Wildcats close out weekend with victory

Photos by Sarah Ann Jump/The Herald
Jasper’s Grant Ahlbrand reacted as Columbus East’s Nash Murphy was declared safe during Saturday’s baseball game at Ruxer Field. Jasper defeated Columbus East 2-1 in ten innings for the finale of the Jasper Baseball Invitational. The Cats lost their first game of the invite on Friday night to Class 4A No. 1 Indianapolis Cathedral, 4-3. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — If you like games with twists, turns and a surprise ending then look no further than Saturday afternoon’s baseball battle between Jasper and Columbus East at the Jasper Invitational.

From a near walk-off balk to both team’s pitchers keeping the other team’s offenses at bay, the final five innings had their fair share of surprises and interesting scenarios.

“Both teams had opportunities to win the game but it came down to just being able to get a few people on base because once you do that you never know what’ll happen,” said Justin Persohn, who pitched eight innings in the 2-1 victory for Jasper in 10 innings. “Taking one off of the head is an interesting way to win it but we’ll take it.”

The Wildcats (8-4) won in the bottom of the tenth inning after Austin Simmers, Trevor Krapf and Jacob Lents loaded the bases with walks and then Noah Luebbehusen was hit by a pitch from Columbus East’s Jonah Wichman which sent Simmers home for the game-winning run.

The beginning of the game was a pitcher’s duel between Persohn and the Olympians sophomore starter Cole Gilley. The first hit of the game came in the fourth inning for Jasper when junior Josh Weidenbenner hit an RBI single to drive in Quinton Gordon who had reached on a walk for a 1-0 Wildcat lead.

For a while, Weidenbenner thought that his RBI single might be the only scoring for the entire game for either team.

“Once we got to the top of the seventh inning and it was still just 1-0, I thought ‘Wow, that might actually be the only run today’, Weidenbenner said with a laugh. “But then, things started to happen.”

After a potential insurance run was tagged out at the plate in the bottom of the sixth inning for Jasper, Columbus East finally saw some life in the top of the seventh inning.

Julian Greenwell reached base after a Wildcat error and then advanced up to second base on a groundout. After a pitch hit Dalton Black, Nash Murphy came up to the plate and hit a screaming RBI single to drive in Greenwell and tie the game at 1-1. The Olympians had a chance to take the lead but Persohn shut down Gilley with a strikeout to end the inning.

The Wildcats had three chances in both the seventh, eighth and ninth innings to come away with the win but on all three occasions something didn’t quite go their way. In the seventh inning, Gordon was able to advance all the way up to third base with two outs but Weidenbenner struck out to end the inning and left the runner stranded. In the eighth inning, Simmers and Krapf both reached base via a single with just one out but Lents hit a ball that bounced right off of second base which caused the Cats to ground into a double play.

In the ninth inning was when things really started to get interesting. Jasper loaded the bases after Gordon and Johnny Verkamp walked and Persohn reached on an error. Weidenbenner was up at the plate when the home plate umpire called Columbus East pitcher Kaden Wise for a balk, which sent Gordon home for the game-winning run. However, the ruling was reversed and Weidenbenner and Grant Ahlbrand both grounded out for the final two outs of the inning to leave the bases loaded.

Jasper’s Josh Weidenbenner caught the ball for an out during the Cats 2-1 victory on Saturday. Weidenbenner played both shortstop and pitcher for Jasper in the victory as he made his season debut on the mound after not pitching in a game in nearly a year. For more photos from the game, click here.

“When you have situations like bases loaded with one out and don’t score, it can really deflate you but we kept coming back so I’m really proud of our effort there,” Wildcat head coach Terry Gobert said. “It was a game we needed to win and we did, we made some good plays but our whole weekend started with good pitching and the only way we had a shot (against Cathedral) and today was with pitching.”

For the first eight innings, Persohn shut down any type of offense the Olympians (6-5) tried to present. In fact, up until the seventh inning Persohn had faced the minimum as Gobert called him a ‘bulldog on the mound’.

He struck out six batters, gave up just three hits and threw a variety of pitches to keep the Columbus East batters off balance.

“My arm felt pretty good when I was warming up and I felt dialed in tonight,” Persohn said. “I was really hitting my spots and it makes pitching a lot easier when you can do that.”

Jasper’s other pitcher in Saturday’s game was seeing his first action on the mound in nearly a year. Weidenbenner, the usual Wildcat shortstop, came into the game in the top of the ninth inning after Persohn’s sixth strikeout of the game.

In his limited amount of action, Weidenbenner struck out four Olympian batters and ended both the ninth and tenth innings on strikeouts. While he admits he wasn’t quite sure what to expect in his season debut pitching performance, Weidenbenner was happy with the result.

“I was a little nervous honestly since I hadn’t pitched in awhile but I felt comfortable out there,” Weidenbenner said. “My curveball was working pretty well and I’ve been working on that so I think that helped me get those strikeouts.”

Overall, it was a solid weekend for the Jasper baseball team in the invitational even though they finished with a 1-1 split after falling just short to Class 4A No. 1 Indianapolis Cathedral 4-3 on Friday night.

After losing to Big Eight conference rival Washington for the first time since 1995 earlier last week, this weekend was a positive as Jasper showed their competitive toughness and edge that’s helped to bring many wins to Ruxer Field in the past.

“This was a step in the right direction in the sense that our execution was better,” Gobert said. “If you take away one inning from (the Cathedral game), we played really good baseball in that game and we played really good baseball today as well. Today was a fun game to watch and this weekend was fun to be at the ballpark.”

Persohn added, “It was a pretty good weekend for us. Even though we didn’t get the win against Cathedral, we played a lot better than we did against Washington so this weekend was a big step. We still have a lot of stuff to work on but we’re playing better now.”

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