Late rally sends Wildcats past PatriotsApril 24, 2018
By HENDRIX MAGLEY
JASPER — Sometimes it can be beneficial to look at pitch or two when you come up to the plate to face a new pitcher who has just entered the game.
But with the inning the Jasper baseball team was having in the fifth inning, senior Quintin Gordon wasn’t about to waste any time as he took a healthy swing at the first pitch he saw Patriot hurler Nathan Lamar throw and sent it right back up the middle to drive in two runs and cap a four-run fifth inning that would send Jasper to a 5-2 victory over Heritage Hills.
“We just had the energy in that inning and we knew what we needed to get done,” said Gordon who finished with a double, a walk and 2 RBIs in the win. “It was a close battle throughout but we had to pull ahead (in that inning), I mean we knew we just had to.”
Jasper (9-4) kicked off the inning with back-to-back singles from Grant Ahlbrand and Austin Simmers followed by walks from Trevor Krapf and Jacob Lents. Ahlbrand would end up scoring the first run of the inning on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2-2 while Noah Luebbehusen would drive in Simmers on a sacrifice fly to give Jasper a 3-2 lead. Gordon’s RBI double would follow and the rest was history for the Cats.
Jasper head coach Terry Gobert thought one of the most important parts of the inning was the very beginning when the Cats were able to get the leadoff man on base to potentially start something big.
“In high school baseball, if you can get the leadoff guy on then there’s about an 80 percent chance he’ll come around and score,” Gobert said. “We hadn’t hit the ball very well up to that point but it all started with getting the leadoff guy on. I thought their pitcher (Noah Chesnut) did a good job of keeping us off-balance tonight.”
Going into the fifth inning, Jasper trailed the Patriots 2-1 after Lukus Rickelman hit the first home run of the year for the Pats who trailed 1-0 before taking the lead.
Patriot head coach Andy Fischer had a feeling that Rickelman got about all of it when he saw the ball leave his bat but he wasn’t quite sure it was heading out of the park.
“He put a charge into it that’s for sure,” Fischer said with a laugh. “He has that nice swing and it’s got a little bit of an upward stroke that comes with it. I didn’t know if it was going out or not with the way the wind was blowing but he got all of it so hats off to him.”
The play that bothered Gobert the most wasn’t the home run itself but the walk to Noah Chesnut just a batter before Rickelman which caused the solo homer to turn into a two-run blast.
“In a 1-0 ballgame, you see how important that walk becomes,” Gobert said. “It’s a lot different having the score be 1-1 instead of 2-1, but we did answer and that was huge.”
Even though he gave up the homer and a few walks, Gobert felt that Jasper pitcher Jacob Lents pitched the ‘best outing of the year.”
Lents got the victory by pitching all seven innings and gave up just a total of seven hits and struck out three batters along the way. He also threw a variety of pitches and kept Heritage Hills guessing what would come next.
“I thought that tonight (Jacob) tried to be a pitcher instead of just a thrower,” Gobert said. “He slowed things down and he threw his off-speed pitch for a strike every now and then and that was a huge difference as well. Not just result wise but mentally too, I think it was his best performance of the season.”
While Heritage Hills was able to send a ball out of the park, Jasper nearly had their second homer of the season as well on Monday night.
In the bottom of the third inning, Krapf got a hold of a pitch and appeared to send it over the wall but it bounced off the left field wall for a two-out double that drove in Simmers who had reached earlier for a walk.
When the ball left his bat, Krapf admits that he was a little disappointed that it didn’t quite clear the wall.
“I thought it was gone,” Krapf said with a laugh. “But overall we’ve really just been playing a lot better from hitting to pitching. Really just all-around we’ve improved.”
For Heritage Hills (8-4), one of the biggest positives in the loss was the play of Chesnut.
The junior pitcher pitched four and a half strong innings and was showing a wide variety of strengths in just his second appearance on the mound this season.
“(Noah) did a fantastic job of getting ahead of hitters and even when he wasn’t ahead of hitters, he made a nice pitch on counts like 2-0 where it wasn’t a pitch right down the middle that they could just stroke,” Fischer said. “He wasn’t really feeling the best today at school but when I asked him if he wanted to play he said, ‘Yeah, I want to go’. I think that says a lot about his toughness and being a competitor so I was proud of him tonight.”
For the Wildcats, the players are starting to notice small improvements as the season progresses.
Gordon says the Cats have shown the most improvement on the defensive side of the ball.
“At the beginning of the year, our defense was a little behind,” Gordon said. “We haven’t had much time for practices since we’ve had so many games back-to-back. Our hitting percentages have also been kind of low but as long as you don’t make those silly errors and we continue to pitch strikes I think we should be fine.”
Krapf added, “I think we just have to believe in our teammates and trust that they’re always going to make the play. When they do or even when they don’t, you just have to keep believing that they will every time.”
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