Prep Baseball & Softball

June 21, 2014

Freeburg's dual threat is News-Democrat Player of the Year

Freeburg High baseball coach Drew Gericke said that during Nick Yung's early years on the varsity, Yung sometimes let his emotions show a little too much.

Once Yung harnessed those emotions and let his talent speak for itself, he became an even bigger threat as well. His contributions as a pitcher, shortstop and hitter helped the Midgets to a 30-9 record and third-place finish at the Class A state tournament.

Area coaches recognized Yung's special season by voting him Belleville News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Baseball Player of the Year. He also made the Illinois Baseball Coaches Association All-State Team.

"Before, he was his own worst enemy when he failed," Gericke said. "He accepted nothing but the best and nothing but success. If it wasn't success, it was failure. Early in his career it hurt him; he wore his emotion on his sleeve and that affected his performance."

Yung emerged as a team leader and was one of the key reasons the Midgets caught fire late in the season on the way to the state tourney.

The McKendree University pitching recruit was 8-1 with a 1.51 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 65 innings, featuring a fastball in the mid 80-mph range and breaking pitches with plenty of movement.

Also a shortstop after primarily playing catcher the previous three years, Yung hit .300 with seven doubles, one homer and 27 RBIs.

"I love pitching," said Yung, who chose McKendree over Quincy University. "Just having control of the game, having the ball in your hands. There's nothing better than helping your team get a win and when you're such a big part of it, it's awesome."

Yung was the winning pitcher in the regional championship and sectional championship.

The only game he lost all season came in the 2A semifinals when Freeburg dropped a 5-2 decision to eventual state champion Pleasant Plains.

"There's definitely not a day that goes by when I don't think about that game," Yung said. "There's just days where it doesn't go your way and that was it. We all have something we could have done better that day, but we just ran into a good team."

Yung and the Midgets were extremely disappointed when heavy rain wiped out the third place game at state.

"We're all going to have different views and perspectives on that weekend, but just to get there was incredible," Yung said. "We obviously wanted to do more and know we could have done more, but there's so many teams that wish they could have been in our position."

Yung helped drive his teammates through a tough postseason schedule.

"There were four teams in our regional that could have ended their season where we did," he said. "It was just nice to pick the right time of the year to play Freeburg baseball."

Gericke wanted to move Yung out from behind the plate this season to shortstop, thinking that would allow him to be more effective as a pitcher since he wouldn't be catching in between starts.

"We needed a solid shortstop with more range and a stronger arm," Gericke said. "He gave us that."

Yung said playing all the positions has helped raise his baseball IQ.

"It helps to give you a better aspect of every angle of the game," he said. "It helps make you a more intelligent baseball player because I have a better understanding of everybody's job and everybody's role."

Yung's pitching coaches at various times in his development included former St. Louis Cardinals pitchers Danny Cox and T.J. Mathews along with Freeburg assistant Dean Brueggemann.

"They all helped in different ways and it's all led to where I am today," said Yung, who also played basketball and soccer at Freeburg.

He will always remember his final baseball season with the Midgets.

"I couldn't have asked for a better set of guys," Yung said. "We were all close, there weren't any cliques on the team like there's been in the past. We were a good group of guys and we all enjoyed each other's presence."

Gericke is Coach of the Year

A former player and assistant coach at Freeburg, Gericke has the honor of guiding the Midgets to their first state tournament trip since 2002.

As a result, area coaches voted Gericke the News-Democrat Class 1A-2A Coach of the Year.

"That's always nice to have our peers look at you this way," Gericke said. "I've never been around a group that wanted it so bad, from the seniors all the way down to the freshmen I had on the roster. You could just tell they wanted it -- and they were going to get it."

Making a state tourney trip wasn't the only big event in Gericke's life this spring. He and wife Chelsey became parents of a son named Tyce three days after the state tourney.

Gericke did not hesitate when saying the entire baby experience easily outranked baseball.

"I'm going to have to say having a baby is the best," he said. "That's a pretty neat deal."

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

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