Youthful Cats keep winning ways alive

Photos by Traci Westcott/The Herald
Jasper courtesy runner Jason Mair slid into second base during Saturday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. Jasper defeated Evansville Memorial High School 3-2 to continue their hot start to the season as the Cats are now 5-0. Even with a plethora of first-time varsity players and new starters, the Wildcats are continuing the tradition of success for the Jasper baseball program. For more photos from the game, click here.


JASPER — Before the season began, Jasper head coach Terry Gobert wasn’t quite sure what to expect this season.

The Cats only returned three starters from last season’s team and there was only a total of about 20 innings of varsity pitching experience between all of the players on this year’s roster.

But after Saturday’s 3-2 victory over previously undefeated Evansville Memorial at Ruxer Field, the Wildcats are off to a 5-0 start.

They’ve accomplished this fast start against some pretty tough competition, too — they defeated Evansville Reitz 3-2 at Bosse Field without striking out a single Panther batter and also toppled Bloomington South 12-9 on the road.

“We’re hanging in there. Every time something bad has happened in a game, we’ve found a way to nip it — we’re not giving up the big inning,” said Gobert. “There’s going to be a lot of pieces still moving around but at this point, you just have to take a deep breath, enjoy it for a day and then go back to work.”

Senior right fielder Jacob Ahlbrand, who had a double in the victory, is excited the new guys have gotten accustomed to the game right away but is quick to let the team know that they can’t become satisfied with where they’re at.

“It’s good that we’ve started like this but we can’t just get complacent,” Ahlbrand said. “These guys are getting good experience early and that will help us out once we get closer to the tournament.”

Saturday brought nearly perfect weather to the ballpark as temperatures reached all the way up in the 70s and the sun was shining for the majority of the game.

After both the Cats and Tigers were unable to do anything with their baserunners in the first two innings, Memorial struck first in the top of the third. Second baseman Ethan Kelle hit a two-out single and then shortstop Craig Kracher drove in Kelle with an RBI double right after that. Memorial made it 2-0 by the end of the inning as Karcher came home to score on a throwing error by the Wildcats.

Evan Schmitt, 9, left, Miles Kiefer, 8, and Kasen Kunz, 8, all of Jasper listen to Jasper head coach Terry Gobert at Saturday's baseball game at Ruxer Field in Jasper. The boys were able to warm up with the team and watch the game from the dugout after winning a raffle at school. For more photos from the game, click here.

“Baseball is a game of errors,” Ahlbrand said. “You just have to shake it off and make sure you make the right play next time.”

While the Cats got a run back immediately in the bottom of the third courtesy of a bunt single from second baseman Grant Ahlbrand that scored shortstop Josh Weidenbenner and made it 2-1, the big inning from the Wildcats would come a little later down the road in the sixth inning.

Jacob Ahlbrand got on base to start the inning for the Cats as he was hit by a pitch and then Carter Stamm reached base on a single. Center fielder Eli Hopf was up next and he ripped a single that looked as if it would surely load the bases. Instead, the Memorial defense made two costly throwing errors that scored both Ahlbrand and Stamm to give the Cats a 3-2 lead.

“We have to take advantage whenever they mess up just like they did that to us when we made a couple of errors in the third inning,” Stamm said. “That’s what you have to do to win games.”

While Gobert was glad to see the Cats take the lead, he still would have liked to seen his team do more after the errors as Jasper left the bases loaded to end the inning.

“We have to do a better job of using all of our outs,” Gobert said. “That’s what we’re built on — throw strikes, make routine plays and use all of our outs and we’re still not doing that yet.”

However, Gobert was impressed with what he saw on the mound from his starting pitcher Trevor Krapf and Stamm in relief for the final two innings.

Krapf, who made his first career varsity start on the mound, struck out four batters in five innings while giving up five hits. Stamm pitched two innings and picked up the win while striking out three and allowing two hits and two walks.

“That was a lot of guts by (Carter) to throw that breaking ball for the final out,” Gobert said. “Give Ross (Peter) credit behind the plate, too — he hasn’t caught a whole lot but he’s been hanging in there and getting people out.”

The Cats will have another busy week this week as they face Evansville Central and Castle on the road and host Pike Central and New Albany.

It’s safe to say that there’s a lot of positive vibes around the Jasper baseball program right now but the Cats know they have to keep their minds clear and focus on what’s ahead of them.

“We know we’re undefeated right now but that’s not really the main goal,” Stamm said. “The main goal is to be as good as we can be by the time we get to the tourney — then, we’ll see what we can do with that.”

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