Ft. Recovery flexed its pitching, defense, and scored enough Monday to knock off Versailles in the most impressive fashion imaginable. In a word, they looked…unbeatable!
Versailles – Just twenty four hours after being awarded the #1 seed in their Division IV sectional on Sunday, Jackson Hobbs and the Ft. Recovery Indians left little, if any, doubt as to their worthiness to those who came to watch them play Versailles (13-4) in a pivotal MAC game on Monday afternoon.
That it’s not just the journey, as the adage goes, but sometimes the destination, as well. State semi-finalists a year ago, Hobbs demonstrated why they “could” be the odds-on favorite not only to return come June, but conquer.
Hobbs, the senior righthander, won his fourth game of the season in a 7-2 affair (he has two losses), and was so commanding for the first six innings of the game that he hardly sweat. He rarely broke 82 miles per hour with his fastball, mixing in an assortment of breaking pitches, change-ups, and a sinker that disappeared through the bottom of the strike zone. He totally frustrated a good-hitting Versailles lineup, holding them to just six hits while striking out eight and walking two.
In fact, the bottom of the seventh was all that denied him a shutout as Versailles loaded the bases on an error, a pair of walks and a base hit to finally break through for two unearned runs. It took just one hour and forty two minutes and Versailles did anything but help its own cause.
The Tigers committed four errors and starting pitcher Cole Niekamp hit three batters. It was that kind of a day, thanks to Jackson Hobbs.
“I was mixing it up great today,” he said proudly, afterwards. “I was able to pound the fastball inside and out, the changeup was great, the curveball was good as usual…it’s fun when you have all three of your pitches working, especially against a good-hitting team like Versailles.”
His smile was seismic. Jackson Hobbs had just thrown his best game of the season; his team had just played its best baseball game of the season. Seven runs on seven well-timed hits, a couple of errors on defense to splotch the canvas, but overall…the defense behind him was fabulous!
Shortstop Jacob Homan made a pair of diving stops, turned a double play in the sixth inning that thwarted a would-be Versailles rally; and outfielder Nick Thwaits went to the warning track in the fifth to hunt down the longest-hit ball of the afternoon…with room to spare!
Offensively, Thwaits and Hobbs had the two big hits of the day, a double each, helping Recovery to score single runs in each of the first, third and fifth innings. They would added two more in both the sixth and seventh.
Hobbs drove in a pair, as well, leaving coach Jerry Kaup to appreciate the completeness of his senior’s, and his team’s, effort.
“It makes you smile,” said Kaup, flashing his pearly whites. “It was our most complete game of the year, without a doubt. Tonight was about execution, things we work on everyday, both mental and physical. Jackson was dominating, in command of his pitches and in total control of the game.
“Now, you have to be able to duplicate an effort like today, which means we have to come out the next time and execute like we did today. I think we’re in a similar position now after 20 games as we were last year, but probably with that better second arm in Nick Thwaits to back up Jackson Hobbs. When those two are throwing like they are, with confidence, it makes us a better baseball team, no question.”
A better baseball team, by the way, that has now won three quality MAC games in a row, Minster, Delphos St. John, and Versailles, and in Hobbs’ words, finally has the confidence to feed the consistency sought by his coach.
“We’re 14-6 now and to feel like you’re in that groove at this time of year is a great team thing,” he added. “To have twenty games in now, to get the #1-seed in the draw yesterday, and to have three great league wins in five days is just a great feeling. It’s a similar feeling to where we were last year after twenty games, but it’s a different group of guys, our pitching is better, our defense was good tonight…it was just a great team win.”
One cannot overlook the addition of Thwaits to the Recovery equation for hoped-for success, to go one step farther and beyond when tournament play begins in two weeks. A transfer from Marion Local at the beginning of the school year, he complements Hobbs’ surgical style of pitching with fire-and-fury contrast, an 88-mile-per-hour fastball and a devastating slider…when he can command it. The pair, at their best, without question places Recovery in the category of being armed and suddenly more dangerous to any would-be threat.
In the meantime, though, they’re having fun as they work on the mental and physical things that Kaup remembers for having cost them in their final 2015 game against Newark Catholic. Even with Hobbs and Thwaits, he takes nothing for granted…ever…against anyone.
“When you can eliminate the errors, both mental and physical…when you can execute with confidence…it gives you a lot of confidence as a team,” says Kaup. “Hopefully we continue to gel as a team. Doesn’t matter which one of them, Jackson or Nick, we have on the mound. You can only have one at a time, anyway, so we just want to continue to play like we did tonight. We want to make good things happen.”
Or in the case of Monday, with Jackson Hobbs…great!