Cats top Central at RuxerApril 29, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER - Jasper's game with Evansville Central on Thursday wasn't initially supposed to happen at Ruxer Field, but Mother Nature had other plans for this Southern Indiana Athletic Conference matchup.
The Wildcats (11-2, 6-0) were able to play host to the Bears for this game, though Jasper batted in the top half of each inning, while the Bears went to plate in the bottom half. Jasper came away with the 6-1 conference win.
Wildcats coach Terry Gobert said being able to have Thursday's game at Ruxer starts with preparation.
"A lot of it's maintenance ahead of time, and Brady Gunselman, it's his first day on the job - he just started a couple days ago," Gobert said. "He's our new groundskeeper. So, we thought we'd give him a little test."
Gobert also gave credit to the Bears and coach Mike Goedde for being willing to come to Jasper for a conference game.
Jasper couldn't capitalize with runners on base in the early innings, but the Wildcats found their way beginning in the top of the fourth. They put their leadoff man on in every inning from the fourth through the seventh, and played small ball by successfully moving the leadoff man over with a sacrifice bunt all four times.
"I felt our bunting game set the stage tonight - did a much better job of getting our bunts down," Gobert said.
They could not get their leadoff man on through the first three innings, but when senior Jobe Luebbehusen walked to begin the top of the fourth, Jasper found a way to manufacture some runs. Senior Grant Stratton doubled him in with two outs to get the Wildcats on the board first.
Senior Eli Hopf himself had a leadoff walk in the top of the fifth, and when junior pitcher Connor Foley grounded out, Hopf tried to take third with two outs. Junior first baseman Ethan Lyke of Central sought to throw him out, but the ball got away, allowing him to cross home.
Jasper loaded the bases for junior Chris Hedinger later in the inning, and he put a ball in play that freshman Joshua Ferguson could not handle at third base, and as a result, senior Andrew Wallace and Luebbehusen scored to make it 4-0.
That gave Foley ample run support, as he was dealing throughout the night. He didn't allow a base knock until Central senior Mason Simon singled with two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Simon would go around to score, but Foley didn't allow anything besides that. He notched seven strikeouts and limited the Bears to two walks while getting the win.
"You got to be able to pitch when you don't have command of everything, and I thought he did that tonight," Gobert said. "They really started sitting on his fastball later, but it's a good enough fastball that he can still be effective."
Foley couldn't go the distance, as the Bears got their first two runners on board to begin the bottom of the sixth, and he went to left field to switch places with fellow junior Jack Ahlbrand. Ahlbrand then retired three straight batters to prevent the Bears from scoring. He also worked around a leadoff infield single in the bottom of the seventh to send Central's next three batters down to end the game.
The Wildcats will have things to work on in practice, as Gobert said they'll work on seeing velocity and putting the ball in play. They are set to be back it at Tuesday at Castle, another SIAC opponent. Gobert believes it'll be a tough test for Jasper, regardless of which pitcher the Knights throw.
"Castle's always an excellent ballclub," he said. "They got outstanding pitching, they're as good as driving the baseball year in, year out as anybody. Before the conference, they were one of our favorite teams to play. They're a tough team to beat, especially on the road."
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