FREEBURG — Not that he needed a lot of help Thursday thanks to an early 3-0 lead, but Freeburg senior pitcher Nick Yung didn't mind a little insurance.
Especially when it came in the form of a 380-foot, two-run blast by sophomore Keegan Baxmeyer that helped the Midgets blank Columbia 5-0 and tighten the Cahokia Conference-Mississippi Division standings.
Baxmeyer turned around a fifth-inning fastball by Columbia ace Josh Fleming and sent it rocketing over the fence in left-center for his third home run.
"He's a monster," said Yung, who hasn't seen many homers hit that far with the newer limited flight bats. "My freshman year I saw some bombs, but that was with the old bats."
Yung did the rest, scattering five hits and striking out five as he improved to 4-0 with an ERA hovering around 1.50.
The win pushed Freeburg (17-6) to 5-2 in league play while Columbia (15-5) fell to 6-2 and saw its nine-game winning streak end.
"It's one of our team goals to beat our arch-rivals," said Yung, who recently signed to pitch for Division II McKendree University in Lebanon. "Any time you beat Columbia in anything it's always a big game. We've proven that we can beat anybody.
"We've got to play well like we can, like we know we can, and good things will happen."
Freeburg coach Drew Gericke felt Yung did a good job of using all of his pitches at different times in the count.
"He's most effective when he mixes his pitches," Gericke said. "He controlled all three pitches today and you have to keep good teams off balance. That's what he did."
Facing Fleming (6-2), who hadn't allowed an earned run in his previous 29 innings before Thursday, the Midgets pushed across one run in the first and two more in the third.
An RBI single in the first by Kile Bailey, who was 3-for-3, got things going for Freeburg. Cody Siebenberger tripled leading off the third and scored on a hit by Ty Dill.
Columbia threatened several times in the early innings, but couldn't find a big hit when needed.
"The last few weeks we've been swinging the bats pretty well and we've had good approaches at the plate during that little run we had," Columbia coach Keith Jany said. "Today we kind of went back to some of the old habits, bad habits that we had earlier on this season.
"We had guys pulling off trying to yank pitches, swinging at bad pitches ... but I don't want to take anything away from Nick. He threw a great game mixing up speeds and hitting his spots."
Gericke admitted the rivalry and the chance to slow down Columbia's conference streak amped up the energy a bit.
"It's big," he said. "Columbia-Freeburg goes back a long time and it's always nice to get a win. Our conference is so tough and it pulls us even, but the conference is a long way from over."
The son of former Waterloo High and Kaskaskia College catcher John Baxmeyer, Keegan Baxmeyer is hitting .465 with three homers, eight doubles and 29 RBIs.
Not bad for a sophomore.
"He's a young kid, but he's making adjustments within the game," Gericke said. "He did not look good his first two at-bats, but he made a great adjustment there and put a heck of a swing on it."
Gericke said Baxmeyer has a special quality that has little to do with offense or defense.
"He's a competitor," Gericke said. "He competes in every facet of the game, defensively and offensively. He strives to be the best and when he fails, he doesn't accept it. He always wants to be better."
Columbia threatened briefly in the seventh on singles by Jacob Hill and Kyle Gudeman and a Freeburg error, but Yung managed to close the door.
"It was huge," Yung said. "We've worked so hard this year just to come out and play well when we have to. It's a lot of time to put in, so it's good to have some good results."