Baseball: Herscher’s title aspirations not so private
Updated: May 31, 2012 6:53PM
Herscher senior Jordan Ruckman takes a dim view of private schools, which is understandable considering private schools ended his sophomore and junior seasons with upset victories in supersectionals.
The Tigers were state title contenders both years before losing to Aurora Christian in 2010 and Walther Lutheran in 2011.
“The past two years we’ve only played one private school each year and we lost [to them] in the supersectional each year,” Ruckman said. “I love beating those private schools. Get them out of the tournament. I’m not a big fan of them. They’re good teams but we’re getting the job done.”
Indeed, Herscher has eliminated four private schools during the 2012 playoffs, including a 9-3 defeat of Gordon Tech on Monday that ended a five-game losing streak in supersectionals. The Tigers have the opportunity to knock off a fifth private school team when they face Rock Island Alleman at 3 p.m. Friday in the first Class 2A state semifinal at O’Brien Field in Peoria. Trenton Wesclin (20-17) opposes Normal U-High (27-10) in the other semifinal.
Alleman (28-12) is the last parochial school left. The Pioneers are led by senior outfielder Ryan O’Keeffe (.462 average, 49 RBI).
“We don’t know much about [Alleman],” Herscher coach Eric Regez said. “We prepare for the game, not necessarily the opponent. I’m sure they’ll be really good.”
But so are the Tigers (33-7), who are in the semifinals for the first time since winning the Class A title in 1999. Ruckman and his twin brother, Justin, both of whom will play at Northern Illinois, lead the team in the field and at the plate.
Jordan Ruckman, who struck out 13 in the supersectional win, is 7-1 with a 1.81 earned-run average. He also hits .396 with 34 RBI out of the leadoff spot. Justin Ruckman (.368, 7 homers, 43 RBI) hits third and plays third base.
“This was me and my brother’s biggest goal and I can’t be any prouder of this team,” Jordan Ruckman said. “The juniors that I’ve been playing with and the seniors that I’ve been playing with, they’re just all great. We just hope to get ‘er done and win Friday and Saturday and bring home the big one.”
Senior Matt Webber (9-2, 1.31 ERA) is the probable starter against Alleman, with Jordan Ruckman or junior Jimmy Brandt (6-0, 1.66) available to pitch Saturday’s game. Regez, whose son, Evan, is the starting catcher, said the pressure is off the Tigers after ditching the supersectional jinx.
“The monkey is off our back,” Regez said. “The guys want more. They think they can beat anybody.”