NORMAL — Although baseball season officially ended June 9 with the conclusion of the Class 3A and 4A state finals, it wasn’t over yet for three local athletes.
Herscher’s Tyler Stuart and Tyler Jarnagin along with Manteno’s Mason Crews were fortunate to take part in the 44th ICA baseball All-Star game at Corn Crib Stadium in honor of Michael Collins, an Illinois State University baseball player who was killed in a car crash weeks before receiving his college diploma.
The Herscher standouts were selected to the gray team. Crews was on the blue team, and it was his team earning the 10-2 victory.
Cherry on top
Crews shouldered a heavy offensive load for Manteno this season and took a lot of pride in doing so. Especially after some preseason chatter he heard about the issues the Panthers were going to face.
However, Crews and company got the last laugh by winning 25 games, a new school record, according to the IHSA website.
“We heard a lot of criticism before the season started about how we weren’t going to be very good because of how many players we lost,” Crews said. “But our team was much different than in years past because our mentality was different.
“The chemistry was instantly there because we all played together when we were younger, so I knew what we could do. We stuck together as a team, and it worked out pretty well for us.”
After finishing his final season as a Panther batting above .300 with seven long balls and 29 RBIs at the dish, alongside a 1.86 ERA and 71 punchouts from the mound, Crews couldn’t help but to be proud about being one of the top 50 players to play in the star-studded event.
“I was excited when I found out I was selected to play,” Crews said. “It was a big honor. I know that these guys are some of the best the state has, and to be among them was great.”
Although he went hitless on the evening, the night wasn’t about getting hits or being MVP; it was about leaving a legacy and putting Manteno on the map.
“I knew one friend [Drew Nichols] who played in this game, and he batted like .450 and was going to Purdue, so it meant a lot to represent Manteno,” Crews said. “Being able to kind of leave a mark on who I was as a player at Manteno and knowing that I put forth the effort to do everything I can was pretty nice.”
Crews begins a new chapter as he moves to Texas where he will suit up at Cisco State to continue his baseball career.
End of an era
Tyler Stuart and Tyler Jarnagin have enjoyed a ton of success during their four years as three-sport athletes at Herscher.
From back-to-back quarterfinal appearances in football to a state final in baseball and every other victory in between, they have done it together.
Saturday marked the final time both players put on a Herscher jersey and represented the Tigers on a big stage.
“For me, to play one more game and support the MCStrong foundation was a huge honor,” Jarnagin said.
“It’s great that Coach [Eric] Regez nominated both of us to play one last game as a Herscher Tiger and to play among all of the other great players in the state,” Stuart said.
Although neither player connected for a hit, the memory of playing in the game among Illinois’ best is something they won’t forget.
“I’m not sure how many players from Herscher have played in this game, but for it to add two more names to the list is awesome,” Stuart said.
As the two Herscher legends go their separate ways — Jarnagin to Benedictine University for football and Stuart to Southern Mississippi University for baseball — they both agreed about one thing: Herscher is back on the map.
“There’s a ton of good players across the state and for two kids from Herscher to make it says something,” Jarnagin said. “It kind of puts us on the map across the state. Hopefully, some kids are looking at us and working on their game so they can make it here one day.”