Reds improve to 8-0

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Former Wildcat Eli Hopf (8) is expected to leadoff for the Jasper Reds in the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series set for July 22-25 in Youngstown, Ohio. Hopf helped the Reds moved to 8-0 on Saturday with 13-0 and 10-0 wins over the Saline County Monarchs (IL).


JASPER - As the National Amateur Baseball Federation World Series in Youngstown, Ohio nears, the Jasper Reds managed to answer some questions after Saturday's doubleheader sweep of the Saline County Monarchs (IL).

The Reds (8-0) came away with a 13-0 win in the first game, followed by a 10-0 win in the second game, and the question of who is going to play where is finally starting to come to light.

"I was wondering who we were going to put in that leadoff spot, and I think I'm settled on (Jasper graduate) Eli Hopf for that," Reds manager Bill Alles said. "And (Jasper grad Austin Simmers is) going to bat second, and we were thinking about that third spot, too. We've been batting Burke there - Nathan Burke - and he's not going to make it."

So, the Reds have decided they will use Northeast Dubois graduate Reece Bauer to bat third.

"It's a great opportunity to go to Ohio and play in a good tournament with some college baseball players," Bauer said. "And batting third - we've had a few guys hitting the ball well all year. So, it's an honor to bat third on a good team."

The Reds know they'll be using some local products out on the mound. Simmers got the win in the second game, and he's expected to be used, as is fellow former Wildcat Jobe Luebbehusen, who got the win in the first game. Another Jasper grad, Grant Stratton, who got the win on Friday, will see some action out on the hill in Youngstown as well. 

However, not everything is set in stone for the Reds just yet.

"We're working on getting some other pitchers," Reds business manager Bob Alles said. "Bo (Daves) can't throw because he is too old - and they changed it from a three-game to a four-game."

Bob added the Reds have reached out to some college coaches in hopes of getting somebody for the World Series, but that hasn't happened yet.

The Reds have had a lot of downtime recently, as Friday's 12-0 win against the Louisville Vipers since their June 26 doubleheader against the Indianapolis Heat. But they kept it going this weekend with three wins by comfortable margins.

"I hadn't pitched since the state game," Stratton said. "So, I just got up there, had to focus back in. It was a little weird stepping on this field back to pitch for the first time in a few weeks. So, I just stepped up there and made sure I threw strikes."

Luebbehusen kept it going in the first game on Saturday, and Saturday was his first action since the Class 4A State Championship win on June 22. So, getting in some work before he officially joins Franklin College this fall was key. He started out the first two innings by throwing first-pitch strikes and getting ahead of batters. 

However, Luebbehusen's struggles with his command and location helped the Monarchs load the bases in the top of the third, but the Reds held tight to preserve the shutout.

"(I) just refocused and went out there and had to throw some strikes - and that's what I did," Luebbehusen said.

Simmers isn't much of a pitcher, but his pitching motion out of the wind drew comparisons to that of former Major League pitcher Luis Tiant and veteran hurler Johnny Cueto - making sure to keep the pitching going.

He might not be as seasoned on the mound as some of the other former Jasper pitchers are, but Simmers won't let that deter him when he gets to Youngstown.

"I'm ready," he said. "I always come here with Reece Bauer and throw some bullpens. So, they know I'm ready - and I'm a competitor. So, I'm going to go there ready to pitch, and if it doesn't go my way, that's alright." 

Simmers told the Herald that keeping throwing strikes and keeping the ball low - contrary to throwing higher on Saturday - will be key to things going his way.

The World Series is set for July 22-25, and the Reds will hope to head in there on a strong note. They'll try to have another undefeated season in the July 18 doubleheader at Ruxer Field against a team from LaGrange, Ky. 

"We just need to keep playing good, fundamental baseball - making easy plays, getting good hits and putting runs on the board like we've been doing," Bauer said of finishing the regular season strong.

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