The Wesclin Warriors were well aware of Freeburg’s 15-game winning streak, 22-2 record and unbeaten mark in the Cahokia Conference heading into their game on Tuesday. They also knew they were facing previously unbeaten Midgets’ ace Luke Yaekel.
None of it mattered as Wesclin grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first and kept consistently pecking away for a 7-3 baseball victory that snapped several Freeburg streaks and left the Warriors feeling a lot better about themselves.
“Coming over here they liked the challenge,” Groennert said. “(Freeburg) was 22-2 and that’s fine. The one thing I do like about this group is they’re not scared. They’re not afraid. They may not get it done, but they’re not afraid to go out there and play.
“This game will go a long ward toward giving them confidence.”
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Conference champ Freeburg (22-3 overall, 9-1 in the league) had not felt the sting of defeat since April 11, a 1-0 loss to Mascoutah.
“Give them all the credit, they outplayed us today in every phase,” Freeburg coach Drew Gericke said. “They pitched better, they hit better and they made defensive plays. We were swinging with them the first three innings, then they changed pitchers. They shut us down and we didn’t shut them down.”
The teams traded offensive uprisings in the early going, but Wesclin (17-10, 6-4) broke on top 4-3 in the fourth on a leadoff double by Dylan Weh and an RBI single by No. 9 hitter Kenny Hagarty.
The Warriors added three more runs in the fifth and reliever Jared Timmermann turned in four solid innings, allowing just one hit and striking out three.
“We didn’t make any mistakes,” Groennert said. “We got good pitching, we didn’t give up the big inning. All in all, all phases of the game today were good. We played good defense, got good pitching and timely hitting.”
Wesclin jumped on Yaekel (7-1) for two runs in the first on Blake Bernhardt’s RBI single and Brendan Bernhardt scoring on a wild pitch.
Gericke said Yaekel, who began the day with a 0.52 ERA, had trouble with his command and location.
“Everything was up,” Gericke said. “He was getting behind in the count and high school hitters when they can just sit on your fastball, they’re going to hit you.”
Junior catcher Keegan Baxmeyer’s RBI double got a run back for Freeburg in the first and a Landon Touchette run-scoring single cut Wesclin’s lead to 3-2 in the second.
It stayed that way until the third, when Baxmeyer unloaded on a pitch from Wesclin starter Jarad Steenbergen and drove it out over the fence in right center roughly 355 feet away. It was the fifth home run by Baxmeyer, who has a team-leading 24 RBIs.
Wesclin came right back to regain the lead in the fourth on Hagarty’s hit, then got a big RBI single from Quinn Belva to help key a three-run fifth against Freeburg reliever Nolan Maue.
All nine Wesclin starters had at least one hit and the bottom of the lineup did as much damage as the top.
“That’s what we need,” Groennert said. “It has to be to be a total team effort. Everybody has got to chip in for us one through nine. We’re going to bunt and move runners, it was a total team effort.”
Timmermann held Freeburg to one hit after the third inning. The Midgets went to the Class 2A state tournament last spring, but are now in 3A and drew the No. 1 seed at the Freeburg Regional with a tougher late-season schedule to prepare them for what lies ahead.
“You won’t want to lose, but we haven’t felt this feeling since the beginning of April,” Gericke said. “I’d rather get this out now than the last week of May, but we’ve got tough teams coming up. There could be some losses, but as long as we get better out of those going into regionals we’ll take it.”