Wildcats collar rematch, tournament

Rachel Mummey/The Herald
Jasper’s Ben Moore rounded third base during Saturday’s 10-0, five-inning victory against Evansville North at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The second-ranked Wildcats upended No. 5 Silver Creek 6-2 on Saturday morning, capping a perfect weekend to take the Hall of Fame Classic. For a gallery of photos, click here.

Herald Sports Writer

JASPER — Spots in Jasper’s baseball’s lineup aren’t given freely. Once earned, production is expected. This combination made the second inning of Saturday’s early-morning contest at Ruxer Field so important.


Courtland Betz ignited a two-out rally with a sizzling single up in the middle, helping No. 2 Jasper upend No. 5 Silver Creek 6-2 during the weekend’s Hall of Fame Classic; Jasper also downed Evansville North 10-0 in five innings on Saturday evening and defeated Evansville Harrison on Friday to finish as the tournament champion.

The Jasper-Silver Creek matchup was a rematch of ranked teams that met in last year’s Class 3A regional semifinals; the Dragons ended the Wildcats’ season with a 4-1 win. Saturday was different, thanks to a five-run rally in the second, which began when Betz drove a pitch to score Scott Stallwood and Cal Krueger, who moved to 3-1 on the season with a complete-game victory in which he struck out six.

Also in the second, Nick Gobert blasted a two-run double to deep left field and Mark Giesler finished the rally with an RBI single.

As for the second-inning explosion, Jasper coach Terry Gobert was happy to see different guys contribute, saying, “I’d rather not wait until two outs, but we had some big hits that inning.”

“That’s huge,” Krueger added of his early run support. “In a pitcher’s mind, that just brings a smile to your face because you knew you screwed up and then after that, they pick you up like that, that’s huge. That’s one of the best feelings being a pitcher.”

Betz, who connected on a fastball for the two-run single, had been a designated hitter for a handful of games earlier in the season, though he’s started the last few contests and played shortstop in both games Saturday. Coming into Saturday, Betz had only 24 at-bats but came through to help Jasper (23-2) erase an early two-run deficit.

“You just have to do what you can,” Betz said, “and whenever you get in and get a chance to get an at-bat, have a good at-bat and swing at good pitches and do what you can.”

“He’s just plugging away and I don’t think he’s a natural shortstop, but we just want somebody that will field the ball and throw somebody out and he’s plugged away; he’s kept a good attitude all year,” Terry Gobert added.

“And we’ve talked about it a couple times: When he’s had the opportunity, he’s had some good at-bats and it’s nice to see a kid just keep plugging away and when called upon, he does his best.”
Betz also helped the Cats play error-free baseball after the first inning; Jasper also didn’t commit a miscue in the win over North.

Against Silver Creek (16-5), Jasper’s five-run second came after a first inning that Terry Gobert coined “disappointing.” The Dragons scored twice as Jasper committed two errors. Krueger also threw a wild pitch in the opening frame but allowed just two hits over the final six innings.

“I thought he adjusted well, started spotting his fastball better,” Terry Gobert said.

“I hit my spots on the inside corner a lot with my fastball,” Krueger added. “(My) curveball wasn’t quite there but my fastball was there all day.”

Jasper added a run in the third as Andy Knust drew a two-out walk, stole second and then scored on a bloop single from Spencer Otto. That sequence impressed Gobert, who said, “I thought that was big” considering Knust ran on his own and wouldn’t have scored from first base on Otto’s single.

On Friday night, Krueger registered a four-pitch save by tossing the seventh inning after Otto threw the first six frames. Otto allowed five hits while striking out one in a 4-1 victory.
“He threw real well,” Gobert said. “He weaved the ball in and out and he changed speeds well and he really battled, did a super job. Actually, should have had a shutout but he didn’t cover first on a ground ball, but he pitched a very nice game against a team that has some good athletes.”

Against North, another freshman pitcher led the way, as Craig Shepherd permitted only three hits over five innings. Gobert, Stallwood and Knust all doubled, and Nathan Leibering drove home the final two runs to end the game.

Competing against teams that pose a challenge was the point of the tournament, even as rain showers threatened to wipe out games at Ruxer. A handful of games were canceled at the Cats’ JV field Friday night and teams had to shuffle back and forth between the two venues Saturday but everything got done. Especially on the field.

“It took a lot of effort to get this in, but it’s a good tournament to play against some good teams that you normally don’t see,” Terry Gobert said. “We’re close. We’ve just got to go out there and put together seven strong innings defensively and offensively, but it’s a good sign that we’re still battling.”

Contact John Patishnock at jpatishnock@dcherald.com.

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