For Waterloo senior Corey Vogel success on the mound boils down to the very basics of pitching. And on Monday, the basics served the Bulldogs ace well.
Vogel held a strong Freeburg offense scoreless for six innings before reliever Noah Thaggard worked out of a jam in the seventh as the Bulldogs held on for a 5-3 win in the title game of the Class 3A Freeburg Baseball Regional at Freeburg High School.
Utilizing a sharp-breaking curve ball and changing speeds to keep the Midgets hitters off-balance throughout, Vogel allowed just two hits through six innings and was sailing along before the Midgets first four hitters reached in the bottom of the seventh.
A bases loaded walk to Freeburg’s Ross Keleher made the score 5-1 and ended Vogel’s afternoon. Freeburg (26-6) cut the Bulldogs lead to 5-2 when Thaggard walked John Hilpert to force in a second run and when Jordan Fritz drove a sacrifice fly to deep center field, Waterloo’s lead had been cut to 5-3.
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But when Thaggard got Ty Dill to fly out with the potential tying runs on base, the Bulldogs (24-11) had the regional title.
“We knew it wouldn’t be easy and that they (Freeburg) weren’t going to quit. That’s a very good ball club. When I went out to the mound, I just told Noah to concentrate on getting the hitter. Sometimes its hard for a young pitcher to do that,’’ Waterloo coach Mark Vogel said. “Corey (Vogel) pitched a great game and while we didn’t get a lot of hits we were able to get them with runners in scoring position.’’
The win moves Waterloo (24-11) into the Class 3A Salem Sectional on Wednesday where they will take on Mississippi Valley Conference rival Highland (23-9) at 7 p.m. in the second of two semifinals. Highland won the Jerseyville Regional by beating the host Panthers 8-1 on Monday.
Taking on one of the top pitchers in the Cahokia Conference in Freeburg senior Luke Yaekel, the Bulldogs wasted little time in taking the lead. Four days after pitching the Midgets to a semifinal win against Columbia, Yaekel found himself in immediate trouble when he walked the first two hitters he faced in Kane Osterhage and Brett Degener.
When Ryan Ayccok beat out a bunt single, Waterloo had the bases loaded and nobody out. Erik Kaiser then hit what appeared would be a double play ground ball. Aycock was forced out at second but when Midgets first baseman Austin Sweet missed the return throw, a second run scored and Waterloo was up 2-0.
Yaakel was taken out in favor of Elias Czech after allowing a one out single in the second inning.
With Corey Vogel in control, it appeared the two run lead would be more than enough. After allowing a one-out single to Landon Touchette in the first inning, Vogel did not allow another hit until a two-out single by Dill in the sixth inning.
“For me its a matter of throwing strikes and just getting ahead of hitters in the count,’’ Vogel said. “I was able to change speeds and I also was able to throw other pitches besides the fastball for strikes. Everything was really moving and working today.’’
Czech also pitched well as he held the Bulldogs scoreless until the sixth, when once again the Midgets defense made a crucial error. Hayden Bender walked with one and when Midgets third baseman Ross Keleher made an error, the Bulldogs had runners on first and third base.
Christian Schmidt then lined a double to the right-center field fence, scoring two runs to make the score 4-0.
“Two of our strengths this season have been with our defense and getting timely hitting. Today those were there as we struggled,’’ Midgets coach Drew Gericke said. “Give him (Vogel) credit. He threw strikes and kept us off-balance.
“But we didn’t quit. Down 5-0 going into the bottom of the seventh, we gave ourselves a chance to tie it or win it. I’m proud of our effort. I think we gave them (Waterloo) a little scare in the last inning.’’
Kaiser provided the Bulldogs with an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI single.
“I’m proud of this team,’’ Mark Vogel said. “We’ve got a very young team and while we’ve had some ups and downs this year, when we’ve put everything together, we’ve shown that we’re a pretty good ballclub.’’
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.
Game at a Glance
PITCHING: A crafty southpaw, Corey Vogel allowed just two hits in six innings before tiring in the seventh. Junior Noah Thaggard entered in the seventh inning to pick up the save. Thaggard retired Freeburg’s Ty Dill with the tying runs on base for the final out of the game. Freeburg senior Luke Yaekel pitched just one inning, allowing two runs, as he took the loss.
BULLDOGS FIRST: Kane Osterhage and Brett Degener coaxed walks and Ryan Aycock reached on a bunt single to load the bases. Kaiser then rolled into a fielders choice to drive in the first run and Degener scored on an error. Waterloo 2, Freeburg 0
BULLDOGS SIXTH: Hayden Bender walked and Cole Milam reached on an error. Christian Schmidt followed with a two-run double. Waterloo 4, Freeburg 0
BULLDOGS SEVENTH: Osterhage singled and scored on a two-out single by Kaiser. Waterloo 5, Freeburg 0
MIDGETS SEVENTH: Cody Siebenberger singles, Keegan Baxmeyer walked and Derrick Rozycke singled to load the bases. Ross Keleher walked to force in a run, John Hilpert walked to force in a run and Jordan Fritz had a sacrifice fly. Waterloo 5, Freeburg 3