Heuring brothers help power Oran baseball team to final four

Wednesday, June 1, 2011
Oran senior Tyler Heuring is batting .462 with 35 RBIs and 37 runs scored this season. (Fred Lynch)

ORAN, Mo. -- To what lengths will a sibling rivalry go?

For anyone at Friday's Class 1 quarterfinal baseball game at Oran High School, the answer to that question would be: More than 305 feet.

That's the distance posted on the fence near the left-field line at the Eagles' home field.

And Naylor pitcher Cory Kovach got caught in the crosshairs of the dueling twosome of Tyler and Alex Heuring.

"Pretty much everything we do together has some competition deal," Alex, a sophomore, said. "We've always got to outdo each other. Pretty much whatever we play, it's going to get a little heated."

Brothers and teammates Alex, left, and Tyler Heuring played a pivotal role in leading the Oran baseball team to the Class 1 final four. The brothers accounted for eight RBIs in the Eagles' state quarterfinal game. (Laura Simon)

Tyler doesn't dispute his brother's take.

"Constantly, in anything," Tyler said. "We've both got a competitive spirit. That's how it's always been since we were younger."

So when Tyler, a senior, sent two Kovach pitches over the left-field fence -- one in the first inning and one in the fourth -- and accumulated four RBIs, Alex mustered an appropriate brotherly response.

In the seventh inning, Alex turned the baseball thrown by Kovach into Oran lore.

The younger Heuring matched his brother's RBI total in a single swing with a game-winning grand slam over the left-field fence to help Oran advance to today's state semifinal against Liberal with a 14-13 victory.

"If we didn't have the Heurings, I don't know what we would of done, but I think it was everybody just staying together and just talking," Oran junior Dalton Elfrink said.

Tyler doesn't doubt that his two home runs were on his brother's mind when he stepped to the plate.

"I think it's been on his mind all season, actually," Tyler said. "I've been giving him crap all year long. He came through for us big, finally."

Tyler, who has the more aggressive personality, hasn't been the easiest brother to keep pace with. He bats in the No. 3 spot and leads the team with six home runs, is tied for the team lead in RBIs with 35 and carries a team-high .462 batting average.

"I try to hold my own, but as an older brother I guess he's always got a little edge on me," said Alex, two years younger and much more laid back.

Tyler's "edge" has been more of a landslide in every offensive department. While he might be the toast of Oran with his heroic blast, Alex is hitting just .177 in the No. 8 spot in the batting order. He moved up to seventh on the team with 20 RBIs with his first high school home run.

"Tyler has been hitting good all year," Elfrink said. "Alex has been struggling a little bit on his bat, but he's been doing amazing on our defense. He's been one of the best catchers I've seen."

Tyler has been making up for lost time after playing in just four games his junior year due to a lower back injury. The injury opened the door for Alex, who was coming off a broken leg suffered during a JV basketball game his freshman year.

"Last year as a freshman I was hurt at the beginning of the year and I just wanted to get in the lineup," Alex said. "Anything I would take. If catching is what I had to do ..."

Alex, like his brother, was a versatile player who was converted to catcher out of need. But unlike Tyler, Alex actually developed a passion for the position.

"There's nothing I'd rather do," Alex said about catching. "I'd say the end of last year and this year I really got the joy for it. I get to do everything. I guess act like a captain on the field, telling people where to go and what to do. I like being the boss."

That mentality shows, according to Oran coach Mitch Wood.

"Catching is one of the positions where you've got to want to," Wood said. "And he really wants to and wants to get better at it."

And Alex's job was safe as far as Tyler was concerned.

"It got me out of catching," Tyler said. "It was kind of a win-win."

But it wasn't exactly a win situation for Tyler last season, although it may have helped the Eagles in the long haul.

"It was really hard for me," Tyler said. "It was early in the season and I didn't get to play a lot of ball. It was tough. Even though it hurt me, it helped my brother get some playing time his freshman year and get some experience under his belt, which helps him this year, I imagine."

A growth spurt didn't hurt either. Alex said he shot up over the summer, growing from about 5 foot 10 to 6-2. He's also a sturdy 195 pounds.

Wood said he's also grown into one of the top catchers in the area.

"He's really trimmed up and gotten taller this year," Wood said. "I'm telling you right now, if he progresses like he did last year to this year, he's going to be salty next year. He's really gotten a lot better."

With that added size have come expectations at the plate, and that's led to a lot of ribbing by teammates. He had 16 RBIs and no home runs heading into the quarterfinal game.

"He's a big boy," Oran senior Zac Chasteen said. "Look at him. He should be doing it. He powers in practice about every day. I think once he gets older, he'll just start relaxing at the plate and get a lot of big hits over the next few years."

"Alex is as good a practice player as we've got," Wood said. "He does a lot of good things. I thought it was just a matter of time before he busted out."

Meanwhile, Tyler has been happy to roam center field. He has good speed and a strong arm.

"There's not a whole lot of positions he can't play," Wood said about Tyler. "He's athletic. A lot of things he's doing now are just out of his athletic skills. He's wanting to play some college ball and I think in a year or two he'll learn some different things. It really hurt him last year sitting out."

Tyler and Alex hope to extend their baseball careers in college, something their father, Darrell, did at Southeast Missouri State after playing high school baseball at Kelly.

Darrell coached both his sons throughout their time in youth baseball.

"[He[']s had] a very big influence," Alex said. "We've got to live up to his standards. We're always trying to match him. I'd like to be in his position one day, playing college ball and getting looked at by scouts. I'd really enjoy that."

For now, the brothers are content to chase the first state championship in Oran history.

Sibling rivalry and the occasional spat aside, the brothers said they are close. And with the two years difference in age, they've gotten to play in a starting lineup together for the first time, and possibly the last.

"I've never played with him before," Tyler said. "It's kind of a cool experience and something I guess a lot of people don't get a chance to have."

And Alex has a keepsake of the time. The ball he sent over the fence Friday was retrieved and signed later that night by his teammates at Buffalo Wild Wings.

"He was stoked about it," Tyler said. "But I don't think the ball meant as much to him as the experience of it all."

Alex's quarterfinal dramatics will be hard to top in Springfield, Mo., but he'll settle for something mundane.

"I'm just going to go up there and do my best," Alex said. "Hopefully good things will come through for us because nobody wants this more than Tyler. To come out big and do this, that would be great."

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: