Cats hope to learn from invitational struggles

Photo by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper's Madison Allen leads off second base, as Rachel Gress leads off first, during Saturday's softball game in Jasper. Perry Central defeated Jasper 5-4 as the Wildcats finished their home softball invitational with an 0-3 record. The Cats led 4-0 at one point on Saturday but saw that lead disappear.


JASPER — Entering the final day of the Jasper Softball Invitational, the host Wildcats and Perry Central were the only teams in the “Gold Pool” that found themselves without a victory.

With a shot at the tournament championship out of reach, the Cats were hoping to at least close the invitational out on a high note.

Leading 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning, things appeared to be looking pretty good for Jasper. However, Perry Central scored four straight runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to tie things up and then walked-off winners in the bottom of the eighth inning with a final score of 5-4.

“We’re not playing as well as we can right now,” said Jasper head coach Matt Pryor. “We’ve seen flashes of it here and there but we’ve got to be more consistent. More times then that, we’re just not doing the things we know how to do — we’re on the wrong side of things right now.”

The Cats (6-6) had a smaller roster on usual this past Saturday due to the junior varsity team playing in a round robin tourney in Terre Haute. Jasper was also playing without leadoff hitter Lexie Jerger who was injured in the first night of the invitational on Friday.

Neither team was able to manage much offense at all in the first three innings. Jasper mustered just two hits in that span — a double from Grace Colvin in the first inning and a leadoff single from Halli Leinenbach in the third inning.

Perry Central (7-3) recorded a double in the first inning as Karissa Gayer had a double but the Commodores didn’t get to Jasper starting pitcher Mia Werner much other than that. The Cats wish they would’ve supported their pitcher more in Saturday’s loss with a stronger offensive production.

“We didn’t really back up our pitchers the best,” said right fielder Karly Thomas who drove in two runs. “We have to continue to just hold each other accountable and communicate.”

Jasper finally broke through in the fourth inning after Hannah Schwenk reached base with a walk and eventually scored from second base on an RBI single by Thomas to put the Cats up 1-0.

The runs came pouring across for the Wildcats in the sixth inning as Jasper put up a three-spot to give themselves a 4-0 lead. Megan Matheis reached base with a walk and then Schwenk and Rachel Gress both reached base with singles. Thomas drove in Matheis with her second RBI single of the day to make it 2-0 and then pinch hitter Nicole Mehringer drove in bogth Schwenk and Gress with a two-RBI single to make it 4-0 Wildcats.

“I just tried to say calm knowing that I had the ability to attack at the plate,” said Thomas. “When it came right down the middle, I just attacked the heck out of the ball.”

Leading 4-0, the Cats looked to get someone different on the mound. Hannah Schwenk moved from left field to the pitcher’s mound as she was making her first appearance on the mound this season.

It was a tough outing for Schwenk as she gave up four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as Perry Central tied things up. Catie Hauser drove in one run with an RBI single and then Jailyn Wheatley scored three runs with an RBI double.

With no one doing anything in the seventh inning, the game went to extra innings. This game was played with what is known as the International Tiebreaker Rule — this means, both teams started with a runner on second base to begin their at-bats in the eighth inning.

Jasper got its runner to third base during the top half of the eighth but was unable to score. Perry Central accomplished the goal in their first at-bat of the bottom of the 8th as Karissa Gayer won the game with a walk-off RBI single.

Jasper finished 0-3 in the invitational while Tecumseh was the champs with a 3-0 victory over North Harrison.

After losing three straight games, the goal for the Wildcats now is to make sure their confidence remains intact and they don’t get down on themselves as a team. After all, there’s still plenty of time to right the ship before the postseason begins.

“We have to know that we’re in control and anything can happen,” Thomas said. “That’s why there are seven innings and 21 outs.”

Pryor added: “We have to do a better job taking over a game, we can’t just wait and see what’s going to happen. It’s really about attitude and how we approach things — are we going to make something happen or are we just going to hope something happens?”

Editor’s note: Finley Cook, a third-grade student at Ireland Elementary, helped interview players for this story. Finley was the winner of a Student Reporter for a Day auction item donated by The Herald to benefit Mentors For Youth.

Herald Sports Editor Hendrix Magley and Finley Cook during the Jasper Softball Invitational this weekend.

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