HERSCHER — Coming into this season, Herscher’s Tyler Stuart knew he was going to get every lineup’s best effort in every game he pitched.
After a junior campaign in which he posted a 7-2 record with a 1.82 ERA and .181 opponents’ batting average, the Herscher standout was the competition opponents knew they had to step their game up for.
Pitching in an Interstate Eight Conference that sent seven schools to regional championship games, and a nonconference slate that included a pair of regional champions, Stuart’s road to success in 2018 was littered with capable opponents.
Despite the slew of onerous opponents in his way, Stuart took his dominance to another level. The 6-foot-8 righty compiled a 10-1 record, a miniscule 1.06 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 117 strikeouts to lead the Tigers to a fourth-place finish at the IHSA Class 2A State Finals.
And for the second straight year, Stuart is the Daily Journal’s Player of the Year.
The award is just the most recent in a collage of 2018 honors. Stuart also was named to the Interstate Eight All-Conference first team, first-team all-state and Collegiate Baseball Newspaper All-American second-team to end a three-year career with the Tigers.
According to head coach Eric Regez, one simple word can sum up the Tyler Stuart Experience: enjoyable.
“It was enjoyable to witness Tyler mature as a person over his high school years,” Regez said. “He was extremely enjoyable to be around every day, whether in the classroom or on the baseball field.”
Stuart’s productivity wasn’t limited to the mound either. He finished in the Top 10 in the area in batting average (.466), home runs (six), RBIs (37) and runs (34).
Thanks to his multi-faceted dominance, Stuart became just the second player in a storied Herscher baseball history to win 10 games as a pitcher and record 50 hits in the same season.
According to Regez, Stuart’s success as a senior was instilled as a sophomore, when he was brought up to the varsity program and got an early look at how to handle himself as a varsity ballplayer.
“It has become sort of a rite of passage in Herscher baseball ways,” Regez said. “The older players are hopefully paving the way for the younger players by showing them how to conduct themselves at practice and during games.”
Behind Stuart’s arm and bat, the Tigers found themselves at the IHSA Class 2A State Finals this season, where they finished fourth. When looking back at the season, a few key performances from Stuart helped pave the Tigers’ road.
Stuart’s early season outing March 28 at Bradley-Bourbonnais featured what Regez said was his best curveball of the season, and it showed in the results. He recorded 16 strikeouts in a three-hit shutout in a 3-0 victory.
In the Tigers’ first postseason game, a regional quarterfinal game against Bishop McNamara, Stuart overcame a slow start on the mound to propel the Tigers to the regional championship. He went 2-4 with a double and two runs at the plate, and paired it with a dazzling pitching performance, striking out 10 and allowing a pair of runs in the Tigers’ 13-2 victory.
But it was his best performance that sent the Tigers to state. Stuart shutout Timothy Christian, striking out 15 and allowing four hits in a 1-0 Tigers victory that came on a walkoff single from Tyler Jarnagin in the seventh inning.
It wasn’t what Regez saw on the field from his ace he will remember most but what he saw in the dugout.
“It was moreso a special moment in the dugout, where he gathered most of the team together in the dugout before the bottom of the seventh,” Regez said. “[Stuart] pretty much said, ‘If you guys want to go to state, now is our chance; somebody step up.’”
That level of leadership will follow Stuart as he continues his baseball career at Southern Mississippi University.