other two runs.

As Jasper coach Terry Gobert said, “I just thought we did enough to win.”

In the process, Hollinden became the fourth Wildcat pitcher to record a win this season. It was a moment he had been waiting for all season.

“I was so pumped,” Hollinden said. “I really wanted to get out on that mound and throw for our team.”

He came out firing. The senior punched out five of his first seven batters and didn’t allow a baserunner until the Tigers’ No. 9 hitter poked a single to the right side in the third. He issued just one walk and went to a three-ball count on only one other hitter.

“I just really wanted to hit my spots … and I wanted to pitch to contact, throw strikes mainly, I didn’t want to walk anybody,” Hollinden said. “I threw the ball fine.”

“It’s easy to overthrow, and I thought that first inning was very sharp for a guy that hadn’t pitched all year,” Gobert added.

Freshman Cal Krueger entered in the sixth and there wasn’t a dropoff. He struck out his first five batters, and after he allowed a single, Otto ended the game in right field with a superb diving catch in foul territory with the tying run at bat. Otto’s momentum took him into the fence that runs down the home team’s side of Ruxer Field, looking like a kid on a Slip ”˜n Slide.

Gobert was impressed with Hollinden and Krueger, saying Hollinden adds needed depth and that Krueger showed how live of an arm he possesses. That the freshman came through in a save situation against a conference opponent also was noteworthy for Gobert.

“Krueger, we wanted to see what he could do and he did a nice job,” he said.

Jasper struck for three runs in the second inning, when Traylor went with a 2-1 pitch. He didn’t try to pull the ball, something Gobert said many Cats tried to do against Princeton left-hander Alec Sandefer’s mostly soft, outside offerings.

“He ended up throwing me an outside pitch and I just took it right over the second baseman’s head,” Traylor said.

Two “gifts,” as Gobert coined them, arrived in the second and fourth innings when Scott Stallwood and Austin Alles scored on passed balls. The ball didn’t scoot considerably far either occasion, but the combination of the Wildcats’ aggressiveness and Sandefer not racing to cover home resulted in the extra runs.

But first, Jasper had to wait.

With a midafternoon rainstorm creating a less-than-ideal playing surface, the Wildcats flocked to the field to soak up the water. Some of them, such as Nick Gobert and Nathan Leibering, were already there for batting practice more than three hours before the originally scheduled start time of 6:30, though the first pitch wasn’t fired until around 7.

Everyone else got right to work, as Traylor noted he, like everyone else on the team, wants to play every time possible, especially given how well Ruxer Field is maintained.

“Once I saw it started raining, I literally put my food down — because I was in the middle of eating — and came to the field because I knew we had to sponge (the field),” Traylor said.

Traylor said that when he arrived at the field around 5, huge puddles had formed around first and second bases. But nobody sat around, hoping for a rainout. As Traylor said, “It’s on until Coach says it’s not.”

About the only hiccup for the Cats was they were unable to identify a quote from the baseball movie “Moneyball” as the players joked around during the delay. Howard, the team’s former head coach who still assists as a pitching instructor, even offered some hints but the players came up empty. Laughing, Howard tried to recall the exact quote after the game.

“Something about you have to be romantic with baseball,” he surmised, smiling.

His approach seemed appropriate, especially on a night when his team welcomed back one of its own. Not that Hollinden ever left.

“I’m part of this team and every time I walked on this field, it was a blessing. I love being here; I wouldn’t change it for the world,” Hollinden said. “Yes, I didn’t get to play but that’s just a mistake that I learned from and I’m just ready to move on with this team.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.




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