Tepid Cats still coast for sound result

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Mark Giesler, left, removed his helmet as he, Nick Gobert and Cal Krueger returned to the dugout after Giesler slammed a two-run home run in the first inning of the Cats’ 13-5 win over New Albany on Friday night at Ruxer Field. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Just a few more feet. The stout Nathan Leibering knows what it’ll take to get there.


“Couple more reps on the bench,” the senior kidded. “My football coach (Tony Ahrens) always tells me I have to get a couple more bench press reps, so I guess I’m going to have to.”

Leibering’s shot to the edge of the wall in a fifth-inning pinch-hit opportunity was mere feet from being a round-tripper, but instead turned into “the longest single I think I’ve ever hit,” he said.

Thankfully for Jasper, the mammoth RBI-single served more as insurance than missed opportunity, another run supplementing the Class 3A No. 3 Wildcats’ 13-5 runaway against New Albany on Friday night at Ruxer Field.

Fear not, though. Leibering’s got the power. The sturdy slugger proved it in the Wildcats’ rout of Evansville Central on Monday, when he took a seventh-inning offering deep over the left-field fence for his first blast of the season.

As for Friday’s flight, his mindset quickly turned from victory trot to an extra-base effort as the ball descended to the warning track dirt.

“At first, I did think it was over (the fence), but I knew that this ballpark is pretty big and it can definitely hold in some balls,” Leibering said. “So I knew I should get on my horse or else Coach (Terry Gobert) would start yelling at me.”

Unfortunately, Craig Schneider stalled between first and second base as the ball sailed because of similar trepidation.

“I told my buddy Craig, I said, ”˜Why weren’t you running?’ And he said, ”˜I didn’t want to get yelled at by Coach either,’” Leibering recalled while laughing.

Andy Knust, who scored three times in the ballgame, came around to plate Jasper’s ninth run of the contest.

The Wildcats (7-0) scored multiple runs in four innings, including six in the fourth inning, and peppered Bulldog pitching for 10 hits. However, only one was for extra bases.

That came from Mark Giesler. The senior launched a first-inning pitch from New Albany starter Brandon Johnson over the left-field fence to furnish the Wildcats with an early 2-0 advantage.

Advice for a teammate on adding a few extra feet?

“I’ve tried to teach (Leibering) a few things. Had him in the cage the other day and he was asking me for advice a little bit. But the kid puts in a lot of work. He’s a senior, he wants to make the most out of his season and he’s doing it so far,” Giesler said earnestly. “He doesn’t get to play much and whenever he does, he’s been taking full advantage of it and makes a team like us even better.”

Devon Traylor and Austin Alles each collected a pair of singles and Traylor reached base in all five at-bats for the Wildcats, while Nick Gobert, Spencer Otto, Austin Alles, Ben Moore and Knust also tallied one single apiece. Jasper also managed to draw 10 walks, which certainly abetted in the Bulldogs using five pitchers.

Wildcat hurlers proved far less volatile.

Giesler retired the first eight batters he faced in order and surrendered just two earned runs, both coming in his sixth and final inning. After giving up back-to-back walks to start the seventh, reliever Cal Krueger induced two fly outs and ended the game with a strikeout.

Not as comforting were the uncharacteristic blunders for the Wildcats, who have committed more errors on the season than their opponents. A low throw to first base with two outs in the third kept the inning alive for the Bulldogs, who capitalized with two runs. A bobble at second base on a potential double play transfer in the sixth set up a trio of scores that brought New Albany to within 10-5.

The gaffes were what prevented Jasper from putting the game to rest, Terry Gobert said. Yet what irked the coach more was, similar to last Saturday’s game against Evansville Memorial, a simple deficiency in pep.

“I’m just disappointed in our approach to the game. We don’t show a lot of energy out there, we don’t show a lot of enthusiasm,” Gobert said. “I don’t know what it takes.”

The Bulldogs, who lost their Louisville-bound ace Josh Rogers to season-ending Tommy John surgery, found their rotation further depleted after Johnson injured his ankle lunging for first base in the third. The righty reached on the Wildcat throwing error but was taken off the field on a cart and didn’t return.

After a scoreless bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats then tagged New Albany freshman AJ Nixon for a half-dozen runs in the fourth to lead 8-2. The runs came off five hits, bolstered by a pair of Bulldog errors; the visitors committed three in the contest.

By Terry Gobert’s assessment, the key adjustment his team needed to make before this morning’s bout with Indianapolis Chatard was simply finding its passion.

A good place to start the search? Perhaps by watching a senior who, this time, happened to come up a few feet short.

“He’s going to give everything he has, every time,” Terry Gobert said of Leibering. “He’s doing what he’s got to do when he’s called upon. We’re not afraid to put Nathan in there when we need a big play because he’s going to give it everything he has.”

Contact Joe Jasinski at jjasinski@dcherald.com.

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