Freeburg coach has baseball in his blood; Wesclin looking for more playoff success

News-DemocratMay 27, 2014 

Drew Gericke's grandfather, Don Gericke, was a talented baseball player at Dupo High who counted Hall of Fame former St. Louis Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog among his rivals when Herzog played for New Athens.

Don Gericke later spent some time in camp with the New York Yankees, the team that signed Herzog to his first pro contract in 1949.

Drew Gericke's father, Curt Gericke was a standout pitcher at Belleville West who later pitched for the University of New Mexico.

Don Gericke played a year of baseball at Eastern Illinois University before eventually moving into coaching.

Was there ever a doubt where Drew Gericke's playing and coaching career was headed?

"I always had a ball in my hands," said Gericke, a standout pitcher and infielder at Freeburg High who played at McKendree University and briefly for the Gateway Grizzlies before moving into the coaching ranks. "Coming out of high school, I pretty much knew I wanted to be a teacher and coach I didn't really have a decision to make, I kind of just knew."

That strong family baseball background included a non-family member as well since Gericke was extremely close with longtime Freeburg Hall of Fame baseball coach Fred Blumberg.

Gericke eventually succeeded Blumberg as coach of the Midgets and has guided them to a regional championship. Freeburg (27-8) will take on Johnston City (27-6) at the Class 2A Harrisburg Sectional at 4 p.m. Thursday.

Gericke's father also spent five years as Blumberg's pitching coach. Now Blumberg's son, Rob Blumberg, is one of the assistant coaches on Drew Gericke's staff along with two other former Freeburg High pitchers, Dean Brueggemann and Jeremy Schmittling.

"We've got all different levels of experience; Dean with minor league ball, Rob with Division III baseball and being with the Grizzlies and myself playing at McKendree," Gericke said. "We've been able to work together well in putting the best techniques and coaching styles together. Of course all of us playing under Fred Blumberg helped."

Gericke's grandfather, Don Gericke, was a longtime girls softball and freshman football coach at Dupo.

Johnston City (27-6), won its first regional title since 1974 with a 9-4 victory over Benton 9-4. The Indians scored all nine runs in the top of the fourth inning.

Also competing in the same sectional are Chester (22-8), which won its first regional since 2002, and Harrisburg, which has won at least 20 games in 21 straight seasons.

During a seven-game win streak, Freeburg has scored five or more runs five times. All but two players have an on-base percentage above .400.

"We've done that all year," Gericke said. "Not to jinx ourselves going into next week, but we don't have a lot of strikeouts. They are disciplined and that's why we talk about being disciplined; a walk is just like a base hit. You're on first base."

Stirring the offense at the top of the lineup is junior outfielder Cody Siebenberger (.456, 11 doubles, 16 RBIs). Directing traffic in the middle is sophomore Keegan Baxmeyer with his .433 average, 11 doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs.

"I don't treat him like a sophomore," Gericke said. "He's well developed beyond his sophomore years. He's not fazed by anything. The kid's always smiling and laughing, it doesn't matter the stage -- it's not too big for him."

Class 2A Greenville Sectional

Wesclin (22-13) has a tough playoff roadblock in Teutopolis, a team that finished third in the state last spring and won state titles in 2010 and 2011.

That won't matter to Wesclin, a team which reached the state tournament as a No. 6 regional seed two years ago.

"Records, you toss them out," said Wesclin coach John Groennert, whose team faces Teutopolis at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. "Baseball is just a different game. You can't run your best pitchers out there every game, you have to move things around and that's what makes it different than other sports."

Klein is hitting .442 with 11 doubles, one homer and 26 RBIs.

Klein's cousin, Brady Kunz, is at .357 with 19 RBIs. Brendan Bernhardt (.347, 18 RBIs), Jared Timmermann (.341, 15 RBIs) and Kyle Eversgerd (.330, 23 RBIs) have also been solid run producers.

"Michael Klein has won three regionals. There's not a lot of kids that can say that," Groennert said.

Class 1A Carlinville Sectional

Cahokia Conference-Kaskaskia Division rivals New Athens and Lebanon both won regionals and must post sectional semifinal wins to see each other again at Blackburn College in Carlinville. Lebanon beat New Athens twice, but the teams were tied with 8-2 conference marks.

New Athens (16-17) takes on Nokomis (19-11) in the semifinals at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, while Lebanon (12-15) plays North Greene at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

"I've got eight seniors out of 11 kids on the team and they've been with me now for three years," Lebanon coach Dave Causey said. "The nice thing is they know what I expect of them at practice and games. We're just better prepared for situational baseball than most other teams we face."

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

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