Raspy Cats roar in opener, await PatsMay 21, 2013
By JOE JASINSKI
Herald Sports Writer
JASPER — When Emily Beckman became sick last week, she was left with a sore throat and her voice fairly hoarse, to boot.
Softball hasn’t helped matters. Recently reconverted to an infield spot at second base after a temporary position change during the regular season, the Jasper senior continued to grate her vocal cords on a pitch-by-pitch basis Monday night during the Wildcats’ first-round Class 3A sectional fray with Mitchell at the Jasper High School Softball Complex.
Even as the Wildcats surged ahead to extinguish any musing of a Bluejacket comeback, Beckman continued hammering away with constant chatter directed mainly at Jasper’s ace, Keegan Katter.
As she sees it, the hoarse howls are heartening for a couple reasons. Not only do the barks keep her loose, but they indicate a far simpler reality: Jasper’s postseason run remains intact. And with the Wildcats’ 12-0 drubbing of Mitchell, Beckman will have to wait a little longer for respiratory respite.
“I’ve been hoarse for like a week and I just kind of limit my talking. But that doesn’t really happen because I can’t stop talking, ever,” Beckman said following the balmy Monday nightcap.
“So I guess, after this is all over, hopefully in like a month, (the time off will) help it get better. But it can stay like this for as long as it wants.”
To say the Wildcats played with gusto in their opening-round game only scratches the surface. They were noticeably louder in their pregame huddle than Mitchell, sporadic lion roars bellowed from the dugout intermittently through the entire five innings, and on-field oomph — even with things all but wrapped up in the top of the fifth — suggested a run tally far closer than the left-field scoreboard indicated.
The Wildcats will collide with Heritage Hills in a sectional semifinal today at 6 p.m. The Patriots dismissed Washington 5-0 in Monday’s early matchup.
Just as Beckman alluded, Jasper coach Matt Pryor said the fervor had a correlative quality for his bunch. Quiet and uptight breeds diffidence and doubt. Unyielding yappers forge a resolute squad ready to burn.
“We wanted to have the mentality that we’re going to battle, but we have to go to this battle playing loose,” Pryor said. “We’re faster when we’re loose, we see the ball better when we’re loose. It’s a huge game but we still want to be able to enjoy our time in that game. You’ve just got to play relaxed and enjoy the moment.”
Reasons to revel were abundant for the Cats (16-12).
Katter yielded just one hit through the five innings and didn’t walk a batter. In fact, only two Bluejackets reached base, with neither advancing past second. Of Mitchell’s 16 batters, only two knocked shots past the infield while nine were retired on strikeouts. What has become somewhat habitual, Katter (13-12) seemingly gained ferocity as the game matured. She nabbed two punchouts in each inning after the first and concluded the contest with back-to-back K’s on four pitches.
Beckman recalled regular talks she’s had with Katter throughout the season. The second basemen wanted the hurler to embrace the idea of being the Wildcats’ first-line of defense.
“I expect a lot out of her,” Beckman said of Katter. “We had a lot of talks that, you know, maybe it’s not fair that she starts off the defense. That’s what she is. That’s what she had to understand when she got into pitching is she sets the tempo for our defense.”
While Jasper didn’t record its first hit until the third inning, it didn’t take the bats long to warm up once Lindsay Baker (2-for-4, three runs) kicked things off with a leadoff single.
As Pryor spelled out succinctly, “When one starts making hits, they all start making hits.”
With Jasper already ahead 3-0, Jessie Gudorf and Michala Flamion succeeded Baker’s knock with doubles while Samantha Werner and Katelyn Hedinger peppered singles as well. The four-run inning put Mitchell (5-15) in a seven-run hole from which there was no exit.
Eight of the 11 Wildcats that took cuts registered a hit, while Nicolette Eckert, one of the hitless, drew walks in three of her four at-bats and scored twice. Beckman laced a two-RBI double in the fourth, while Hedinger and Katie Krempp each nabbed RBI singles.
Now it’s on to a rematch with the Patriots, whom the Wildcats beat 4-1 on April 2.
“We had a feeling that the sectional would go through Heritage Hills. We knew that all season long. So we’re geared up to play them. And I know they are, too,” Pryor said. “We beat them in the regular season on mistakes that they made and I know they’re ready for some revenge. But our girls want it pretty bad, so it should be a tough game (tonight). But they’re pretty focused right now.”
Contact Joe Jasinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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