Freeburg hoping to slow down the speed of Pleasant Plains

News-DemocratJune 5, 2014 

Freeburg has seen its share of fast baserunners this season and given up a few stolen bases.

But the Midgets haven't seen anything like Class 2A state tournament opponent Pleasant Plains, which begins running soon after stepping off the bus and never stops until the final out.

The Cardinals -- who lost to Lisle in the 2013 state title game --have 180 stolen bases in 40 games. That includes 52 by junior outfielder Dylan Bee and 42 by freshman shortstop Cole Greer.

The Midgets (30-8) and Cardinals (29-11), who lost seven starters from the second-place team, meet in a 3 p.m. Class 2A state tournament semifinal game Friday at Dozer Park in Peoria.

"Seeing those numbers just tells you they're going to steal any chance they get," said Freeburg coach Drew Gericke, whose club has won 11 straight and 14 of its last 15. "That could be a threat, but we'd have to see them in person. We have to vary our rhythm to the plate and keep them guessing, not let them get a good read on the deliveries."

Making their first state baseball tourney appearance since 2002, the Midgets will go with senior right-hander and McKendree recruit Nick Yung in the opener.

Yung is 8-0 with a 1.42 ERA, relying on confidence, lots of movement and mixing his pitches well.

"It's a lot of keeping the hitters off-balance," said Gericke, who also relied on senior Milton Pinkston (7-2, 0.97 ERA). "A lot of teams you aren't familiar with, sometimes you have to attack them early and see what you can learn from their swings and go from there.

"(Yung and Pinkston) have been very good at making in-game adjustments and their competitiveness is just out of this world."

Pleasant Plains likes to create offense with aggression and also is extremely solid defensively.

Among the top players are coach's son Greer (.361, for doubles, 28 RBIs, 34 runs, 44 stolen bases), Bee (.371, six doubles, seven triples, three homers, 28 RBIs, 45 runs, 52 stolen bases) and junior third baseman Cole Hamilton (.419, eight doubles, five triples, 22 RBIs, 39 run, 27 stolen bases).

Senior Aaron Hand (.226, 26 RBIs) and sophomore catcher Johnny Steinwart (.333, 23 RBIs) have also been solid run producers.

Top pitchers are junior Mitch Koehler (10-2, 2.33 ERA) and junior Chad Weller (6-2, 1.33 ERA). The Cardinals have shut out three of their five playoff opponents, outscoring them 35-9.

Gericke is trying to become the second former Freeburg assistant that worked under Hall of Fame coach Fred Blumberg to win a state title. Gibault coach Andy Skaer did it last year with Blumberg in attendance and no one would mind making it two in a row.

Much of what Gericke has put into practice in four years as a head coach was soaked up from playing for and coaching with Blumberg.

"Coaching with him, it actually started processing more of why he was coaching that way, why he was doing things a certain way," said Gericke, who made it to state with the 2001 Freeburg club. "Going to the state tournament as a player was obviously very special. Then to be hired on back at your alma mater to teach and coach was very comforting.

"Then to coach under Fred after playing under him made me understand more of the coaching aspect, what he was wanting us to do."

The Midgets have not allowed more than three runs in a playoff game, outscoring their postseason opponents 33-11.

The Freeburg lineup has been hot at the top, in the middle and the bottom throughout the playoffs.

Among the heaviest hitters are sophomore catcher Keegan Baxmeyer (.412, 13 doubles, four homers, 39 RBIs), junior outfielder Derrick Rozycke (.392, seven doubles, two triples, 31 RBIs), junior outfielder Cody Siebenberger (.454, 11 doubles, one homer, 17 RBIs, 4 runs), senior Kile Bailey (.331, nine doubles, three homers, 27 RBIs), Yung (.360, eight doubles, 27 RBIs) and senior Chris Smith (.342, nine doubles, two triples, two homers, 26 RBIs).

"It's really fun, especially when you're winning like this," Siebenberger said. "We all started stringing together hits at the right time. Milton and Nick and our pitchers have been pitching great. It's hard to lose when everybody's doing the right thing and we're not making errors."

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

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