Cats roll past BosseApril 22, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER — Jasper (9-1, 4-0) senior Blake Mann established an early rhythm on the hill during Thursday evening’s Southern Indiana Athletic Conference contest against Evansville Bosse at Ruxer Field. The southpaw hurler racked up three strikeouts in the top of the first inning and never looked back.
Mann’s dazzling effort propelled the Wildcats to a 10-0 run-rule victory over the Bulldogs. His complete-game shutout featured some special moments for the entire team.
“He gave up one infield hit,” Jasper head coach Terry Gobert said. “I’d imagine that he would tell you he got behind more than he would have liked to early, but he did a good job of controlling the ballgame.”
Neither team scratched in the first frame. Cats senior Caleb Burger knocked an RBI line drive into right-center field in the bottom of the second inning. Jasper added another run on a balk by Bosse freshman pitcher Lucas Sumner.
Equipped with an early 2-0 lead, Mann tossed his third consecutive scoreless frame. Much to his delight, the Cats added more run support in the bottom of the inning. Jasper senior Will Troxler lifted a run-scoring Texas Leaguer into an open patch of shallow right field.
Mann mixed his speeds and painted the black in the top of the fourth inning. He surrendered just one hit and accumulated nine strikeouts through his first four innings of work.
Jasper junior Connor Foley continued his recent stretch of success with a productive at-bat in the bottom of the fourth. Foley’s deep sacrifice fly to center field added another insurance run, and the Cats held a 4-0 lead.
The runs did not stop there. Jasper senior Ross Peter smashed a two-run single up the box with ducks on the pond. The fourth inning was Jasper’s most productive to that point — Mann entered the top of the fifth with a firm 6-0 advantage.
“I wanted to get some guys in,” Gobert said. “It was a conference game. If it wasn’t a conference game, I was going to start some kids that don’t get to play. Late in the year, we do a senior night. If a manager has been with us and practicing, we normally let them play one game. We’ve got 12 guys, counting the nine senior players and three managers.”
The top of the fifth frame offered much of the same. Groundout, strikeout, strikeout, and the Bulldogs were retired in order.
The Cats saved their most impactful at-bats for last. Ruxer’s loyal fans roared after senior player-manager Kyle Sternberg ripped an RBI single into left field.
“That might not have been the greatest hit I’ve had, but it sure felt the best,” Sternberg said. “You’re on Ruxer Field. It’s the first time I’ve played here in front of fans. It was just unbelievable.”
After Jasper tacked on another insurance run, fellow senior player-manager Drew Hurst added a run-scoring knock into right field.
“It feels great,” Hurst said. “I’ll be honest — I haven’t played since eighth grade. It’s nice to get out here and actually play again.”
A final run on Troxler’s infield hit clinched the win. Mann earned 10 strikeouts and did not issue a walk. The Cats swiped 11 bases and finished with 13 hits. One of those stolen bases belonged to another player-manager, senior Zach Williams.
“It was a great experience,” Williams said. “Not every guy in high school gets to play up here. It’s my first time ever playing up here. It was quite the experience. It was something I’ll really remember.”
Gobert tipped his cap to the player-managers for their persistent efforts.
“They just love baseball,” he said. “To see them come through was fun.”
Jasper plays Columbus East tonight at home.
“They’re a typical good team,” Gobert said. “They just want to play. They want to come here and play, and we want to play good teams.”
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