Peter key to Jasper's pitching, successJune 4, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Jasper’s longstanding tradition and success on the baseball diamond has continued this year with a current 27-2 record and a sectional championship. Longtime Wildcats coach Terry Gobert believes one key to the program’s successes through the years has been allowing their pitcher and catchers to call games on their own.
“I think it’s a big part of it,” Gobert said. “I think the pitchers have got to have confidence in their catcher, and the catcher has got to have confidence in his pitcher.”
Currently filling that catching role for Jasper is senior Ross Peter, who has the autonomy to call pitches as he sees fit. It’s a role that he has grown into since he’s caught for the Wildcats when he was a sophomore.
“It was just a little bit more of a bigger responsibility for sure — especially playing here under Coach Gobert,” Peter said. “It keeps you more in the game and keeps you on your toes about what the hitter’s doing, and just kind of makes you think a lot more about the game and what to throw.”
Peter never had these kind of responsibilities prior to his sophomore year, but he credits Jasper’s coaching staff for helping him out. He didn’t get a junior season, but he understands the game more and has shown maturation behind the plate for the Wildcats.
Sometimes, when he was a sophomore, pitchers who played more than he had helped him out during games.
“This year, I just feel like I’ve kind of been able to understand what pitches to call when a little bit more,” he said.
“The biggest difference between his sophomore year to senior year is his leadership,” Gobert said. “He’s a lot more involved, he's a lot more active, a lot more vocal. It’s hard to do when you’re a sophomore (at) any position, but especially catcher. And I think he’s more assertive this year.”
Being a catcher in baseball means working with numerous different pitchers of which there are different relationships. What Peter says to his pitcher when he goes out to the mound to talk depends on who is toeing the rubber.
He may have to calm down a younger pitcher, but it helps when working with somebody like fellow senior Jobe Luebbehusen, whom Peter says has matured more this year.
“It’s easier to go out there and talk to him because he just knows he just wants the ball back and he just wants to keep going out there and doing work,” he said.
“We’re pretty good friends,” Luebbehusen said. “We always go fishing together and stuff. We always hang out on the side and stuff and make sure that we know each other pretty well. I think that’s what makes him the catcher that he is today.”
Peter saw his handling skills put to the test multiple times in Sectional 16 play on Monday. Luebbehusen and Co. held tight in the 10-0 run-rule win over Evansville Central despite the Bears leaving multiple men on base a couple of times.
But just to get to that point, however, the Wildcats had to survive a test with Evansville North. A 5-0 lead soon became a 5-4 lead, with a one-out RBI triple from Huskies sophomore Luke Diekmann representing the tying run in the bottom of the fifth.
Peter worked with junior Connor Foley in that game, and he said that hanging curveball that Diekmann took for a triple was one he wanted back.
“That was going to haunt me if we didn’t win that game,” Peter said.
“I threw a few curveballs that I shook off that were supposed to be fastballs, and they got hits,” Foley said. “I’m going to keep trusting him, and he knows what he’s doing back there.”
Pitchers tend to have their go-to pitch. For Luebbehusen, it’s the curveball, and for Foley, it’s the four-seam fastball. Foley couldn’t remember throwing a single curve in that bottom of the seventh inning, and he used his fastball for a 1-2-3 bottom half to put the Wildcats in the championship.
“The inning before, we made adjustments,” Foley said. “I left a few curveballs hanging, and we made an adjustment into the next inning — just come at them at fastballs and whatever happens, happens. It’s my best pitch, and you should go to that best pitch when you’re in a puzzle.”
It certainly means a lot to Jasper’s pitchers to have autonomy to work with their catcher on what pitches to deliver.
“It feels like I have a lot more freedom on the mound where I’m allowed to shake off and that gives more confidence on the mound — knowing that I can do my game and my call my game how I want,” Jasper senior Grant Stratton said.
“It’s pretty nice, including when you have a great bond with your catcher,” Luebbehusen said. “Your catcher kind of knows you and knows the pitcher and knows what you like calling. So, it’s kind of like your bond between your pitchers and catchers.”
Gobert knows that it isn’t often that a pitch call comes from the dugout. He couldn’t speak as to why some other programs don’t let their pitchers and catchers work things out with pitchers, but he knows there is little delay, and he likes his pitcher to work fast.
At the end of the day, it’s high school baseball, and not an absence of millions of dollars if the team doesn’t win a World Series. Jasper tries to put that confidence on its players.
“You just have to reinforce, ‘Ross, you’re going to call a different game with Stratton than you are with Foley’ — two different types of pitchers,” he said. “And that’s probably been a strength of his that he can go up and down and pretty much know who’s better inside, who’s better away.”
Jasper’s arms know how crucial Peter is to their success. Foley, for example, never had varsity experience prior to this year, and he credits Peter for helping him get accustomed to the varsity game.
“He’s a senior captain leader,” Foley said of Peter. “He started his sophomore year, and that experience helps a lot with younger guys like myself up there on the mound. He’s good at being a leader and controlling the emotions and overall output of the game.”
The Wildcats would like it if Peter exemplified his leadership again on Saturday against Floyd Central, and he’ll be tasked with trying to walk whichever pitcher he gets through the Highlanders lineup in their Regional 4 game at Ruxer Field.
“I think we just need to go out and play Jasper Baseball — just keep doing the little things right, come together as a team, keep rallying off of hits in the dugout and just keep everybody on the same page,” Peter said.
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