Area squads gear up for baseball season

Herald File Photos
Jasper's Grant Ahlbrand attempts to tag out Southridge's Tucker Schank during last season's meeting between the Wildcats and Raiders. While Southridge will return a majority of their starters from last year's Class 2A state runner-up team, Jasper will have a large number of first-year varsity players on this year's roster.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

With the MLB season now officially underway, it means baseball will soon be back in action here in Dubois County as the area prep baseball teams are ready to go for their opening games.

Here’s a brief preview about what to expect from the five local baseball clubs.

Jasper Wildcats

Last season: Finished the year with an 18-10 record, didn’t win the Big Eight conference title for first time since 2007.

Opening game: Friday, home vs. Shakamak at 6 p.m.

Returning players:
Grant Ahlbrand, Sr. (infield)
Jacob Ahlbrand, Sr. (pitcher/outfield)
Isaac Bartley, Sr. (pitcher/outfield)
Trevor Krapf, Sr. (pitcher/first base)
Phillip Noblitt, Sr. (first base/third base)
Nathan Schmitt, Sr. (pitcher/outfield)
Josh Weidenbenner, Sr. (infield)
Carter Stamm, Jr. (pitcher/infield)

Key newcomers:
Jade Jochum, Sr. (outfield/designated hitter)
Daniel Berg, Jr. (first base/catcher)
Cam Kilian, Jr. (pitcher/infield)
Jason Mair, Jr. (catcher/outfield)
Nathan Rillo, Jr. (pitcher/outfield)
Brandon Sermersheim, Jr. (pitcher)
Caleb Burger, Soph. (pitcher/infield)
Eli Hopf, Soph. (pitcher/outfield)
Ross Peter, Soph. (catcher)
Andrew Wallace, Soph. (third base/first base)

Notable: It’s no secret that Terry Gobert has been around the Jasper baseball program for a long time — 32 years in fact as a head coach.

In all of the years that Gobert has been with the Wildcats, this season may present one of the biggest challenges he’s seen as the Cats have just a handful of players with varsity experience returning.

“On one hand, that means it’s been very competitive and it also means it’s more wide open than normal,” Gobert said. “It’s a fun challenge — they’re trying and I give them credit for that.”

While Jasper does return a few key starters in the field such as senior shortshop Josh Weidenbenner and senior first baseman/designated hitter Trevor Krapf, the biggest hurdle the Cats will have to deal with is pitching.

Senior Isaac Bartley is one of the only Wildcats to have an extended amount of varsity pitching experience as Gobert will look toward a few younger arms such as sophomores Caleb Burger and Eli Hopf to provide some help on the mound. It’s a big challenge for the Cats but Gobert is looking forward to see who will step and produce when asked.

Quotable: “In the past, we’ve had some big time Division I type of arms and we just don’t have that (this year). We’re going to have to find some other ways but that’s the fun of it — someone is going to have to step into that role.”

Southridge Raiders

Last season: Finished with a 25-7 record and advanced all the way to the IHSAA Class 2A State Finals. The Raiders won their first conference and sectional titles since 2014 and first-ever regional and semistate championships in school history.

Opening game: Thursday, home vs. Martinsville at 6 p.m.

Returning players:
Joe LaGrange, Sr. (outfield)
Kyler Neukam, Sr. (infield/pitcher)
Patrick Sander, Sr. (outfield)
Tucker Schank, Sr. (outfield)
Logan Seger, Sr. (infield/pitcher)
Weston Allen, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Cort Gerber, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Wes Keusch, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Conner Oxley, Jr. (infield/catcher)
Ethan Bell, Soph. (infield/outfield/pitcher)
Camden Gasser, Soph. (infield/pitcher)
Colson Montgomery, Soph. (infield/pitcher)
Chase Taylor, Soph. (catcher/pitcher)

Key newcomers:
Jack Gasser, Jr. (outfield)
Trevor Hunefeld, Jr. (outfield/pitcher)
Austin Kaeck, Jr. (outfield)
Sebastian Street, Jr. (infield/outfield)

Notable: After their historic run last season, the Southridge baseball team has already received attention prior to this season. The Raiders are ranked as the preseason No. 1 in the Indiana Baseball Coaches Association for Class 2A.

It’s safe to say that it’s a pretty exciting time around the Raider baseball program right now.

“These guys have such high expectations given the fact that we have so many returning starters,” said head coach Gene Mattingly. “I would also say these guys are hungry — I think they have a bitter taste based on last year’s (5-4 loss to Boone Groove) in the title game. Hopefully, that’s providing them a little more fuel.”

The Raiders do return several key pieces including seniors Tucker Schank and Logan Seger as well as an impressive sophomore class including Colson Montgomery, Chase Taylor, Ethan Bell and University of Michigan recruit Camden Gasser — all players with varsity experience.

But what’s impressed Mattingly the most in the early going is how invested the Raiders are at such an early point in the season.

Notable: I was a little concerned that we’d have a little bit of a state run hangover but that hasn’t shown at all. We’ve got 30 guys in the program that are trying to be the best teammate they can be everyday — they want to always make it about someone other than themselves.”

Forest Park Rangers

Last season: Finished with an 11-10 record (six of 11 wins were PAC victories); lost in first round of sectional to eventual champion North Posey.

Opening game: Thursday at Warren East (Ky.), 5:30 p.m.

Returning players:
Jace Bieker, Sr.
Garret Jochem, Sr.
Aaron Hurst, Sr. (first base)
Elliott Rothgerber, Sr. (outfield/pitcher)
Gavin Knust, Jr. (pitcher)
Gage Hasenour, Soph. (pitcher)

Key newcomers:
Nathan Jarboe, Soph. (catcher)
Drew Howard, Fr. (pitcher)
Brody Kluesner, Fr. (catcher)
Landon Nalley, Fr. (pitcher)

Notable: When asked what will be the biggest key to a successful season for Forest Park, head coach Jarred Howard was quick with his answer — pitching and catching.

“Any team that’s successful has to have a quality pitching staff. The keys for us are going to be to find some guys on the mound that can compete,” Howard said. “We have some good arms on the mound but we also have to find someone behind the plate who can receive, throw some guys out and keep base runners honest.”

The Rangers graduated some key pieces from last year’s squad including pitcher/shortstop Trever Zink, who is now playing collegiately at Olney Central. However, Gavin Knust, Elliott Rothgerber and Gage Hasenour all return as players with a plethora of experience on the mound.

Forest Park also added several new opponents to this year’s schedule including several teams from Kentucky including Warren East, Bowling Green and Martha Layne Collins — three programs with very solid resumes.

Quotable: “Our schedule is as tough as its ever been — we have a very challenging schedule and it will continue to get tougher the next couple of years.”

After graduating nine seniors from last year's 18-win team, Reece Bauer is one of the key returning players for Northeast Dubois this season. Bauer will spend time at shortstop as well as on the pitcher's mound.

Northeast Dubois Jeeps

Last season: Finished with an 18-6 record including an unblemished 7-0 record in Blue Chip play for the school’s second consecutive conference title.

Opening game: Friday, home vs. Heritage Hills at 6 p.m.

Returning players:
Reece Bauer, Jr. (infield)
Austin Knight, Jr. (outfield)
Eli Schott, Jr. (catcher/infield)
Ethan Ziegler, Jr. (infield)
Logan Lampert, Soph. (infield)
Nicholas Lueken, Soph. (catcher/infield)
Logan Mehringer, Soph. (infield)
Ty Riecker, Soph. (outfield)

Key newcomers:
Mitchell Schepers, Jr. (outfield)
Cole Tretter, Soph. (outfield)
Conner Trout, Soph. (outfield)
Braiden Beckman, Fr. (outfield)
Austin Breitwieser, Fr. (outfield)
Easton Denu, Fr. (outfield)
Eli Freyberger, Fr. (infield)
Landon Gutgsell, Fr. (infield)
Bryce Merkel, Fr. (catcher/outfield)
Colby Pieper, Fr. (outfield)
Aden Thewes, Fr. (outfield)
Kendrick Thombleson, Fr. (catcher/infield)

Notable: Through the early season workouts and practices, head coach Luke Woolems has realized rather quickly that there’s going to be a lot of competition for starting roles and playing time all over the field.

It’s not that much of a surprise to the Jeep head coach as Northeast Dubois is coming off of a season that saw nine seniors graduate the program.

“We don’t have a senior on the team this year — there’s four juniors and a bunch of sophomores and freshmen competing for every spot on the field,” Woolems said. “It’ll be interesting to see who does kind of emerge.”

Even though a boatload of players have moved on from the program, several key cogs from last year’s 18-6 squad remain including junior shortstop/pitcher Reece Bauer and junior Ethan Ziegler, who is a veteran starter at second base.

Woolems is also excited about the freshmen that are entering the program. He’s been impressed with the work ethic he’s already seen out of them in the early going.

Quotable: “They’ve been a welcome addition — I remember how our sophomores came in as freshmen and they’ve come so far already in just their second year. I think that says a lot about what our junior high coaches (Ian Denu and Andrew Matheis) have been able to teach and how much the kids are soaking up.”

Heritage Hills' Murray Becher and Forest Park's Elliott Rothgerber both return for their respective squads as both the Patriots and Rangers search for Pocket Athletic Conference superiority and beyond.

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last season: Finished the 2018 campaign with a 16-10 record (5-4 PAC) before being defeated by Boonville in the sectional semifinals.

Opening game: Friday at Northeast Dubois, 6 p.m.

Returning players:
Blake Bryant, Sr. (outfield/pitcher)
Noah Chesnut, Sr. (outfield/pitcher)
Ben Gordon, Sr. (catcher)
Nathan Lamar, Sr. (outfield/pitcher)
Grahm Turner, Sr. (infield/pitcher)
Murray Becher, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Mark Doyle, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Cayden Kratzer, Jr. (outfield/pitcher)
Simon Scherry, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Cole Sigler, Jr. (outfield)

Key newcomers:
Carson Leibering, Sr. (second base)
Nick Brinkman, Jr. (outfield/pitcher)
Alex Gehlhausen, Jr. (third base/pitcher)
Reece Gogel, Jr. (infield/pitcher)
Zach Kemp, Jr. (first base/pitcher)
Cole Neighbors, Soph. (shortstop/pitcher)
Chris Peter, Soph. (catcher)
Lane Spencer, Soph. (second base)
Evan Bowling, Fr. (catcher)

Notable: Heritage Hills returns many of their starters from last year’s group that finished with a solid 16-10 record but there’s been a lot of battling for positions during the first part of the season.

Head coach Andy Fischer has been pleased with how the players have embraced the competition right out of the gate.

“There’s a lot of competitiveness going on right now,” Fischer said. “Even when they’re scrimmaging, these guys are trying to push each other in a fun way to get better — no one’s going at each other’s throats but they all want each other to get better.”

The Patriots return their leaders from last season in hits (Simon Scherry), stolen bases (Noah Chesnut) and strikeouts on the mound (Scherry).

When it comes to the keys to being successful this season, Fischer believes it’s rather simple — put the ball in play on offense and pitch to contact on defense.

Quotable: “We don’t have any big overpowering pitchers but we have to be able to eliminate walks and allow our defense to do their job. We want to be as fundamentally sound as possible and hopefully things will take care of themselves from there.”




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