Errors prove costly in Cats' loss to Bulldogs

Photos by Marlena Sloss/The Herald
Mike Eckstein of Jasper, pitcher for the 1968 Jasper High School baseball team, was announced for the team's 50 year anniversary before Jasper faced New Albany in Jasper on Friday. The 1967 and 1968 teams made it to the state finals—the first two years of the one class tournament system. "It was great," Eckstein said of the reunion. "A lot of good memories and friendships." The Wildcats fell 8-3 to New Albany as errors piled up quickly and the Cats struggled to bounce back. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — It started as a night of pomp and circumstance. On Friday night before Jasper’s baseball team was set to do battle against New Albany, the bleachers were filled to the brim as Jasper honored the 1968 state final team.

The former players lined up and had their names and positions announced over the public address system in the order of their batting lineup when they took the field 50 years ago. They also took batting practice with the team before the game and were presented plaques to commemorate their contributions to Jasper’s storied baseball program. It was a truly beautiful display from the team to honor those that came before them.

But that’s where the pretty part ended for the night’s festivities.

Jasper and New Albany combined for nine errors over the course of seven innings, but the Bulldogs were able to plunk out eight hits en route to handing the Wildcats an 8-3 loss and snap a four-game winning streak.

Jasper coach Terry Gobert said the Wildcats (6-2) had been lucky to find ways to win in previous games where they logged multiple errors, but Friday night the mistakes were too much to overcome and they cost the team a win against a very game New Albany (7-0) squad.

“You put guys on base with a walk or an error and you’re going to get burned,” said Gobert. “Sometimes you learn more when you lose. I’m hoping they’ll learn that the pattern is the same. Keep putting guys on, then giving up bases with wild pitches or bad throws...they made them pay. It was an ugly game.”

Senior Eric Nordhoff started on the mound for Jasper and started the night going one-two-three against the top of New Albany’s lineup with two strikeouts. But the Bulldogs also had heat on the mound in the form of senior right-hander Chasey Rudy, who also retired the first three Wildcats batters.

Nordhoff kept the pressure on the Bulldogs by clearing out their next three batters in the top of the second, and was even able to reach first base on a throwing error from sophomore Andrew Ricketts when it was his turn at the plate. But Jasper was not able to cash in.

At this point, a fan in the stands could make the reasonable assumption that they were in for a pitcher’s duel. Instead, they were treated to a comedy of errors.

In the third inning, junior first baseman Steven Thom was able to get on base with a walk, and advanced to second behind a single from Rudy. Then during sophomore shortstop Cooper Biven’s plate appearance, both runners moved into scoring position after a pitch managed to make it past senior catcher Austin Simmers.

Senior center fielder Jonah Boone broke up the no-score tie with a single to drive in Thom and cash in on his earlier walk.

The bottom of the third saw New Albany’s slim lead threatened with sloppy defensive work of their own. The first error benefitted right fielder Johnny Verkamp. The senior hit a pitch from Chasey straight down into the dirt in front of junior catcher Dylan Clark, who overthrew the pursuant throw to allow Verkamp to reach first base safely. Junior shortstop Josh Weidenbenner was also a recipient of a bad throw to the corner as he made his way to first base. Sensing a chance to tie things up, Verkamp took a shot at home plate, but he was thrown out at home plate just before crossing the finish line.

Jasper's Noah Luebbehusen waited patiently on third base as New Albany's Chasey Rudy prepared to fire a pitch during the Cats 8-3 loss on Friday night. For more photos from the game, click here.

A walk, a throwing error, and two singles loaded the bases for New Albany at the top of the fourth inning. A second walk on Thom brought in Medley, and a double from Rudy drove in Clark and Ricketts to put the Bulldogs ahead 4-0.

Jasper was able to break up their goose egg after senior center fielder Jacob Lents made his way around the bases and took advantage of a missed throw down attempt to home plate. Gordon drove in senior first baseman Noah Luebbehusen on a sacrifice hit to first base. Just like that, Jasper was back in the mix only down 4-2 with three more innings of action.

The Bulldogs couldn’t get much of anything going during their plate appearances in the fifth inning, but senior Justin Persohn—who had started the game at third base, but moved to mound in the fifth inning after Nordhoff reached his pitch limit—was able to close the gap after crossing home plate with the help of a sacrifice hit by junior second baseman Grant Ahlbrand, bringing Jasper within one run of New Albany.

However, the Bulldogs saw their lead extended in the sixth. Ricketts knocked off a leadoff triple in the top of the inning. Nordhoff, who had been moved to right field, attempted a diving leap to catch the hit, but landed hard on his left shoulder and had to be pulled from the game. Junior  Tanksley left fielder Owen Tanksley used a single to send Ricketts home, but that was the extent of the offense for New Albany in the sixth. It turned out to be more than enough however, as Jasper’s next three batters were cleared out efficiently to draw the inning to a close.

New Albany shut the door with one more run in the top of the seventh as the Bulldogs extended their winning streak to six in a row.

Nordhoff (1-1) pitched four innings and struck out six while allowing four runs on three hits and three walks in the loss. Ahlbrand and Gordon each had an RBI for the Wildcats.

Simmers said that the errors were a mix of bad breaks in the field and rushing to make routine plays that the team makes regularly. He said the team came out ready to play, but they could not convert on the error opportunities and score runs like New Albany did.

“Sometimes you just make a quick (throw) out of your hand on turning two and just throw it past the guy,” said Simmers as he analyzed a few of the errors that hurt Jasper during the game. “We had some fielding errors too, (some) bad hops and that happens every day."

Gobert is hopeful that this game can serve as wake up call for his team as the look towards Monday’s game against Heritage Hills back at Ruxer Field. He understands that mistakes happen in a game, especially early in a season, but he wants their game against the Bulldogs to be a lesson on how to bounce back from errors and respond in a constructive way that helps win ball games.

“I’m concerned with (what happens) after the error,” he said. “We had a couple of guys hanging their heads after an error and you can’t do that in baseball. You’re going to make an error now and then. Are you going to be ready for the next ball? We have to understand that.”

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