‘Refuse to lose’ attitude propels Cats to semis

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Jasper's Taylor Mitchell slides safely into third base as Vincennes Lincoln's Chloe Cardinal catches the ball during Monday's Class 3A softball sectional opener in Jasper. Jasper defeated Vincennes Lincoln 8-2 to advance to tonight's sectional semifinal game against Washington. The Wildcats used a "refuse to lose" type of attitude to help propel themselves against the Alices, one of their biggest rivals. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — While Monday evening’s opening round game of the Class 3A softball sectional was in doubt for less than half an inning, Jasper coach Matt Pryor will be one of the first to tell you it was his team’s mindset that won the day.

“I was impressed with the way we stepped on the field tonight. The energy we had, their attitude when we started walking onto the field was ‘refuse to lose.’ Their attitude displayed that as soon as they got in the dugout and on the field, and they just backed it up with the way they played today,” Pryor said after his Wildcats opened defense of their sectional title with an 8-2 victory over Vincennes Lincoln.

Jasper cranked out 13 hits, including four doubles, and used a four-run third inning to break not only the game wide open, but also the back of the Lady Alices.

“I was incredibly excited with our play approach, because [Lincoln pitcher Karlie Myers] is a really good pitcher. We only hit her five times just a week and a half ago [in a 3-0 Jasper win]. So we came out and hit her for 13 times. That was pretty impressive. Our plate discipline was really nice to see tonight,” Pryor observed.

The Wildcats established themselves with the first pitch of the game. Jasper pitcher Mia Werner lashed Myers’ first offering back up the middle, and catcher Emily Heim followed with a double to the right center field gap to score courtesy runner Lexie Jerger all the way from first base. Courtesy runner Kendyl Ruhe then scored from third base on a wild pitch to stake Jasper to a 2-0 lead.

Jasper used another double in the second inning, this time by left fielder Taylor Mitchell, to score Aspen Sermersheim, who was a courtesy runner for first baseman Madison Allen, who singled up the middle. The Lady Alices then cut the Wildcat lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the second inning on three singles and a hit batter.

“We’ve been a little shaky defensively,” Pryor acknowledged. “Our pitchers Mia (Werner) and Grace Colvin, they’ve been throwing really good games, and we would just collapse behind them, and a lot of times we’d let it snowball. We had a couple of little errors [vs. Lincoln] that could have been prevented, but the way they responded right afterwards really was showing the maturity of this team.

“I was impressed with the way they let the mistakes go as quick as they came. One thing we go by is the team that recovers quickest from their mistakes are the teams that are going to win the ballgames. We recovered very quickly, and were ready for the next pitch. We showed our maturity tonight when we made those errors.”

The tight fit on the scoreboard lasted only until Jasper could get back to the plate. Heim started things off with a single, and Grace Colvin followed with a double. Another costly wild pitch allowed courtesy runner Ruhe to score, then right fielder Kennedy Matheis lined a single past third base to score Colvin. Madison Matheis kept the string alive with a single to right field, then third baseman Rachel Gress laid down an RBI bunt to plate Kennedy Matheis. The Wildcats made it a 7-2 game when courtesy runner Halli Leinenbach capitalized on an Allen sacrifice bunt down the first base line.

Pryor decided the difference in the game came down to the adjustments the Wildcats made as the game wore on.

“We keep [track of] a lot of things in our dugout, from charting every single pitch they throw to us, to every pitch we throw to them, and what we do and what they do off those pitches. We told [the players], it’s a chess match. We’ve got to keep on playing the game, this game of chess till the end, and if we do that, we have better chances to win,” Pryor said. “Every time they would counter, we would counter with those adjustments. [The girls] played really smart. They were really intelligent tonight, listened to their coaches on the adjustments they needed to do, where they should move in the box. That’s just where we were mentally. We were focused mentally, making the adjustments throughout the entire game.”

Jasper's Rachel Gress high-fives Kendyl Ruhe after she scored a run during Monday's Class 3A softball sectional opener in Jasper. For more photos from the game, click here.

Lincoln threatened in the bottom of the fourth inning with a one-out double and an infield single, but Werner closed the door with two back-to-back strikeouts.

Jasper picked up its final insurance run in the top of the sixth inning when Werner parked a Myers pitch in the corner of left field for another double, then courtesy runner Nicole Mehringer scored on a Heim RBI single to center field.

The Lady Alices then went down in order in the bottom of the seventh inning as the Wildcats advanced to the semifinal round and an 8:30 p.m. date today with Washington.

“Washington has had their troubles,” Pryor said in previewing tonight’s game. “We want to not play down to the competition. We want to have good, disciplined at bats, swing at strikes. It’s not about trying to hit home runs. Just hit line drives. We just want to stay disciplined and play our ball. We play to improve on the night before, that’s got to be our focus: Can we play better [vs. Washington] than we did tonight, and if so, that’s a win for us.”

A win against Washington will put the Wildcats in Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. championship game against the winner of today’s Princeton-Pike Central semifinal.

More on DuboisCountyHerald.com