BASEBALL: Irish celebrate special pregame moment with blowout win
KANKAKEE — Scott Bertrand knows better than almost anyone that life can change drastically in the blink of an eye.
On Jan. 3, Bertrand woke up completely paralyzed through the left side of his body.
“I went to bed fine on the 2nd, and when I woke up in the morning on the 3rd, I was paralyzed,” Bertrand said. “It was pretty traumatic.”
Bertrand had suffered a stroke in his sleep, a night he and his family never will forget.
After four months of recovery, Bertrand’s Bishop McNamara family honored him by having the 1986 McNamara graduate and baseball standout throw the ceremonial first pitch before the Irish took on Timothy Christian.
Bertrand said it was Jerry Krieg, his former basketball coach and the current assistant boys basketball coach, who had the idea.
“He came to visit all the time, and I, obviously, played baseball here, and he knows baseball is important to our family,” Bertrand said. “He asked me if I’d come, and it’s an incredible honor. There’s so much tradition at this school, so to be able to do this is very special.”
Irish coach Kurt Quick, who was a freshman at McNamara when Bertrand was a senior, said Bertrand’s adversity and recovery has given him and his team a new perspective.
“The kids see the things that can happen in life, and it can happen to anybody,” Quick said. “Scott’s a healthy guy, never had any medical issues and next thing you know, he’s facing adversity. It was good for the kids to see that and for him to talk about that.”
Junior Tyler Hiller, who pitched for the Irish on Monday, said not only is Bertrand an inspirational story but, as a future alumnus himself, he saw what it means to have gone to Bishop McNamara.
“I didn’t know him before I saw him today,” Hiller said. “But knowing the history, they come back and look forward to coming back to watching Irish sports and activities.”
Bertrand showed that to be the case when he stepped back on the Irish field to hurl the first pitch to principal Terry Granger, who was Bertrand’s baseball coach during his high school career.
“It’s special — once you graduate from here, you’re always part of the family,” Bertrand said. “You’re never really gone; you’re always here.
“This was tough … but it’s nice.”
Bishop McNamara 9, Timothy Christian 1
After Monday’s pregame ceremony, it took the Irish a little time to get going, but their bats caught fire with four runs in the fourth and five more in the sixth. Hiller was nearly untouchable on the mound to lead the Irish to a 9-1 victory.
The Irish hadn’t played in more than a week after last week’s monsoon-like conditions, so for Hiller, Monday’s game, his last start before the postseason begins next week, was a nice way to get back in the swing of things.
“It was nice knowing that regionals are coming up,” Hiller said. “Just getting my arm loose for regionals, one last outing, felt good.”
Hiller allowed a run on a pair of hits in the first inning but gathered himself shortly after and only allowed two more hits during the last six innings. He struck out 11 Trojans and surrendered three walks.
“Overall, I was really happy with Tyler,” Quick said. “We’ve gotta fix some things before we get into regionals, but he’s our guy, and we’re gonna ride him.”
Payton Gerberding led the Irish offense, as he hit a pair of doubles to drive in four runs and scored a run himself.
Although it took a few innings to get going, Quick was impressed with how his offense handled a pitching staff that was a game away from the IHSA Class 2A State Finals last season.
Quick knew better than most how capable the Trojans could be, as he was an assistant for last year’s Herscher team that ended their season in the state semifinals.
“It’s Timothy Christian; they’re always good, but we were able to get the bats going around the third or fourth inning,” Quick said. “We were a little rusty, but I knew we would be able to get going.”
Jared Born went 2 for 3 with a double, two runs and an RBI. Broghan O’Connor doubled and drove in a pair, and Dom Koziol also doubled and scored a run. Hiller had a hit, a run and an RBI.
The two teams will swap dugouts at 4:30 p.m. today, as the Irish travel to Elmhurst and look to complete the sweep as the visiting team.