State finals: Twitter finds a role @ the #ballpark

Matthew Busch/The Herald
The Jasper student section cheered players as they were announced during the Class 3A baseball state championship game against Norwell at Victory Field in Indianapolis on Friday.

Herald Sports Writers

INDIANAPOLIS — While browsing Twitter in early spring, an idea popped into Cole Rohleder’s head.

Rohleder, now finished with his freshman year at Indiana University, noticed the Hoosier baseball team’s account, which supplied fans with information, updates and tidbits about the team. A thought suddenly materialized.

Maybe I can start one for Jasper, Rohleder remembered thinking.

With that, @JasperBaseball was born.

Rohleder, who played two years on the Wildcat varsity squad, started shooting out the informative tweets after Jasper’s 5-3 win against Bloomington South on April 2.

Though still in Bloomington, Rohleder received details, scores and news from his mother, Lois, and former baseball manager Caleb Lehman, who also was attending college in Bloomington.

From there, the project took off. Once Rohleder returned from school in early May, he attended most ballgames and increased his tweet average to anywhere from 10 to 15 per game.

With more tweets came more followers. By Friday’s state finals, @JasperBaseball had nabbed 258 people looking to keep up on Wildcat games and news. Quite frankly, Rohleder said he expected maybe 100.

“Just the amount of people that actually follow it,” he said, “I didn’t think it would be nearly as big as it is now.”

With more players he’s familiar with graduating and with the time constraints of college expected to increase as a sophomore, Rohleder isn’t sure he’s going to undertake the responsibility of master tweeter next season. However, Lehman has expressed interest in keeping the account active in 2014. The two will discuss their options in the future. For now, Rohleder will look back on an idea that went from creative hunch to social media hit.

“Just having fun with it and keeping people informed with what is going on,” Rohleder said, “it’s been really fun.”

After all, that’s what #baseball is about.

Brakes in the action

The Cats’ state finals visit was launched on an ominous note, thanks to some transportation snags.

Jasper encountered about 10 minutes of bus trouble trying to leave the hotel parking lot Thursday night to attend a hitting session at nearby Indianapolis Chatard High School. When the Wildcats were leaving Chatard, clunkclunkclunk. More shaking and another stoppage.

This one extended longer — more than an hour — but senior Seth Hollinden said “we made the most of it” by disembarking the bus to throw the ball around more before filling the rest of the lull by playing poker and Catchphrase. Just when the brake issue was seemingly fixed, the Cats’ progress was momentarily jinxed yet again as soon as the wheels finally started turning.

“Mark (Giesler) started clapping his hands and stuff, and right when he clapped his hands, it locked up on us. We all blamed it on him,” senior Devon Traylor joked.

”˜Alles’ in the family

Jasper sophomore Austin Alles scored the Wildcats’ lone run in the second inning after hitting a single to shallow left field and coming around on a Cal Krueger groundout.

But he already one-upped his dad, Jerry, simply by being in the lineup.

Jerry never played in the state finals, though he was on the 1979 Wildcat squad that finished 28-1 before falling in the second game of the semistate, which featured four teams at the time.

The ’79 team finished off the third and last undefeated regular season for Jasper, which also finished unbeaten in 1934 (8-0) and 1939 (15-0).

Austin also has a cousin, Michael Alles, who was on the 2000 team that won the program’s fourth championship.

No. 1 fan cheers loud from afar

When Devon Traylor kept Jasper’s state championship dreams solvent with a two-out single in the seventh inning of Friday’s Class 3A state championship, the Wildcat senior knew his grandmother was going nuts.

“I guarantee she was,” he said.

It was just a little farther away than she had planned.

The morning after last weekend’s semistate victory, Penny Spangler wasn’t able to get out of bed as sciatic nerve pain prevented her from even walking or standing. She had successful surgery Wednesday morning to mend a herniated disc and a pinched nerve, but there was one diagnosis that may have been more painful than any other.

Spangler, who’s shadowed Traylor and his baseball career since he was 6, couldn’t attend Friday’s state finals. She thought about toughing it out. Devon advised against it.

When it came to rehashing his team’s one-run loss, Traylor remained composed. When it came to talking about his grandmother, who hadn’t missed one of his games all season, he choked up.

“She’s my No. 1 fan; always has been, always will be,” he said. “It was tough for me, her not being here, and I know it killed her. It absolutely killed her not being here. She was telling me that she wanted to come, and I was just like, ”˜No, don’t come, watch it on TV.’

“I know she was watching on TV, I know she was rooting for the whole team. I know I’ll have a text when I get back to the hotel from her — probably being pretty long — saying how she loves me and how she’s my No. 1 fan.”

Happy to be there

Some of the most unexpected feedback from the Cats’ state championship heartbreaker came courtesy of Seth Hollinden.

Nick Gobert and Mark Giesler and Devon Traylor and Andy Knust were the seniors who got more love on the field and in the press. Hollinden and Craig Schneider and Nathan Leibering were the seniors that enjoyed the ride just as much from the periphery. So much so that when Hollinden was asked about the emotions that a state finals defeat prompted, he instead gushed in a soliloquoy, of sorts.

“It feels amazing. It’s awesome. I love my teammates. They are my family. I’m going to miss every single one of them. Every single one of them did something for this team in one way or another,” said Hollinden, expounding on the thought as the lights were beginning to get turned off at Victory Field. “And I’m going to miss the game of baseball. Stepping on this field, just stepping here now, maybe being the last time I step on a baseball field, I’m just going to soak it all in. It feels great, it felt great. I’m just going to miss everyone, everything about baseball.”

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