Gericke's patience rewarded at Freeburg

News-DemocratMarch 31, 2014 

Freeburg High baseball coach Drew Gericke saw this team coming.

When senior Nick Yung was playing varsity as a freshman and numerous other starters were in the lineup two or three years ago, Gericke kept hoping for the best.

Now 6-0, the Midgets are all grown up and ready to make some noise after a 20-15 season last spring.

"Nothing has really surprised me, it's a great group to work with," Gericke said. "These kids were freshmen my first year as a varsity coach, so it's a little bit more special to me now that these guys are seniors. I've seen all the work they've put in."

A deep, experienced lineup is being driven right now by sophomore catcher Keegan Baxmeyer (.579, two doubles, one homer, 11 RBIs) and junior outfielders Derricke Rozycke (.524, two doubles, one triple, eight RBIs) and Cody Siebenberger (.500, two doubles, one homer, seven RBIs).

This is Baxmeyer's first year on the varsity, but Rozycyke's third year as a varsity starter.

"Catching-wise, he was probably ready to play last year," Gericke said of Baxmeyer, the son of former Waterloo baseball standout John Baxmeyer. "But he still had to work on some hitting things and he did that over the summer. He's a talented kid; he started varsity football as a freshman."

Seniors Jack Hogan (.429, four RBIs), Chris Smith (.412, three doubles, five RBIs) and Kile Bailey (.348, three doubles, five RBIs) are also off to strong starts along with sophomore Michael Smith.

Gericke likes the work ethic and quiet confidence this group exudes on a daily basis.

"They work hard, they come into games knowing their responsibilities and know what they have to do to get better," he said.

They also are versatile and interchangeable, giving Gericke a lot of options when it comes to positions and the lineup.

Yung has moved from catcher to shortstop, Baxmeyer has taken over at catcher and Chris Smith has moved to second.

The pitching is extremely deep led by Milton Pinkston (1-0, 1.66 ERA) and Bailey (2-0, 1.40 ERA).

Four of Freeburg's top five pitchers are seniors in a group that includes Yung (1-0), Dylan DeMond (1-0, 0.00 ERA) and Luke Yaekel (1-0, 2.80 ERA).

The Midgets' unbeaten start includes a 5-4 win over 4A Granite City, a 4-3 win over 2A power Nashville and a 9-6 victory over Murphysboro.

"We've had some close games," Gericke said. "We had to score in one of our final at-bats to win against Granite City and Murphysboro."

Gericke is trying to remind his team that being experienced only creates an opportunity.

"Experience can only go so far, sometimes you have experience that never gets better," he said. "But I think for this group, the experience has paid off. They work hard and don't make a lot of excuses."

Regional overload

The Illinois High School Association says it likes to match up regionals by geography, but the distance between many of the teams in the Class 2A Nashville Regional would tend to suggest otherwise.

Besides the distance between some of the schools, the regional includes four of the top five teams in the current News-Democrat 1A-2A baseball rankings with Gibault, Freeburg, Nashville and Althoff all included along with unranked Dupo.

By the numbers

* Gibault sophomore Jordan McFarland began Monday tied for the St. Louis area home run lead with three and has 10 RBIs in 16 at-bats. Carlyle senior Matt Hilmes, Granite City's Ryan Steen and Edwardsville catcher Brock Weimer each have two homers.

* Mascoutah's Jeff Hightower and Jacob Pratt have already combined for nine doubles, led by Hightower's five.

* Alton junior Bryan Hudson and Hightower each have 12 RBIs, with Baxmeyer and Alton's Nick Paulda right behind with 11.

* Among the pitchers, it's tough to top O'Fallon's Blake Deatherage (3-0, 0.00 ERA).

* Gibault senior lefty Zach Neff ranks second in the St. Louis area strikeout race with 23 in 13 2/3 innings, an average of 11.78 per outing.

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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