Cats top Rangers in matineeMay 15, 2021
BY JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER — Fans of Jasper (21-2) baseball lore enjoyed another chapter in the program’s voluminous history book on Saturday afternoon. Before the Wildcats defeated Forest Park (13-8) in a 7-0 contest at Ruxer Field, the Jasper community honored the 1996 state championship team.
The ceremony carried special significance for head coach Terry Gobert, who won his first state championship with the 1996 group.
“It was special,” Gobert said. “It was just so much fun to be around them. You see their chemistry now, and you realize why they made such a good run and why they were able to get the job done. Obviously, they were talented kids. They were very close, and they are still close to this day. A lot of those guys in the era of 1996, 1997 and 1998 are running our Little League and youth baseball. They’re super men, and it was fun.”
The first two innings went by quietly for both teams. Jasper junior Connor Foley broke the scoreless tie with a deep sacrifice fly in the bottom of the third. Clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Cats created meaningful distance in their half of the fourth frame.
Jasper senior Caleb Burger and junior Kody Morton ripped a pair of two-run doubles in the decisive fourth inning. Shortly after the Cats captured the victory, Gobert praised Burger’s tenacity.
“He’s a guy who just plugs away every day,” Gobert said. “We gave him the start today because his attitude has been so good, even though he’s not playing a whole lot. It’s fun to see him have success.”
Forest Park did not surrender any damage in the fifth inning, but the Cats maintained their 5-0 advantage.
“We know that they are a good team,” Rangers head coach Jarred Howard said. “There’s no doubt about it. They make plays, they throw strikes and they put the ball in play. What they do a good job of is when they get guys on base — they move them around and take advantage of baserunners. We had a couple of innings where we had guys on. We didn’t take advantage of that, and then we fell behind.”
Two Jasper insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth widened the gap. Senior Kaleb Werner, sophomore Ryan Leuck and Morton combined to throw a two-hit shutout for Jasper. The pitching staff flexed their figurative muscles while senior catcher Ross Peter called the signals from behind the dish.
“I think Ross has really come into his own,” Gobert said. “With part of the credit of shutouts and good pitching, you’ve got to start with our catcher.”
As Forest Park gears up for sectionals, Howard wants the Rangers to embrace aggressive approaches in the batter’s box.
“Our guys have come a long way this year,” he said. “Today, we didn’t play great. We didn’t play terribly. Jasper just beat us today.”
Forest Park returns to play a Pocket Athletic Conference game on Tuesday at Princeton.
“On our end of it, it doesn’t matter who we play,” Howard said. “I tell them that all the time. We have to score runs.”
Jasper will play again on Wednesday at South Spencer.
“When they have their best, they’re as good as anybody around here,” Gobert said.
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