Wildcats angling to join pep with pop

Heather Rousseau/The Herald
Jasper players congratulated Cal Kruger (13) after he launched a home run in Thursday’s 15-1, five-inning victory for the Wildcats at Northeast Dubois. Krueger ripped his second two-run shot in as many games, and Class 3A No. 7 Jasper pounded eight extra-base hits. For a gallery of photos, click here.

By BRENDAN PERKINS
Herald Sports Editor

DUBOIS — As you might expect from a pair of neighbors, Jasper and Northeast Dubois share some mutual envy. Both teams want a little bit of what the other’s got.

Riecker

The Jeeps, despite their patchy start to the season through the first 10 games, remain steadfast in their tendency to chat it up. The Wildcats aren’t so loquacious, at least not up to coach Terry Gobert’s standards. But the Class 3A No. 7 Wildcats simply and serenely go about their business with a few weapons the Jeeps want for themselves: pitchers who are in control, as well as offensive zing that Jasper brandished in Thursday’s 15-1, five-inning cruise in Dubois.

Tyler Haskins and Cal Krueger both launched two-run home runs and Jasper peppered Northeast Dubois with eight extra-base hits. Still, Gobert probed for more. Namely, more spunk as Gobert’s ongoing thrust is to urge his guys to exhibit more of a zest for the game.

“They were taking it to us the first couple innings, they hit the ball hard and we really didn’t have a lot of fire. We’ve only got two games this week, we should be flying around the field like crazy,” Gobert said. “But I’ll give them credit, we judge our hitting by extra-base hits, and any time you get extra-base hits, you’ve got to be happy with that approach.”

The Wildcats (11-5) had been getting enough liftoff — they just needed some distance. It’s coming together as Jasper’s team batting average has steadily climbed north of .350.

Blessinger

“That’s definitely one thing we need to work on a little bit more. We’ve been popping the ball up too much, we’ve just got to keep putting the ball in play and keep putting pressure on the defense, and we did that tonight pretty well,” said Wildcat shortstop Tyler Begle, who joined teammate Spencer Otto in smacking a pair of doubles. “We hit the gaps pretty well.”

No better than in the third inning, when in a span of four batters, Otto yanked a two-run double, Evan Aders popped an RBI single, Krueger chased in another run with a double and Haskins ended the spree with a moon shot to left field.

The blow-up inning: It’s become the reluctant trademark for Northeast Dubois (4-6).

After Jeep pitcher Reid Haas sat down Jasper in order in the second inning, the Cats’ breakout third frame started with three straight one-out walks.

“Our pitchers have got to be more competitive, more aggressive that what they’ve been,” said Jeep coach Brian Kirchoff, whose team has allowed an opponent four or more runs in an inning in five of its six losses.

“We’ve got to have somebody step up and have somebody absolutely put a stop to (other teams’ big runs). We say all the right things and have got people yelling and saying ‘Come on, we can do this,’ but we don’t have anybody actively stepping up and taking charge. I wish it was as simple as me pushing a button ... but it’s not that simple. We’ll see. We’ve got some games coming up here in a row, and we’ll see what happens.”

Kirchoff at least witnessed a pick-me-up courtesy of Cameron Riecker, who rejoined the lineup after coping with a bum knee. Riecker rocked a double to the centerfield wall to plate Jacob Gress and briefly level the game at 1-all, and “I thought our mental outlook headed into the night was pretty good when they saw Cameron’s name in the lineup,” Kirchoff noted.

Kirchoff also commended Riecker’s play at third base — a position he’d never played but found himself at Thursday to ease him back into the mix. Similarly, Jasper sophomore Tate Blessinger found himself in an unforeseen locale with two-year starting catcher Scott Stallwood shelved with lightheadedness and concussion-like symptoms.

Jasper’s contingency plan at the position included Blessinger — but the backstop for the JV team didn’t know he’d be the man until before the game in the dugout, when Gobert nonchalantly mentioned, “Tate, you know you’re catching?”

“I didn’t really have much time to be nervous,” Blessinger said.

“I knew I was one of the options, but I didn’t think I would be the one. I was just expecting to come down here and help out and be an extra guy in case they needed me.”

Aided by the occasional glance to pitching coach Phil Kendall for advice, Blessinger called his own pitches in helping Ben Moore (4-0) record the seventh complete game this season by the Wildcat staff. Moore allowed a pair of singles to Gress, but the junior gave up just two other hits.

The approach remained workmanlike to the finish, as Gobert also commended a wave of pinch-hitters who helped the Cats stack up four final runs in the fifth. “Not selfish swings, not trying to just (add to) personal stats,” Gobert noticed of the subs, including Landon Ball, who reached out to flare an opposite-field hit that scored a run.

Wildcat second baseman Craig Shepherd also ignited a pair of double plays and the Cats played error-free defense, leaving Gobert hopeful that the Cats’ mindset can match the improved execution.

“It’s really important what we do these next two weeks to set the stage how we go into the end of the season. Because it’s here. It’s a tough time in baseball, with finals and graduation ... you’ve really got to put it up there as a priority every night,” Gobert said. “We’ll play a lot of baseball games in the next three weeks, so it’s really important that when we’re here, we’re mentally here.”

Contact Brendan Perkins




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com