Cats learn valuable lessons in loss

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
The Jasper Wildcats look up after Eli Hopf hits a fly ball during Friday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The Cats were defeated 4-1 by Edgewood in the opening game of the Hall of Fame Classic as several mishaps on the bases and a lack of timely hits proved costly in Jasper's third loss of the year. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — No loss is ever easy to take, no matter the sport and no matter the situation.

But Terry Gobert and the Class 4A No. 5 Jasper Wildcats would much rather see a loss like Friday night’s to Edgewood happen now then a few weeks later once the postseason rolls around.

“I’ll trade five wins during the regular season to face a guy (Edgewood pitcher Luke Hayden) and a team like that to get better,” said Gobert, after the Cats 4-1 defeat to the Class 3A No. 5 Mustangs in the opening game of the Hall of Fame Classic at Ruxer Field on Friday. “We got exactly what we needed to see — a good pitcher on the mound that made every run come at a premium.”

The Wildcats (15-3) were unable to do much with Hayden, the Mustang sophomore ace who already has committed to playing Division I baseball at Indiana University.

In six and a third innings of work, Hayden struck out six batters and allowed a total of just three hits. Jasper only had runners in scoring position in three of the seven innings on Friday night.

“We needed to adjust to the curveball and off-speed pitches and I don’t think we did that too well tonight,” said Jasper senior shortstop Josh Weidenbenner. “His curveball had a really sharp late break and it was difficult for us to pick up. We struggled to adjust to that at the plate.”

The Mustangs (13-2) nearly got on the board right away as they loaded the bases with two outs after a Harrison Pittsford single, an Ethan Vecrumba walk and a free pass to Coleman Sater after he was hit by a pitch. However, Jasper starting pitcher Trevor Krapf robbed a hit with a lineout catch to end the inning and keep Edgewood off of the board.

Edgewood got their first run of the game in the top of the second courtesy of a two-out RBI bloop single from Joe Kido to make it 1-0.

Jasper had a few chances to tie the game in the ensuing innings. After first baseman Andrew Wallace kicked off the second with a single, he made it all the way to third base courtesy of a sacrifice bunt from left fielder Isaac Bartley. Wallace nearly scored on a wild pitch but decided to stay at third base — the inning ended on the next play as Grant Ahlbrand grounded out.

The Cats also had a few significant chances of breaking into the run column in both the fourth and fifth innings but mishaps doomed their chances. In the fourth, center fielder Eli Hopf led off the inning with a walk but was later caught stealing. Then in the fifth inning, right fielder Jacob Ahlbrand recorded an important two-out double but was picked off on second base.

“There were a couple of times where we didn’t execute and it bit us,” Gobert said. “Some of the things that we had been getting away with (during the season) came back to bite us.”

Edgewood stretched its lead in the sixth inning courtesy of a two-RBI single from Hayden that put the Mustangs up 3-0. They went on to add another run in top of the seventh as Schuyler Curtis drove in Vecrumba with an RBI double to make it 4-0. However, the Stangs could've added a lot more but Jasper made some strong defensive plays in the final inning including a diving catch to rob a hit (and a run) by Weidenbenner.

Jasper catcher Ross Peter talks to the infield during Friday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. For more photos from the game, click here.

With their final at-bats coming up, the Wildcats weren't going to go down quietly. After Wallace drew a walk to start the inning, third baseman Carter Stamm reached base on an error to put runners on first and second with no outs. Bartley moved Wallace to third base with a fielder’s choice and then Grant Ahlbrand drove Wallace in to make it 4-1 and end Hayden’s night on the mound.

“I’m not quite sure why we waited — we knew he was on a pitch count so just like with anyone good, we tried to get him out of the game,” Gobert said. “I’ll give us credit for getting guys on (late) but we’ve got to do that all seven innings.”

The Cats went on to load the bases in the seventh with a Jacob Ahlbrand walk but relief pitcher Cooper Thacker got back-to-back strikeouts to close out the game for the Mustangs.

While the loss was certainly disappointing for the Wildcats, they’ll have another opportunity to bounce back with two more home games in the HOF Classic today — they’ll face Guerin Catholic at 11 a.m. and South Spencer at 5:45 p.m.

“We don’t play for a certain amount of wins, we play to get better for late May going into the tournament,” Weidenbenner said. “I think we’ll bounce back fine, we know we’re a better team than that. I think we can get better from this loss.”

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