After slow start, Cats catch fire to douse Rangers

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Jasper's Carter Stamm slides into home plate during Tuesday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. Jasper defeated Forest Park 11-2 as the Cats used strong pitching from Cam Kilian and several extra-base hits to win their 15th game of the season. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — In the sport of baseball, the “little things” are often said to be the difference in winning or losing games.

Jasper senior first baseman Trevor Krapf said he worked out a few small changes to his at-bats before Tuesday night’s game against county rival Forest Park.

The end result? A 4-for-5 ball game with two doubles, an RBI and most importantly for Krapf and the Cats an 11-2 victory over the Rangers.

“After last night (against Washington), I changed a few things,” Krapf said. “Coach (Jason) Ahlbrand helped me out and I just felt comfortable when I started hitting. Any little thing I can do to improve anything — whether it’s hitting, fielding or pitching — I’m going to do that.”

While the Wildcats (15-2) came away victorious on Tuesday, it was Forest Park (7-7) who jumped out to the quick start at Ruxer Field. After both teams had one baserunner each in their first at-bats of the game, the Rangers got things going in the second inning.

First baseman Zach Wahl reached base with a one-out walk and then third baseman Gage Hasenour hit a moonshot over the wall for a two-run home run to put Forest Park up 2-0. Garrett Berg had a single immediately after that but the Cats turned a double play to minimize the damage.

After Forest Park starting pitcher Gavin Knust struck out three Wildcats in the bottom of the second inning, the Rangers appeared to have another big inning coming up in the third.

Shortstop Drew Howard reached base with a walk and Knust appeared to have a two-out double to the wall that would’ve scored Howard and extended the Ranger lead. However, Jasper center fielder Eli Hopf reached up high over his head to reel in the catch and end the inning on a spectacular catch.

“He didn’t have the best jump on it but I’m not even sure how we caught that ball,” Jasper head coach Terry Gobert said. “I didn’t even think he caught it at first.”

Forest Park head coach Jarred Howard, who became the Rangers all-time wins lead after Monday’s victory over Wood Memorial, believes that inning believed to be the difference maker looking at the rest of the game.

“At that point, the momentum is our favor but they made a great play in center field and then put pressure on us the next inning,” Howard said. “After that, we just kind of lost our focus and didn’t do stuff right.”

The Cats batted around in the bottom of the third inning to take a 5-2 lead. Hopf got things started with an RBI bunt single that scored Josh Weidenbenner to make it 2-1 and then Andrew Wallace’s two-RBI triple gave the Cats a 3-2 lead. Carter Stamm and Grant Ahlbrand both added RBIs to stretch Jasper’s lead.

Jasper wouldn’t stop there — the Cats added four more runs in the bottom of the fifth to stretch the lead to 9-2. After two walks and a hit by pitch loaded the bases, Weidenbenner made it 6-2 with a fielder’s choice and Hopf and Krapf followed that up with an RBI single and double, respectively to give the Wildcats a 9-2 lead.

The Wildcats’ final runs of the night would come in the bottom of the sixth inning as two runs scored off of a Forest Park error to make it 11-2.

The Forest Park Rangers congratulate Gage Hasenour for his home run during Tuesday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The home run was Hasenour's first career varsity long ball. For more photos from the game, click here.

After Jasper starting pitcher Cam Kilian exited the game after six strong innings of work, Isaac Bartley came into the game in the seventh inning to shut down the Rangers and secure the victory for the Cats.

While Kilian only struck out two batters in the victory, he was able to get a plethora of ground balls and flyouts that he knew his defense behind him would play perfectly.

“I know I have a solid defense behind me, those guys always make the plays,” Kilian said. “It makes it easier when I don’t have to worry about striking out guys as much, I just had to throw strikes and make sure not to walk guys.”

For Forest Park, Hasenour’s two-run home run was his first varsity long ball. The Rangers other hits came from Berg, Hunter Helming and Garret Jochem. Knust fell to 3-3 with the loss on the mound for the Rangers.

Moving forward, Forest Park is hoping to bounce back from errors and small mistakes that have led to some costly innings.

“Jasper put pressure on us and we didn’t handle the pressure well, simple as that,” Howard said. “We’ve gotten better but we’re still making adjustments on where people play and that kind of stuff, we’ll get it figured out.”

For the Cats, they knocked out four extra-base hits — two doubles from Krapf, a triple from Wallace and a double by Bartley.

The 15-2 start has given Jasper plenty of confidence to this point in the season and they’re looking to carry that all the way to the postseason.

“It’s boosted our confidence — we know we can beat anyone who steps onto the field,” Kilian said. “Whether we’re playing home or away, we’ve made sure to step on the field like it’s our field.”

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