Wildcats rally, rise despite angst on repeat

Photos by Tegan Johnston/The Herald
Jasper's Jacob Lents sprinted for home plate during Saturday's game against New Albany at Ruxer Field. Jasper defeated New Albany 6-4. For more photos from the game, click here.

By WYATT L. STAYNER
wstayner@dcherald.com

JASPER — Jasper baseball coach Terry Gobert might want to start watching out for puddles.

After Jasper’s 6-4 victory against New Albany on Saturday afternoon at Ruxer Field, Gobert settled on the classic Bill Murray comedy “Groundhog Day” as his best way to describe his team’s season so far. When the movie’s main character kept reliving the same day on a loop, one thing he continually did was stick his foot in an icy puddle. Even as the Wildcats (7-1) have manufactured wins and taken over the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A, the same frustration keeps nagging at Gobert. Another win, yet another plunge into the icy puddle.

“It’s the same thing we’ve been doing each game, so it’s really no secret,” Gobert said. “We don’t come out ready to play.  We don’t talk. We don’t fly around the field. They put it in play and they burn you with it. It’s the same problem. Google, ‘Groundhog Day, Bill Murray’ and we’re reliving it every game. We had chances early in the game to knock guys in, we don’t.”

Gobert said the few bright spots for the Cats came in a four-run fifth inning, where Evan Aders doubled to drive in Jared Sermersheim and Adam Hedinger perfectly executed a bunt down the third-base line to bring in a run. Jacob Lents and Trevor Krapf added RBIs in the inning as well, then Aders drilled his third home run of the week and fourth on the season with a solo shot in the sixth inning to seal the final margin.

“He’s a perfectionist and he’s a really good hitter and he knows how to sit back and drive the ball,” Jasper second baseman Austin Simmers said of Aders. “He’s been having a really good year for us so far.”

Jasper’s three hits in the fifth and sixth innings yielded a rally after the Cats tallied just one hit through the first four innings and trailed 4-1. Another concern Simmers and Gobert shared was team defense, which has been one of Jasper’s rocks thus far. The Wildcats totaled three errors, which were catalysts for three of New Albany’s runs. Reece Kleinhelter (2-1) started the game and threw five innings, striking out four, while Jacob Lents notched the save by closing out the final two innings and landing three strikeouts.

Jasper's Reece Kleinhelter delivered a pitch during Saturday's game at Ruxer Field. For more photos from the game, click here.

Communicating also remains high on Jasper’s to-do list, Simmers noted. One on play in particular, shortstop Josh Weidenbenner collided into Simmers near second base, since the pair didn’t decide who would cover the bag and who would cover the ball.

“We were lacking communication early,” said Simmers, who singled once and scored two runs. “Coach gets on us a lot about that and we work on it a lot in practice. ... I don’t know if it’s because we’re young or first-year starters. I think we need to relax. We need to do what’s right and I think we’re scared right now to make calls. We just need to make them.”

Gobert said his approach this season hasn’t been any different than his previous years as coach. He’d still like to see more enthusiasm from his team.

“Here you’ve got a beautiful Easter Saturday crowd,” Gobert said. “People back home in town come out to watch, and tell me if you saw anybody smile. Tell me if you saw anybody having fun out there. Tell me who on our team you love to watch because they fly around the field and dive in front of balls and play with emotion, passion. We’re missing that right now.”

So far the Wildcats have been taking too many fastballs, especially 2-1 fastballs, for Gobert’s liking. It’s an area that surprised him, with Gobert noting that he shouldn’t ever have to tell a player to swing in that scenario, before mentioning his players get the green light to swing in a 3-0 count. Gobert acknowledged that some people might think he’s being negative to motivate players, but he countered by saying that Jasper still hasn’t faced its toughest competition yet.

“We’re not playing good baseball,” Gobert said. “It’s just that some of the other teams have joined us.”

Part of Gobert’s thinking does align with Simmers’. Like Simmers said, Jasper might be overthinking things, and Gobert explained that Jasper is reacting instead of acting.

“It’s just a mental thing, I guess,” Gobert said of his team, which plays in Lincoln City against Heritage Hills (2-8) this evening. “Every once in a while you get a group and everybody says, ‘Well that’s just the way they are.’ But we don’t accept it. If they don’t change, then somebody else will get the chance to smile and fly around, but right now it’s just not much fun to watch. Not much fun to be around. Who cares that we won?”

Jasper's Jacob Lents rolled after diving to catch a ball in the outfield during Saturday's game against New Albany in Jasper. Jasper defeated New Albany 6-4. For more photos from the game, click here.



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