What curse? Cats win title on home field

Photos by Daniel Vasta/The Herald
The Jasper Wildcats hoist the sectional championship trophy after winning Wednesday's Class 3A softball sectional title in Jasper. Jasper defeated Pike Central 6-3 to become the first team in the history of Sectional 31 to win the championship during the same year they hosted the sectional. The Cats used a combination of smart baserunning and solid contact to get past the Chargers and into next week's regional round. For more photos from the game, click here.

By HENDRIX MAGLEY
hmagley@dcherald.com

JASPER — The Jasper Wildcats softball team is well aware of the curse that always seemed to strike in Class 3A’s Sectional 31.

The jinx was this — whoever was the host school in this respective sectional never seemed to take home the trophy. In fact, since sectional 31 effectively began in 2004 no host school had ever won this respective sectional.

That is, until Wednesday evening. After a fast start and some important runs scoring via smart baserunning in the fifth inning, the Jasper softball team found themselves with a second consecutive sectional championship title after defeating Pike Central 6-3 at the Jasper Softball Complex. The title is Jasper’s eighth sectional softball championship in school history.

“It definitely feels sweet to win as a senior and do it on our home field,” said Rachel Gress, who reached base all three times with two singles and a walk. “I know it’s been a big thing about teams not winning (sectional) on their home fields so it feels really good to win it.”

Grace Colvin, who drove in a key two-RBI double in the sixth inning, added: “I can remember my freshman year losing on our home field and it was just terrible. For us to come back here and not only play on it again but win, is just amazing. The best part was seeing the look on everyone’s faces when we won.”

The sectional championship victory was a culmination of Jasper’s strengths coming together as well as effort from all 26 players on the Wildcats softball roster pitching in.

Jasper (16-11) jumped on the Chargers almost immediately as Mia Werner kicked the game off with a ringing double. Werner and Emily Heim, who reached base with a walk, came around to score on a Pike Central error which put the Cats up 2-0.

For the next three innings, Werner was spectacular on the mound as she had the Chargers guessing with what she was going to throw next. She gave up just one hit while allowing a total of just two base runners.

“Mia has gotten better and better all season and she’s gotten more comfortable with Emily (Heim) behind the plate — that’s a really good pitcher-catcher relationship,” Jasper head coach Matt Pryor said. “We’ve also been playing very strong defensively as of late. We may make an error or two, but we never let it snowball.”

After Pike Central (9-13) wasn’t able to do much early, the fifth inning was when the Chargers began to get this going. After Aubrie Dawson kicked things off with a single, she was bunted over to second base by Kenzie Powell. Then, Alize Padgett rifled one over the wall in left center field to tie the game up at 2-2.

However, the Wildcats weren’t going to just back down. In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Cats began to do what they do best — small ball with sharp baserunning. After Werner drew a walk and Heim moved courtesy runner Kylie Morton to second base, Colvin reached first with a single.

Jasper's Adrienne Simmers runs to third base during Wednesday's Class 3A softball sectional championship in Jasper. The Wildcats used several different pinch runners during the game as their smart and efficient baserunning helped lead them to victory. For more photos from the game, click here.

The Cats took the lead on a wild throw by the Chargers as Morton scurried from third base to the plate to give Jasper a 3-2 lead. A safety squeeze from Kennedy Matheis scored pinch runner Andi VanMeter immediately after that to make it 4-2 Cats.

“That’s something we’ve prided ourselves on ever since I’ve been a part of this program,” said Pryor about the Cats’ baserunning strengths. “It will win you ball games — our team is always just pushing on the base paths, waiting to pounce. I’m just so proud of how aggressive we’re playing and it shows that if you practice something long enough, it’s going to pay off.”

The Cats scoring wasn’t quite finished yet after the fifth inning, however. After the Cats started with two quick outs in the sixth, Werner drew a walk and Heim recorded a key double that put runners on second and third. Then, Colvin drove a ball that scored both runners and put Jasper up 6-3.

“I think whenever we have confidence in our bats, we just start to think ‘We got this’,” Colvin said. “Even after (Pike Central) hit that home run, we believed we were still in it.”

While the Chargers did score a run in the top of the seventh inning, Werner closed the door on the mound and finished things off with a strikeout.

After the final pitch, happy tears and tons of hugs took place on the Jasper softball pitch as the players were ecstatic to come away with a sectional title in a year that had its ups and downs.

The Wildcats will travel to either Heritage Hills or Mount Vernon for next Tuesday’s regional, depending on who wins tonight’s sectional matchup between those two teams. But for right now, the Cats are just going to let this win sink in a little longer.

“It’s great, it’s a feeling you can never replace,” Werner said. “I can’t even explain it in words. Just being able to celebrate with all the players and families, it’s what makes it special.”




More on DuboisCountyHerald.com