Fourth inning surge carries Cats to victory


G. Ahlbrand

JASPER — There’s a common belief in the sport of baseball that hitting is contagious. It’s even been statistically proven that once one batter gets on with a base hit, the chances of the next guy finding his way on base are increased by a large margin.

The Jasper baseball team tested this theory on Friday night against New Albany at Alvin C. Ruxer Field and saw it come true in the fourth inning. With two outs on the scoreboard and hope looking dim to bring in the runners from first and second, three Wildcats drove in runs on three consecutive singles to put the Cats up big. Jasper would hang on to win 5-1 to improve to 8-1 on the season.

“When you’re up to bat, you have to have that mindset of getting the job done and getting those guys in,” said senior shortstop Josh Weidenbenner who had one of the three RBI singles in the fourth inning. “That always has to be your mindset — with two outs, it made it even more fun to get those base hits.”

Jasper head coach Terry Gobert added: “They always talk about home runs but they did a nice job of going the other way — they didn’t have to go very far.”

Ruxer Field was packed to see the Cats (8-1) on Friday night as they were celebrating Jasper’s youth baseball programs on Youth Baseball Night.

Neither team was able to do much early on as both team’s starting pitchers, Jasper’s Carter Stamm and New Albany’s Steven Thom, were matching each other with strikeouts and forcing batters into ground balls and fly outs.

New Albany (7-4) got their lead off batter on in the second inning as senior right fielder Dylan Clark reached base on an error. However, Jasper’s stellar defense shut down the Bulldogs as they forced a double play and a strikeout after the walk.

“Our defense has been outstanding,” said senior second baseman Grant Ahlbrand. “We still have areas to improve on but I think we’ve done a good job. Even when the other team gets runners on the bases, we’ve minimized their impact. All eight games we’ve won, I think defense has won us those games.”

Jasper scored its first run of the game in the bottom of the second inning as sophomore Andrew Wallace came home to score from third base on a balk by New Albany’s Thom. The Cats had several chances to score more than one run in the second but struck out three consecutive times to end the inning.

As mentioned earlier, the fourth inning is when things started to come together for the Cats. Stamm kicked off the inning with a walk and then senior left fielder Isaac Bartley reached base on a hit-by-pitch later in the inning.

With two outs and runners on first and second, sophomore center fielder Eli Hopf ripped a single that scored courtesy runner Nathan Schmitt to make it 2-0. Immediately after that, Weidenbenner drove in Bartley on another RBI single and Grant Ahlbrand followed that with a two-RBI single that scored both Hopf and Weidenbenner to make it 5-0.

“Against good teams like New Albany, it makes you feel much better when you’re up by two, three or four runs instead of just one,” Grant Ahlbrand said. “With just a one run lead, you’re just a bad hop or bloop away from either a tie game or being behind.”

Jasper also had solid pitching all night on the mound. Starting pitcher Carter Stamm pitched five innings and didn’t give up his first hit of the ball game until his final inning of work. He struck out five batters and walked only one.

“He’s throwing his curveball and his changeup and then he’s spotting his fastball, he’s been pitching with good confidence,” Gobert said. “He basically had one inning of varsity experience going into this season and we told him over the winter that’s he going to be our ace — it was kind of an odd situation.”

In relief, Trevor Krapf went one inning and gave up two walks and one earned run while striking out one. Josh Weidenbenner pitched the seventh inning and struck out one while allowing no baserunners.

Eli Hopf, Josh Weidenbenner and Grant Ahlbrand all had RBIs while Jacob Ahlbrand and Carter Stamm both added base hits.

After suffering their first loss of the season on Thursday evening to sectional foe Castle, the Wildcats wanted to bounce back as quick as possible after that setback.

While no one wants to lose games, the team is well aware of the lessons Thursday night’s loss provided them going forward.

“Even though that Castle loss hurt a lot, especially coming to the team that knocked us out in sectional last year, I think it was good for us,” Grant Ahlbrand said. “It can help us figure out what we need to do — you’d rather lose games like that now than in May.”

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