Wildcats closeout their fifth win in last six games



JASPER — Hits were at a premium last evening as the Jasper Wildcats battled against the Shakamak Lakers. Both teams had their troubles either putting the ball in play or sneaking hits past fielders, but despite the odds the Wildcats were able to make the most of their eight hits as they edged out the Lakers 3-2 on Friday.

Jasper head coach Matt Pryor praised the high energy that the Cats (12-8) played with as well as their willingness to switch positions and move around the field for the good of the team.

“The effort was extraordinary tonight,” he said. “I just really liked their effort and attitude. Everyone has bought in to whatever their roles need to be and they’re doing it 100 percent.”

There wasn’t a lot to write home about during the first one-and-a-half innings as the Wildcats and Lakers (7-9) kept the lid on each other’s lineups, but Jasper finally broke through in the bottom half of the second inning. Junior designated player Madison Matheis hit what initially looked like a routine single, but an error at first base allowed her to take off and pick up an extra base. Then with two outs senior left fielder Taylor Mitchell hit a triple and scored Matheis for the 1-0 Wildcats lead.

Shakamak responded quickly in the third inning starting with a single from senior left fielder Jesalyn Lambermont. Sophomore right fielder added a base hit of her own to load up first and second. Then junior center fielder Maddeline Gilbert collected a double and sent Lambermont in to tie the game. Senior Kaitlynne Gilbert added to the run total after her sac-fly allowed Burris to score and put the Lakers up 2-1.

But the Wildcats would not be down for very long. Junior catcher Emily Heim drew walk and was replaced at first base with sophomore courtesy runner Kendyl Ruhe. Then with two outs freshman right fielder Kennedy Matheis struck a double which brought in Ruhe and tied the game at 2-2.

The next two innings were sparse as far as action at the plate. The Wildcats were able to get two hits across the fourth and fifth innings, but couldn’t make use of the base runners as Shakamak’s defensive net snuffed out almost anything that was driven their way. That is until the bottom of the sixth.

Kennedy Matheis led off with her second double of the game to get in scoring position, and in the next at-bat Madison Matheis clipped a second double to bring in Kennedy. The Wildcats were able to make short work of the Lakers in the top of the seventh, clearing out their next three batters to win the game, 3-2.

Sophomore starter Mia Werner allowed four hits, two runs, and struck out two in five innings. Junior second baseman Grace Colvin pitched the sixth allowing two hits and striking out one. Mitchell went 1-for-3 with an RBI. Madison and Kennedy Matheis both went 2-for-3 with an RBI.

“I feel like we’re definitely coming together better than we were in the beginning of the season,” said Mitchell. “We’re starting to feel more secure and we’re finally in the driver’s seat.”

“We had a lot of energy coming into the game and kept it throughout,” added Madison Matheis. “We didn’t get down when we were down by one, we kept it solid throughout the whole game.”

Pryor said that plate discipline has been a key point of emphasis for the team in this latter portion of their season, and the players are getting better at adjusting their hitting approach depending on situations and counts. He loves seeing how the girls are becoming better at judging when to swing, especially during games where every bit of contact is weighted so heavily.

“As we get further in the season the hitters are starting to know where there hitting zone is,” he said. “They’re being a lot more patient in getting the balls they want to hit. They’re just being smarter softball players, their plate poise is pretty nice to see out there.”

Last night’s win makes it five in the last six games for the Wildcats. In addition to developing mental toughness across the team, Pryor also believes that a key ingredient to their recent success is the players learning to help themselves with fast starts as opposed to waiting until the middle innings to bring energy like they were during the beginning of the season.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is the energy from the start of the game all the way through the 21 outs,” he said. “We were slow starters at the beginning of the year. Now we’re coming out firing and not waiting to get started. That’s something they’ve evolved over the season.”

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