Fifth time is a charm for Herscher

By Drake Skleba

LISLE, IL – For the fifth time in six years, the Herscher Tigers, under the tutelage of head coach Eric Regez, made the trip  to the Class 2A Benedictine Supersectional on Memorial Day. In the first four trips the Tigers lost four heart-breaking games and had very long bus rides back to Kankakee County.

Spotting Gordon Tech three first-inning runs this year, the Tigers roared back and rolled past the Rams 9-3 to finally win the Class 2A Benedictine University Supersectional.

With the win the Tigers (33-7) will face Rock Island (Alleman) (28-10) at 3 p.m. on Friday at O'Brien Field in the first Class 2A semifinal. Alleman crushed Richmond-Burton 14-3 to win the Augustana College Super-Sectional on Monday.

On Monday, it felt like “deja vu all over again,” to borrow Yogi Berra's phrase, for Regez and his Tigers. With ace lefty Jordan Ruckman (7-1) on the mound, Cinderella Gordon Tech (22-18) plated three runs, on a walk and four consecutive singles, with no outs. Ruckman, a Northern Illinois recruit, struck out the next three Ram hitters to escape further damage.

Gordon Tech starting pitcher Noe Artega never could find the strike zone with his 85-88 mph fastballs in the bottom of the first, walking four Tiger hitters and plunking another. The Tigers scored twice on a balk and a bases-loaded walk to Tiger junior Logan Orr cut the lead to 3-2.

In the third inning, Orr singled home fellow juniors Kyle Burton (2-for-3, 3 R, SB) and Dalton Sproul (3-for-4, 2R) to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish. The Tigers would make it 5-3 on a Ram passed-ball.

“It's awesome to be going downstate!,” said Orr. “We started out shaky and Jordan really pitched well and it was great to see us recover so well. I just wanted to get the ball in play and I went with the pitch and hit the ball hard for the game-winner.”

Meanwhile, back on the mound, the rejuvenated Ruckman began striking out almost every Ram hitter. Ruckman struck out three in the third and sixth innings, and finished up with 13 big Ks.

“We finally did it. After two heart-breaking losses the last two years here, we did it,” said Ruckman. “I am so proud of my coaches and teammates. Since my brother and I were little, we always wanted to go downstate and win two games and bring the big trophy home.

I calmed down in the second inning and started going with my fastball, because my breaking pitches were not working all day. I did OK on the mound.”

Herscher would tack on single runs in the fourth and fifth and then added a pair of runs to complete their scoring in the sixth. Senior DH Matt Webber (2-for-3, RBI, BB) singled home a Tiger run in the fifth and Orr plated his fourth run of the game in the sixth with a sac-fly.

“We were 0-4 and we finally did it,” said Regez. “With Jordan on the mound I knew that he would give us a good chance to end the streak. I felt pretty good when Gordon got just three runs in the first. Jordan really battled for us and got stronger as the game went on. Logan Orr has been steady for us in centerfield and had the game-winning hit for us.”

Cinderella Gordon Tech concluded a tremendous season, winning the first sectional championship in the history of Gordon tech baseball.

“It was a tremendous season for us,” said Gordon Tech head coach Chris Haas.

“We won 22 games and the first IHSA Sectional Championship in the history of our school.”