Cats hope hot streak extends into postseason

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
Jasper's Jacob Ahlbrand, center, is congratulated by the team after hitting a grand slam during Friday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. Jasper defeated North Daviess 9-0 as the Wildcats will go into next week's sectional tournament as the winners of five straight games. For more photos from the game, click here.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

JASPER — At the beginning of the season, the Jasper baseball team wasn’t exactly sure what to expect.

The Wildcats only had three returning starters from last year’s team and many of the members of this year’s varsity roster had never even played in a contest other than a JV or freshman game.

Two months later, the Cats (22-4) have stood tall as one of the top ranked teams in Class 4A (No. 10 in the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Assocation Poll; No. 7 in the Prep Baseball Report poll) and they’ll enter next weekend’s sectional tournament as winners of five straight games after Friday’s 9-0 defeat of North Daviess (11-13) at Alvin C. Ruxer Field.

“Outside of Josh (Weidenbenner), Grant (Ahlbrand) and Trevor (Krapf), we didn’t really have anyone with much experience at all entering this season,” said Jasper senior Jacob Ahlbrand who hit a grand slam in Friday’s victory. “We’re playing really good baseball right now so I’m looking forward to what we can do in the tournament.”

Jasper head coach Terry Gobert was well aware the Cats had several question marks to begin the year back in March — questions such as “Who would play where?” and “What would the lineup look like?”.

Now that the Wildcats have found a group that tends to work well together, Gobert credits the players’ competitiveness and drive as the main factors that have gotten them to this point.

“We weren’t sure where we were going at catcher, first, third, left, center and right — we really only had a few pieces of the puzzle figured out,” Gobert said. “The best thing we’ve had this year is competition and practice.”

The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead early on Friday as Eli Hopf drove in Weidenbenner in the bottom of the first inning after Weidenbenner reached third base with a double and advanced to third on an error.

After not getting anything to go in the second inning, the Cats exploded for five runs in the third to take a 6-0 lead. The first run in the inning came courtesy of a solo home run by Krapf — his sixth long ball of the year.

“It was only 1-0 going into the third inning but one swing can change a whole game,” Krapf said. “We just took (the momentum) from there and kept it going.”

After Krapf’s homer, the Cougars loaded the bases as Andrew Wallace and Grant Ahlbrand were walked and Carter Stamm was hit by a pitch.

With two outs, Jacob Ahlbrand launched a moonshot over the left field wall for his first home run of the year. This grand slam gave the Cats a 6-0 lead.

“It was just a complete momentum shifter,” Ahlbrand said. “It kind of just knocked them out of the game from that point on.”

Gobert added: “He’s changed some things and he’s been a lot more confident this past week —he’s looked good.”

After sending all nine men to the plate in the third inning, Jasper once again batted around in the bottom of the fourth with three runs coming around to score.

After Weidbenner and Hopf were walked, Krapf drove in the first run of the inning with an RBI single to make it 7-0. Stamm got the second RBI of the inning with a sacrifice fly and then the final run of the game came when Jacob Ahlbrand was walked with the bases loaded to make it 9-0.

Jasper's Carter Stamm hustles to first base during Friday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. For more photos from the game, click here.

While the Cats were unable to get one more run in the next two innings to be victorious by the ten-run rule, Weidenbenner ensured that the Cougars wouldn’t get any closer with his solid pitching on the mound. He pitched a complete game victory, allowing just five hits while striking out six North Daviess batters.

Jasper could still potentially add a game to their schedule on Monday or Tuesday but it’s likely that Friday’s battle with the Cougars was their final regular season contest.

With a rematch of last year’s sectional semifinal against Castle (19-5) scheduled for next Saturday, Jasper is hopeful for a different result this time around after being knocked out by the Knights last postseason.

“I know it sounds a little crazy but we’re still trying to improve on some small things because once you get to the tournament, every at-bat is huge,” Gobert said. “We’re playing pretty good baseball but we’re still pointing out things we need to improve on.”

Krapf added: “The practices next week are going to be very beneficial — we’ll work on the stuff we need to and be ready for Castle.”




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