NAPPANEE – Special things tend to happen to special people in the moment. Saturday was one of those days for NorthWood sophomore pitcher Jacob Raasch.
Raasch, making his first-ever varsity start at pitcher, wound up pitching a complete game against a potent Bremen lineup to help the Panthers to an 8-1 win. That would have been the storyline on its own most days. Doing it in the Strike Out Cancer game NorthWood is now making as an annual event was even more fulfilling.
“There’s been a lot of people affected by cancer, I just wanted to play for something bigger than myself,” said Raasch, who’s mother, Pauline, is in her own fight with cancer. “The innings went by pretty fast and all of a sudden it was the sixth inning and I thought maybe I could close this out. Then the seventh flew by, I needed to just get one out and I got it.”
Raasch looked every bit the rookie starter in the early going, giving up four hits in the first three innings, and a misplayed ball by Jaden Miller in right allowed Bremen to plate its only run. Raasch would recover, however, and get some quick innings under his belt, getting a one-two-three fifth and stranding two Lions in base in the sixth. And with the run support there, Panther head coach AJ Risedorph decided to leave the kid out there to finish it off.
“He did what he usually does at the JV level, which is throw strikes and get hitters to chase the pitches he wants them to chase,” Risedorph said. “He’s not a strikeout type of pitcher yet, so it then comes down to the defense making plays behind him, and today we were able to do that.”
Raasch’s line of seven innings, six hits, just one walk and two strikeouts were exceptional considering the circumstances. It was fitting, in regard, to the game as NorthWood and Bremen teamed up for the second-annual game played in conjunction with the Jason Motte Foundation, which has helped raise millions of dollars for cancer research and support.
NorthWood, which beat Elkhart Memorial last year in the first game, also had Kyle Sellers playing for his mother, Kim, who is fighting her battle against cancer. Kim Sellers is a teacher in the Bremen school corporation and wife to NorthWood athletic director Norm Sellers. Kyle was 0-3 on the day with a walk.
“I think the most important thing with this is that when people are dealing with this in their homes, that we surround them,” Risedorph said. NorthWood raised over $11,000 last year and look to approach that figure again this season. “With people like Kim Sellers and Jacob’s mom, we need to give them support. If these guys can play baseball to take their minds off it for just a little while, that’s great.
“In this day and age, there’s likes and retweets and favorites, it’s always about ‘me’. It’s instant gratification. This game allows you to play for others, it’s not about them. That will make them better and more well-rounded in the long run. It will make them better husbands and fathers in time, when they know they have to do stuff for someone else. I think it’s important, it’s the type of person that I am, and what I want these guys to be. They are, they’ve become very unselfish.”
Cale Brown didn’t get knocked around by the Panthers, but was wild on the hill. Brown allowed just two hits in four innings, but walked seven. Four of those walks in the first contributed to two runs, and another two-out walk, along with an error, plated two more runs in the second inning.
On the day for the Panthers, Trey Allman was 3-for-4 with a run scored, Jaden Miller had a two-run double, and Sergio Lira Ayala shook off some recent struggles at the plate with a three-run bomb in the fifth.
“Very class act by NorthWood to put this on, and very glad to know they are thinking of us in this time,” said Bremen coach Chad Gerard. “Very appreciative that they would have a fundraiser like this. And when it hits home like it has for the Bremen community, and with NorthWood as well, we’re very happy to be a part of this.
“A lot of our guys have had Mrs. Sellers as a teacher and know her, and they were excited to play in this game.”
NorthWood, which came into the game off a tough 8-7 loss to Plymouth Friday evening, moves to 9-4 and aims to get back on track in the Northern Lakes Conference Monday against Goshen to end the round robin. The Panthers currently are tied with Elkhart Memorial for third in the NLC at 4-2, a game back of Northridge and Plymouth, both 5-1 in the NLC.