State players join fathers before themJune 16, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
There is no secret about the demands and the expectations that come with putting on a Jasper baseball uniform. Just ask Dustin Bradley, a 1993 graduate who had the privilege of wearing the uniform.
Bradley went to state his sophomore year with the Wildcats in 1991, and the state game between Jasper and Marion for the right to advance to the championship occurred exactly 30 years prior to Tuesday's Class 4A state title game. The Wildcats lost that game, 5-4, but what Dustin couldn't do, his sophomore son, Drew, has a chance to do as a member of Jasper's team.
Drew has served as the team's backup catcher this season, but he's had the Jasper baseball culture ingrained into him for a while.
"When Drew was seven years old, I remember getting him ready for (Wildcats coach) Terry Gobert, his program and just making sure that when he's a freshman, that he was ready for what he was about ready to get into," Dustin said. "And you could ask Drew, and you could ask some of Drew's teammates that he played with - and when they were young, we constantly harped and harped on how hard it's going to be, and how disciplined you have to be. It seemed like an early age you and try and instill that in your son."
On Sundays during the Little League offseason, Drew practiced with some of his future high school teammates, and they were ready to play once the season came along.
"It was pretty tough," Drew said. "All we worked on was groundballs and flyballs, we never played any games. We just got ready and we just learned the fundamentals - and we just got better."
The memories of sitting on a curb with fellow 1993 graduate Scott Rolen and being in awe of how cool it was to go to state resonate for Dustin. Dustin didn't play all the time that year, and neither does Drew this year, but the latter is nevertheless excited about the opportunity.
"It's pretty cool you get to play on Victory Field, and have a chance to be remembered as a state champion," Drew said. "It's just cool that I get to do it 30 years later than whenever my dad played."
Drew feels that to win this one would mean a lot - to both this year's seniors and last year's seniors who didn't get to play because of the COVID-19 pandemic cancelling the season.
He's just win one away from him and his teammates forever going down in history as state champions - and the mementos that come with it would serve as a reminder to Dustin and to countless others. Dustin has the vision of going to Jasper basketball games and seeing a 2021 state championship banner.
"It would be really cool to go to certain places where you'll be reminded 10-15 years that, 'Oh, man, Drew was on that team,'" Dustin said. "We go to basketball games, and my little nine-year old (Dagen) will be like, 'Dad! Your picture is on the wall there!' And just to be able to be on the wall is pretty incredible. Not everybody gets to do that."
Not the only one
Drew isn't the only Wildcat who will be at state 30 years to the day his father was - far from it. There are seniors Kaleb Werner and Jobe Luebbehusen, whose fathers, Kevin and Cory, respectively, also helped comprise that 1991 squad.
Freshman Andrew Noblitt did not begin the year on Jasper's varsity roster, but he got called up midseason. Now, he'll be the latest person in his family carrying the tradition of representing the Wildcats at state. His grandpa, Don, coached the Wildcats to state berths in 1967 and 1968.
His father, Andy, was their star pitcher in the early 1990s and his older brother, Phillip, was on the Jasper team that finished as the Class 3A state runner-up in 2017.
"It means a lot - just having the opportunity to be on the team, and it's like a family tradition now," Andrew said.
It hasn't felt like 30 years to Andy, but the 1991 team and the 2021 team have ridden some incredibly hot streaks into state. This year's rendition of the Wildcats have won 21 games in a row heading into the Class 4A state championship, while the 1991 team reeled off 17 wins in a row before their game against the Giants.
"A lot of us were younger, and kind of had no clue of what was going on, and once we got on that streak, we also had a guy named Scott Rolen to drive in a lot of runs during that time period," he said. "He was starting to emerge and starting to grow and become the best player that has played at Jasper High School."
Andy went back pitched in the bottom of the seventh with Jasper and Marion tied, 4-4. The Wildcats had a base open and one out with the chance to walk Marion's Jeremy Aguilar. Instead, Rolen dove from a grounder off Aguilar's bat, and tried to get Matt Surface at home, but the throw bounced, and the Giants won.
They had the No. 1 ranking in the state when Andy was a senior in 1992, and later moved down to No. 2 when Evansville Memorial took over. Thousands watched the Tigers and Wildcats in their semi-state showdown at Ruxer Field, but Memorial's 9-6 victory meant Andy would have to wait until his years as the team's pitching coach to be part of Class 3A state championship teams in 2000 and 2006.
Andrew could be a part of the sixth state championship team in Jasper baseball history, and the last two years Jasper baseball won the state championship were also notable years in the Noblitt Family.
"Phillip was just born in 2000 (December, after the state championship) and Andrew was just born in 2006," Andy said.
"That's just really crazy," Andrew said.
Phillip got to be on the field after the 2006 championship, but Andrew was too young.
"He was only about a month old," Andy said. "Just being able to look back at those days and know that we live in a fine community, a good baseball community - the opportunities these kids get are unmatched."
A different family representation
Southridge junior Brayson Fuhs has a chance to win a state championship with the Raiders on Tuesday for a host of people - for himself, his teammates, his community and also his dad Kurt, a member of the 1991 Jasper team.
"I'm pretty sure he introduced me to baseball when I was little," Brayson said. "So, it would mean a lot to kind of return the favor, and winning the state championship - it's the greatest accomplishment."
Kurt coached Brayson in T-ball and in Little League. In his case, not only does he get to watch his son try to win a state championship in Class 3A, but he'll also watch his alma mater play immediately afterward.
"It's a really cool experience because you have rooting interests obviously in both teams," Kurt said. "It's kind of interesting. I'm the lone guy, I guess, that moved across the river - if you want to call it that - to Southridge. So, it's just really neat to experience winning, really."
That's not all that Kurt and Brayson have in common. In 1991, Kurt was teammates Rolen, and the two graduated together. As Rolen's career may soon end in Cooperstown with election to the Hall of Fame, another professional career may soon begin. Brayson's teammate, senior Colson Montgomery, is expected to be drafted in July, and potentially sign with the team who drafts him.
"It's just unique how that's happened," Brayson said. "My dad grew up under the wing of one the greatest to play, and obviously, I'm playing with Colson. So, it's just kind of unique that we both have that opportunity to play with greatness."
Kurt appreciates how Montgomery and fellow senior Camden Gasser picked Brayson up after he made an error in left field of the June 5 semi-state game against Brebeuf Jesuit in the top of the fourth. Brayson's error helped lead to the Braves scoring their first run of the game.
"I felt bad for Brayson whenever that fly ball popped out of his glove, but the thing that I enjoyed the most seeing was the leadership that Camden Gasser gave to Bray saying, 'Hey, chill, it'll be cool," Kurt said. "And then Colson also whenever the half-inning came to the end, basically walked out, put his arm around him and told him the same thing."
As the Raiders and Wildcats get ready to try to win some state championships on the same night, Kurt is bound to see some of his former high school teammates who are now dads to Tuesday's players. He found it unfortunate that he probably hasn't kept in touch with them they way they probably have amongst themselves, but remains acquaintances and chats with his former Jasper baseball brethren.
They could have a lot to celebrate by the time the end of the night is over.
"I think it would be just a tribute to how far both programs continue to strive for the top, and I think it's pretty cool they both moved up a class and are still really good baseball programs," Andy said.
"Hopefully, both come out with a win, and that (would) even mean more to both our towns and Dubois County," Andrew said.
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