Cats, Jeeps play on as rainouts add up

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
The Jasper Wildcats baseball team rakes the dirt before Thursday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. After heavy rain on Wednesday night and more storms throughout Thursday, the Jasper baseball team and ground crew worked dilligently to get the field in shape to be able to play the county rivalry game. Jasper defeated Northeast Dubois 11-1 in six innings.


JASPER — Looking around southern Indiana on Thursday, there weren’t too many baseball games left on the schedule.

With heavy rain almost all night on Wednesday, strong showers on Thursday afternoon and a forecast that showed at least a sixty percent chance of rain at night, it was understandable why many teams either cancelled or rescheduled their baseball matchups.

But if there’s a clear window to play in, the grounds crew at Alvin C. Ruxer Field in Jasper will find a way to make sure a baseball game will happen.

“A big shoutout to Shane Werner and coach (Terry) Gobert — those guys put on hours upon hours of work here and it can never go unappreciated,” said Jasper senior second baseman Grant Ahlbrand following the Cats 11-1 defeat over Northeast Dubois in six innings. “All of us are extremely blessed to be able to play here on this field for this program.”

Thursday night’s Dubois County baseball matchup between the Wildcats (12-1) and Jeeps (1-11) was supposed to be a JV/varsity doubleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. with varsity to follow. With the threat of severe weather however, the JV game was removed and varsity was moved up to a 5:30 p.m. start.

That meant less time for Werner and company to get the field ready as well as a shorter amount of time for concession workers, ticket takers and other volunteers to be stationed. But in the end, everything was ready in time.

“We’ve got administrators that allowed us to try and get a game in — if we feel we have a legit chance to get a game in then we can try and it’s not that way everywhere. Not everyone treats baseball the same way our administrators do,” Gobert said. “Shane (Werner) comes up here even when he’s not getting paid and he’s always willing to come in. He mows when he knows it’s going to rain days ahead of time, he doesn’t wait until it gets ugly.”

Even though the field was ready for game action, the wetness in the grass made it difficult for balls to travel fast which limited the hits early on in Thursday’s contest between the Cats and Jeeps.

Both teams starters on the mound (Jasper’s Cam Kilian and Northeast Dubois’ Colby Pieper) didn’t allow any hits for the first three innings of work. In fact, the Jeeps were the only team to have a baserunner in the first three innings as shortstop Reece Bauer reached base on an error in the first inning.

“I thought Colby (Pieper) pitched a really good game — he mixed his pitches well and his curveball working,” said Northeast Dubois head coach Luke Woolems. “I thought our guys were relaxed and focused, when you deal with weather all day you’re not really sure if you’re going to play tonight but these guys were ready to go.”

The fourth inning is where things started to change for both teams. Northeast Dubois struck first as Bauer reached base with a one-out double. Third baseman Logan Mehringer followed that with a single and then first baseman Logan Lampert scored Bauer on an RBI groundout to put the Jeeps up 1-0.

However, Jasper wasted no time to answer as the Cats put up a three-piece in the bottom of the fourth to take a 3-1 lead. Second baseman Grant Ahlbrand kicked off the inning with a double and then Isaac Bartley got on base with a two-out walk.

Center fielder Eli Hopf’s two-RBI double gave the Cats a 2-1 lead and then right fielder Jacob Ahlbrand drove in another run to put Jasper up 3-1.

“We just had to get runners on base and push them over to get them into scoring position,” Hopf said. “That just helped relax us — we know we could do it so we did it.”

Gobert added: “We’re down 1-0 after three and a half innings, I’m thinking we get two more at-bats and this thing could be over with rain coming and we lose 1-0.”

The Northeast Dubois Jeeps watch from the dugout during Thursday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The Jeeps jumped out to an early 1-0 lead but couldn't quite maintain it as the game went on. Northeast Dubois head coach Luke Woolems has seen plenty of bright spots on the Jeeps but is still looking for more complete games.

Jasper sealed the victory with an eight-run sixth inning to clinch a run-rule win. Ten batters came to the plate for the Cats with Jade Jochum, Carter Stamm, Trevor Krapf and Daniel Berg all knocking in RBIs to end the game in the sixth.

Kilian improved to 2-0 on the mound this season with the victory for Jasper while Isaac Bartley picked up his first save. Pieper took the loss on the mound for the Jeeps despite giving up just three hits.

No matter the final score, there was one common thread shared by both teams — a sense of gratefulness to be able to get Thursday’s game in without a postponement.

“We appreciate that Northeast Dubois and we appreciate that the umpires were willing to wait,” Gobert said. “All that said, we’re appreciative to play.”

Woolems added: “Nights like tonight are a really big deal that w were able to get on the field — practices can’t prepare you for everything a game is going to throw at you.”

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