By John Montgomery
Gordon’s Julian Russell was hoping to lead the Rams into the Prep Bowl and help the baseball team advance downstate for the first time in school history. The Rams lost in the Catholic League football playoffs by forfeiting to Leo. Russell’s athletic career at Gordon ended on Memorial Day when Herscher(34-8) beat the Rams 9-3 in the Class 2A supersectional at Illinois Benedictine. “I can’t regret anything,” admitted Russell who played shortstop for the last three seasons. “It was a wonderful experience. We came up a little short and that stuff happens sometimes.”
Russell batted .346 this past season with 17 RBI and 15 stolen bases for the Rams(22-18). He is one of the best multi-sport athletes in school history, earning All-Catholic League honors in baseball and football in back-to-back years. Russell played basketball, football, and baseball. “I think he’ll do great in college,” Gordon Tech head coach Chris Haas said. “He’s got all of the tools. He plays great defense. He can play professional baseball one day. He can play in the minors for sure one day.”
Russell graduated from Gordon last Thursday. He will play Legion baseball before attending Chicago State in the fall. “It was a sign of relief(to graduate),” Russell said. “I miss Gordon already.”
Russell’s senior year began on the football field. He would then lead the Rams into the Catholic League playoffs against Leo. Leo beat Gordon earlier in the season 39-18. Gordon beat Leo in the playoff rematch, but the Rams were forced to forfeit for using three ineligible freshman football players. Freshman aren’t allowed to participate in Catholic League games. “That was the worst feeling to forfeit, it’s not like we lost,” Russell said. “We still talk about it. It was terrible.” The rule has been changed after Leo filed a protest against Gordon. Freshman will be able to play varsity football in the Catholic League. “There was just a miscommunication about the rules,” Haas said about the controversy. “Beating Hales would have been tough. It’s hard to beat anyone twice in one season. I wouldn’t say we would have mopped up Hales.” If the victory against Leo would have been upheld, the Rams would have faced Hales in the Catholic League playoffs. Gordon would have to beat Hales and Mt Carmel to advance to the Prep Bowl.
Julian Russell decided not to play basketball and concentrate on baseball. The Rams(15-14) lost in the Class 2A basketball sectional final to Rockford Lutheran. “They did good in basketball,” Russell said about the basketball team. “They had a nice run(in the playoffs). They came up short too.” Russell performed at a high level during the baseball season as the Rams jumped out to a 10-1 start before winning 22 games and finishing 8-12 in the Catholic League. Gordon beat Latin to win the regional title and Walther Lutheran to win the school’s first sectional championship. Herscher ended Gordon’s baseball dreams with a 9-3 victory at Illinois Benedictine. The Rams jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but Herscher hurler Jordan Ruckman settled down and struck out 13 hitters. “I thought we would be okay after the first inning,” admitted Haas. “I thought we were going to hit the baseball. We didn’t hit after the first inning. (Ruckman) is a good pitcher.” “We didn’t hit the ball (after the first inning),” Russell stated on the loss to Herscher. “Our offense just disappeared. Their pitcher was dealing. We played good on defense. He definitely got into his rhythm.”
Replacing Russell won’t be easy, freshman Dante Davis will takeover at shortstop in 2013. Haas is also hoping to receive contributions from Drew Thomas and Sammy Colon. “Our goal was to go downstate,” Haas said. “It was a heartbreaker,” Russell said about the loss to Herscher. Russell’s favorite major league player is Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter. Russell plans to major in business at Chicago State, but he wants to play major league baseball like Jeter. “He’s a smooth infielder,” Russell said about his idol. “He’s a captain. He’s a team leader. He does it all.” Jeter has many fans after getting over 3,100 hits and leading the Yankees to five World Series titles.
Russell had a fine athletic career at Gordon, which will continue at Chicago State. “I think he can have a career in baseball,” Haas said. “He was good in the playoff run. He was fabulous defensively. All of the college coaches were asking me about him. He’s one of the best athletes ever in this area.” Gordon will probably miss Julian Russell’s leadership and talent.