NASHVILLE — The task of quieting a Nashville offense averaging more than eight runs a game was left in the capable hands of Freeburg senior right-hander Nick Yung.
Yung tossed six straight scoreless innings Saturday before allowing two runs in the seventh after his teammates had provided more than enough offense in a 9-2 victory that gave the Midgets the Class 2A Nashville Regional title.
"We've put up a lot of runs this year and a lot of hits. I'd put our numbers up against anybody's," said Nashville coach Chad Malawy, whose team finished 31-4 with a lineup that included six hitters who boasted batting averages of .327 or higher and three with at least 35 RBIs. "The Yung kid just pounded the strike zone. Every batter was 0-1, 1-2 and we knew that coming in. That's why we were trying to be really aggressive."
Yung took all the sting out of the bats and Freeburg (27-8) hung up five runs in the third to grab a 6-0 lead that all but signaled the end for the Hornets. The McKendree University recruit allowed six hits and two runs, striking out three.
Twenty-five years after winning their only state baseball championship, the Midgets will take on Johnston City at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Harrisburg Sectional.
Freeburg sophomore catcher Keegan Baxmeyer was 4-for-4 with a double and Brandon Fritz had a big three-run double to highlight the five-run third inning.
"We had no problem being the underdogs," said Yung, who drove in one run with a squeeze bunt and added an RBI double in the seventh. "It's fun to come in here on their field in their regional and stick it to them, get the big win and have a big day.
"I've got to thank my defense, they're always there."
Fritz's bases-clearing double helped ignite a five-run third inning that chased previously unbeaten Nashville starter Kyle Jasper (9-1) and saw 10 Midgets come to the plate.
Kile Bailey had an RBI single in the inning and Derricke Rozycke coaxed a bases-loaded walk from reliever Keegan Anderson.
"That was huge," Freeburg coach Drew Gericke said of his team's quick start. "These are teenagers, so you want to make them feel comfortable as much as possible. Putting a five-spot and (getting) that lead there really settled us down.
"We were jacked up again and getting out early in any postseason game settles you down."
Malawy was impressed with Freeburg's approach.
"We ran into a buzzsaw today," Malawy said. "Freeburg is really hot right now and I don't think anybody would be surprised if they just continue to roll through the postseason and end up playing for a state championship.
"They're the real deal and we've been in their shoes where we've been hot at the end of the year, we just felt like we could hit anybody, make any play and the ball bounced our way. That's kind of where they're at right now."
Baxmeyer had four hits and as the catcher, enjoyed watching Yung work his magic on the Nashville bats. Seven flyouts were hauled in by Rozycke in center field.
"He pitched a heck of a game," Baxmeyer said. "We mixed them up, that's what we've been doing all season. Changeups and cutters, keeping them off balance. They just weren't able to string hits together."
Yung retired the first nine Hornets before Anderson doubled leading off the fourth. Hunter Beetley's single put two men aboard, but Rozycke tracked down a long drive off the bat of Jordan Harre to escape further damage.
"He's a competitor and he battled," Gericke said of Yung. "He doesn't give in and he had all of his pitches working. The big thing was keeping the ball down against these guys because we knew they were good fastball hitters."
Anderson kept Freeburg in check until the seventh, when Rozycke and Yung hit back-to-back RBI doubles and Jake Homann's double drove in another run.
Nashville finally broke through for two runs in the seventh, but it was too late.
Baxmeyer said the big early lead helped, but the Midgets were prepared for anything.
"I don't think we really had any nerves to begin with," Baxmeyer said. "We came here thinking it was a regular game. We got up and we just stayed up. That's what we had to do."
The regional title was the first since 2010 for Freeburg.
"Just the regional championship alone is big for the program," Gericke said. "We were able to beat them earlier in the year, which probably gave us a little more confidence. I can't say enough about this group. They're a fun group, they compete and they battle. These kids earned every bit of it."