Schuckman: Passion poured into baseball by Raiders’ Tollerton more than good enough to make his impact great

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Quincy Notre Dame center fielder Tucker Tollerton, who was killed in a single-vehicle accident Saturday night, played the game to be great and help the Raiders win a state championship. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Tucker Tollerton’s final hit wasn’t squared up on the barrel of the bat. It wasn’t laced into one of the outfield gaps where he’d have the chance to run like a gazelle. It wasn’t driven over the fence to display his increasing bat speed and power.

He simply tucked it into a spot in left field where neither the Gillespie shortstop nor left fielder could run it down.

“Good enough,” Tollerton said with a smile.

Good enough to drive in two runs.

Good enough to double the Quincy Notre Dame baseball team’s lead.

Good enough to send the Raiders to a 5-0 victory over the Miners in Saturday’s Class 2A Pleasant Plains Sectional championship game.

And good enough to remind everyone how talented, passionate and persistent Tollerton was when he stepped between the lines. He loved playing the game, maybe as much as he enjoyed playing music loud enough to rattle the license plates on his Nissan Pathfinder.

Knowing tragedy snuffed out that passion Saturday night when Tollerton was killed in a single-vehicle accident on Route M southwest of Hannibal, Mo., made Sunday arguably the most difficult day his teammates have ever experienced.

So they leaned on each other. They cried together. They spent time in center field at Ferd Niemann Jr. Memorial Ballfield. They turned to their parents for support and lifted up their coaches, who were grieving just the same.

None of it erased the pain or sadness, but like Tollerton said of his final hit, it was good enough.

Good enough to start the grieving process.

Good enough to get through the day.

Good enough to know his impact will linger.

And good enough to discover they want to keep playing, keep winning, keep fighting for what Tollerton and every one of the Raiders have wanted since the day the season began — a state championship. The Raiders find themselves three victories from achieving that goal, and they won’t allow anything to stand in their way.

Tollerton would be irked beyond measure if they did.

Tollerton’s father, Rob, sent a text message which senior shortstop/designated hitter Alex Connoyer shared with the group while they were gathered outside the school Sunday morning. In essence, he told the Raiders to keep playing, keep fighting, keep giving the effort that has led to 31 straight victories and a matchup with Bloomington Central Catholic at 5 p.m. Monday in the Class 2A Springfield Super-Sectional.

The Raiders determined as a team to play the game as scheduled because they know Tollerton would have it no other way, and they understand simply showing up without the passion and energy to compete won’t be good enough.

Not good enough to win.

Not good enough for themselves.

And not good enough for their fallen teammate.

That final hit in his final game might have been good enough to get the job done, but Tollerton never played the game just to be good enough. He played it to be great. He played it for his baseball brothers to be great. He played it for this team to be great.

Knowing he played every game to be as great as he possibly could is how he’ll be remembered.

That’s better than good enough.

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