Jasper tops Southridge on walk-off

Photos by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Jasper junior Ben Henke (4) led off the bottom of the eighth Friday against Southridge with a leadoff single, reached third base on an error and came around to score the winning run, 4-3. 


JASPER - Jasper bolted out of its dugout on Friday to embrace junior Kody Morton.

The junior for the Wildcats (20-2) had just given his team a 4-3 win against county rival Southridge, thanks to his RBI sacrifice fly that scored fellow junior Ben Henke in the bottom of the eighth. They trailed, 3-0, in the bottom of the fifth, but rallied to tie, and finished the comeback to get the walk-off win against the Raiders (14-5).

"I was trying to get the ball deep in the outfield or even find a hole in the outfield, just get the runner in," Morton said.

It all began with Henke's leadoff single, and when senior Eli Hopf tried to bunt him over, the Raiders went to second base to try to get Henke, but the ball got away, and he went to third, setting the scene for the winning run with nobody out in front of a packed crowd at Ruxer Field.

For the Raiders, it was a game that slipped through their hands, as senior Ethan Bell went 7.1 innings, recording 10 strikeouts and no walks, but in the end, he got the loss. Two of the four runs he allowed were unearned, as one error for Southridge allowed Jasper to tie the game in the bottom of the fifth.

"See those two errors on the board, right there?" Raiders coach Gene Mattingly asked. "That's the difference in the ballgame. We play a clean game, we win it, 3-2, it's no big deal."

The Raiders had led, 1-0, going to the top of the fifth when they got themselves two more runs. Bell drove in his second run of the game on a sacrifice fly that scored senior Quinn Barnett. Southridge also drew three walks against Jasper junior Connor Foley, who had seven strikeouts, but walked five on Friday - not being able to locate some of his pitches once he got to two strikes. Foley had a no-decision, as senior Grant Stratton worked three innings of relief and got the win.

The Raiders scored two, but also left the bases loaded in the top of the fifth.

"He is a horse, but he's a first-year player on the varsity, and it's hard to remember that," Jasper coach Terry Gobert said of Foley. "He had zero innings on the mound at varsity coming into this season. He's raw, but we wanted to put him in this situation. They could've popped it open, and he got out of it."

Southridge senior Ethan Bell (6) had 10 strikeouts and no walks in 7.1 innings Friday at Jasper, but despite that, he took the loss in the 4-3 defeat in the bottom of the eighth. 

Bell had three out of four 1-2-3 innings going into the bottom of the fifth, but then the Wildcats got it going. Seniors Ross Peter and Jobe Luebbehusen led off to begin the comeback effort with back-to-back doubles to get Jasper on the board. Luebbehusen would score on Henke's two-out double that made it a 3-2 game.

"I think it just helped that we were able to go through the lineup once, and we were able to see him and pick up some of his pitches," Henke said.

"He's a tough pitcher, he's so competitive and he can really hit that corner," Gobert said. "We were telling our guys, 'We got to get up on top of it, quit trying to pull it,' but we had our hands full. But they had some really good at-bats there. I'm really proud of our guys making some kind of adjustment, and just trying to go up the middle."

The Wildcats tied the game when Hopf had a line drive to the outfield that junior Carter Whitehead had an error on, allowing Henke to tie the game. Bell had 1-2-3 innings in both the bottom of the sixth and bottom of the seventh, but Southridge could not give him any more runs. 

Senior Camden Gasser led off the top of the seventh with a single, but Bell struck out. The Wildcats then chose to intentionally walk senior Colson Montgomery and take their chances with another senior, Chase Taylor, who grounded into a double play that retired the side.

Gobert told the Herald he said he wasn't going to intentionally walk Montgomery, but later added both teams were trying to win, and he owed it to his players to take the best strategy.

"If he hits one out, I have a hard time explaining to our kids why we didn't take the calculated move," he said. "But again, I think we just got a little competitive."

This was the second extra-inning affair for the Raiders in three games, as they also had a 4-3 win in the bottom of the 12th Tuesday against Heritage Hills, but Mattingly said that they're not tired. Southridge will try to get in the win column two more times Saturday at home for some make up games against Pocket Athletic Conference rival Pike Central, then against another PAC foe in Tell City.

"We can't do anything about this one," Mattingly said. "(The) only thing we're worried about is the first game tomorrow."

Jasper, meanwhile, will try for a win Saturday at home against another county rival in Forest Park, but that's not all. The Wildcats will also honor the 1996 state championship team in a pregame ceremony.

"I'm looking forward to seeing those '96 guys and saw a few of them last night (taking batting practice in the fieldhouse)," Gobert said. "It'll be hopefully another great atmosphere and a really good team. Forest Park's got some really good young arms and a good hitting ballclub."

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