Hopf’s grand slam secures Jasper regional championshipJune 5, 2021
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
JASPER — The “MLB: The Show” video game series offers a unique reward for users who make ideal contact with the baseball during an at-bat. The “perfect-perfect” indicator designates precise swing timing and potent barrel action through the ball.
The “perfect-perfect” swing is notoriously difficult to accomplish, but Jasper (29-2) senior Eli Hopf achieved a real-life version of the feat in Saturday evening’s Regional 4 championship game against Center Grove.
Hopf launched a deep grand slam in the bottom of the fifth inning and spurred Jasper’s 7-4 comeback victory. The Wildcats clinched their first regional crown since 2017.
After he celebrated with his teammates and hoisted the championship trophy high in the air, Hopf said that he loves playing “MLB: The Show.” A coincidence? Perhaps. His grand slam, however, left no doubt.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it was a ‘perfect-perfect,’” Hopf said with a chuckle. “So, I just kind of watched it.”
Jasper’s entire offense broke through in the pivotal fifth frame. Trailing 4-0, the Cats scratched across their first three runs of the game with run-scoring knocks from senior Grant Stratton and junior Kody Morton.
After Jasper loaded the bases, Hopf sent his first home run of his high school career sailing into the night sky. He stirred pandemonium inside Ruxer Field with one clean swing of his bat.
“Once you start hitting, you just keep on building up and up,” Hopf said. “I got the momentum and just hit it.”
Jasper head coach Terry Gobert has encouraged the Wildcats to step into the batter’s box with diligent approaches. As the players embraced each other in the outfield, Gobert echoed Hopf’s sentiments.
“We just did a great job in that inning,” Gobert said. “Every guy who walked up felt like they were going to hit. That’s the beauty about baseball. There’s a difference in your approach when the first guy gets a hit or gets on, it just breaks that ice. You could just feel it.”
Jasper’s pitching staff kept the Trojans in check after allowing the first four runs. Senior relief pitcher Jobe Luebbehusen tossed 3.2 innings and struck out three batters in his win on the mound. Stratton and Morton shut the door for the Cats.
“I just can’t say enough about our pitching tonight,” Gobert said. “We were telling them. I said, ‘Guys, it’s four runs on four hits.’”
Gobert gave credit to Jasper’s coaching staff for their ideas throughout the game. The entire staff needed to think quickly in the late innings, but Morton tallied a scoreless final frame in his pitching appearance.
Saturday evening offered a quintessential championship atmosphere. Ruxer’s intimate setting manufactured a powerful blast of sound when the Cats turned the tide.
“We were hoping to tie it up or maybe take the lead,” Gobert said. “When you get it, that roar is just unreal. I’ve heard some of them over the years.”
Jasper meets Mount Vernon (Fortville) June 12 in semi-state. The Cats will play at Ruxer in the next round.
“We’re just a close group of guys,” Hopf said. “We’re always practicing hard. We’re going to be ready for anything that they throw at us.”
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