Just about every team in the balanced Mississippi Conference has had its moments this baseball season, including the Columbia Eagles, who achieved their second five-game winning steak with a 7-0 win over Red Bud Tuesday.
But, as has been true throughout recent history, the Freeburg Midgets again find themselves in command of first place in the league.
Drew Gericke led the Midgets to increasing win totals in each of his first four seasons as head coach. The climb culminated with last season's 30 wins and third-place 2A state finish.
Freeburg currently sits at 17-2 overall and 6-0 in conference play with 17 games left to be played over the next 24 days leading into their own Class 3A home regional.
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"We have always had a back-loaded schedule," Gericke said. "Now since we're 3A, the season is a week longer, so we've added three more games plus we'll have make-up games. But we want to play a lot of games so we can get on a roll heading into the post season."
A deep pitching staff will be a big help to the Midgets as they maneuver their three-week gauntlet. Gericke has used 10 of his 18 players on the mound, five of which have pitched 13 innings are more.
"Our junior class is really deep with pitching, which is good because we're going to need them down this busy stretch," he said. "Not all of them are going to get real important innings, but they'll gain some experience they can use next year."
Senior Luke Yaekel is the ace of the staff with a 5-0 record and a .78 earned run average. Junior Joe Wolf has been tough on opposing hitters as well, posting a 1.56 ERA in a team-high 27 innings pitched.
Other innings eaters include junior Elias Czech (3-0, 1.53 ERA), junior Will Hogan (2-0, 2.15), and senior Nolan Maue (2-0, 0.00) who has impressed in two strong starts.
Included on Freeburg’s schedule is a pair of Mississippi Conference showdowns at Columbia Thursday and at Central Friday. It will be the Midgets’ second game with Central inside of a week. Freeburg defeated the Cougars 3-2 Tuesday.
The Midgets will have three more conference games next week.
"Thursday is a big game at Columbia, but you know, a conference game is a conference game," Gericke said. "You have to have the same focus no matter who you're playing in our conference. This next week is important for us."
Leading the way on offense is junior Keegan Baxmeyer, whose .588 batting average ranks among area leaders. He also has there home runs and 15 runs batted in.
"Keegan is just a natural athlete and competitor who doesn't give away any at-bats," Gericke said. "If you're going to get him out, you're going to have to earn it becaues he'll battle you on every pitch. We started working with him last year to use the entire field and he's become a much hitter because of it, as you can see by the average."
Other major contributors have been Ty Dill with a .509 average to go with 13 RBI and Cody Siebenberger, who's hitting .481 and has scored a team-high 23 runs.
Freeburg will play host to a 3A regional tournament that will be as competitive as any in the metro-east in any class. The field will include Columbia, Mascoutah, Waterloo, Cahokia and East St. Louis.
The Midgets have won nine in a row sit just outside the BND coach's poll top 5. The score an average of 8.1 runs per game while allowing just 2.2.
News-Democrat High School Baseball Rankings
Rankings for metro-east teams; voting by area coaches and News-Democrat staff. First-place votes are in parentheses, records through Sunday.
Large school rankings (Class 3A-4A)
Also receiving votes: Freeburg (15-2), Waterloo (13-6), Mascoutah (13-7), Columbia (11-4), Collinsville (8-9)
Small school rankings (Class 1A-2A)
Also receiving votes: Carlyle (10-9), Mater Dei (9-7), Valmeyer (12-11), New Athens (8-10)