Cats cruise past Hatchets, advance to title game

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Jasper’s Rachel Gress, left, and Meredith Hilgefort did a handshake in the second inning against Washington in Petersburg on Wednesday. The Wildcats defeated the Hatchets 17-4 in six innings to advance to tonight’s sectional championship game against the host Pike Central Chargers. For more photos from the game, click here.

By JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

PETERSBURG — The Jasper softball team went through a season of ups and downs as they worked to create synergy, cohesion, and success with its young, but talented, players. But based on current events, it would seem that the mix is bubbling at just the right time, as the Wildcats stormed into the postseason with a 17-4 victory over the Washington Hatchets in six innings on Wednesday evening.

Jasper coach Matt Pryor had concerns that his team may overlook Washington and fall victim to a trap game outcome. But the team took his words of caution over the past few days and went out with the focus they needed to advance to the sectional championship match against the hosting Pike Central Chargers (14-7) which will be played today at 6:30 p.m.

“I was worried that this was a ‘gotcha’ game,” said Pryor. “I was pleased to see as soon as we stepped off the bus we were ready to play. We kept that energy up throughout the entire game.”

The energy for Jasper (17-9) started flowing after the first inning, in which both teams went scoreless. Sophomore designated hitter Grace Colvin was first on base with a leadoff double at the top of the second. Sophomore Meredith Hilgefort followed with a single and senior left fielder Hailey Hurst batted in Colvin with a bunt to first base. Junior first baseman Madison Allen hit what should have been a single, but a throwing error from third to first advanced her and allowed Hilgefort to score and put the Wildcats ahead 2-0.

The third inning would see Jasper score two more runs. With one out, junior third baseman Rachel Gress hit a thumping double, but the Hatchets were able to turn a play at third base to force out senior second baseman Grace Werner, who reached base earlier with a bunt. But after Colvin and Hilgefort loaded the bases, freshman pitcher Mia Werner was able to knock in Gress for run number three. Hurst followed with another single to drive in Colvin, 4-0 Jasper.

Inning number four produced two more runs for Jasper, while Washington (2-14) started showing signs of life. After a pop-fly out for junior right fielder Taylor Mitchell, sophomore center fielder Lexi Jerger collected a single and Grace Werner bunted to put runners on first and second; they advanced to third and second on a wild pitch during Gress’s at-bat.

But when Gress did get her hit, she drove in Jerger and advanced Werner to third. Colvin would ground out at first base, but her sacrifice allowed Werner to score. Gress would later have an opportunity at home plate during a Hurst bunt, but she was thrown out coming in for Jasper’s third out.

In the bottom of the fourth, singles from senior pitcher Havyn Myers and junior first baseman Lawren Sandullo and a HBP for senior left fielder Avery Gilley loaded the bases for Washington. Senior catcher Allie Helms caught up to Werner for a double, which scored Sandullo and Myers. Freshman second baseman kept the good times rolling with a sacrifice-out to score Gillie and cut the deficit to 6-3.

Jasper’s Mia Werner pitched in her first career sectional game against Washington in Petersburg on Wednesday. The freshman starter pitched a complete game and allowed just four hits while striking out eight batters without walking any in Jasper’s six-inning victory. For more photos from the game, click here.

But the Wildcats really started pull away in the fifth inning. Mitchell got things going with a base hit and Jerger chased that with a triple to score Mitchell. Grace Werner popped a single to score Jerger, and was also able to take extra bases and land on third after two throwing errors by the Hatchets. Gress drove her in with a single to put Jasper ahead 9-3. Washington was able to score one more run when Myers drove in junior center fielder Lindsay Moody, but the next inning would put all thoughts of a comeback to rest.

In the top of the sixth, Hurst and Allen were situated on second and first respectively when Mitchell hit a single to score Hurst. Later after Jerger loaded the bases, Gress knocked in Mitchell with a single, and freshman pinch hitter Hannah Schwenk knocked in Jerger with another.

Hilgefort connected on a triple to knock in Gress, Schwenk, and Grace Werner, who had reached first base on a hit after Jerger’s at-bat. She would then score on a wild pitch during sophomore pinch hitter Madison Mathies’s at-bat. After Mathies drew the walk and was replaced by junior pinch runner Halli Leinenbach, Allen hit a double to knock her in to score Jasper’s eighth and final run for the inning and give the Wildcats a 17-4 lead. Three batters came and three batters went for Washington in the bottom of the sixth, and with that the game was sealed.

Mia Werner finished the game with nine strikeouts while allowing four runs on six hits. Gress was four-for-five with three RBIs. Hilgefort also finished four-for-five with three driven in and a walk. Hurst and Allen each had a pair of RBIs.

“Felt pretty good to win my first sectional game, but I couldn’t have done it without my team behind me,” Mia Werner said.

Pryor also praised the mental toughness of his girls for not getting down on themselves for errors during play like they would have in the beginning of the season. He wants them to carry that and their focused level of play into tonight’s championship game against the Charges for all the marbles.

“The energy was there, the fans were there. We just need to carry that into tomorrow night,” he said.




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