As the realization of playing their final high school baseball game had sunk in, the Freeburg High seniors looked for positives in their 10-5 Class 3A super-sectional loss Monday to the Springfield Senators.
The Midgets’ season ended one game short of a second state tournament trip since 2014, when seniors Keegan Baxmeyer and Ty Dill both were starters as sophomores.
“Looking back on it now I definitely took it for granted my sophomore year,” said Baxmeyer, who had a pair of doubles Monday and scored twice. “Being so close to tasting it my senior year, it’s going to sting for a long time. But I can’t be sad about it because I know no one picked us to go this far.
“Hardly anyone picked us to even win a regional. To win a sectional and be here I’m so proud of my guys, nothing could be better. I wouldn’t have picked a better group of guys to end my high school career with.”
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Freeburg (26-10) led 3-1 early, but a depleted pitching staff couldn’t maintain the lead and the Midgets stranded 13 baserunners. Springfield (33-5), making its first trip to state since 1985, got two runs in the third to tie it and pushed across three more in the fourth.
The Senators broke things open with four runs in the sixth against a Midgets’ pitching staff coming off wins on Thursday and Saturday.
Looking back on it now I definitely took it for granted my sophomore year. Being so close to tasting it my senior year, it’s going to sting for a long time.
Freeburg senior Keegan Baxmeyer
“We knew Thursday-Saturday-Monday was going to be tough for our kids,” said Freeburg coach Drew Gericke, whose team used two pitchers to split mound duty in Saturday’s 9-6 sectional final win over Waterloo. “We have a lot of arms, we don’t have a lot of experienced arms in these situations. Other than a five-inning short-game this year we didn’t have one pitcher go a full (complete game).
“That’s just the way it worked this year. It got us this far, but we just ran out of gas.”
The game turned with the teams tied 3-3 with two outs in the bottom of the fourth.
A single, a walk and hit by pitch loaded the bases and Springfield’s Austin Alderman spanked a two-run single to right that gave the Senators a 6-3 lead.
Freeburg came right back in the fifth on back-to-back doubles by Baxmeyer and Jack Lugge to cut it to 6-4. Springfield reliever Ethan Klay had trouble finding the strike zone, walking three straight hitters to force in another run.
Klay escaped further damage when he got Ray Meng to foul out to the first baseman and John Hilpert to fly out to center on consecutive pitches.
“We had opportunities early,” Gericke said. “We had bases loaded twice and didn’t score, they had bases-loaded twice and I think scored seven of their 10 runs, or I know at least five, and that’s the difference. They got key hits and we stranded runners.”
We knew Thursday-Saturday-Monday was going to be tough for our kids. We have a lot of arms, we don’t have a lot of experienced arms in these situations.
Freeburg coach Drew Gericke
Were the Midgets’ hitters a little anxious in the fifth with the bases loaded and the game on the line?
“When it’s that big of a game nerves are going to get up high,” Baxmeyer said. “It’s hard to calm yourself down, but give any one of our guys a second chance on that and I can guarantee we come out on top. It just didn’t happen today.”
Springfield tacked on four more runs in the sixth to clinch it.
Freeburg reliever Bobby Tedesco had a walk and got a flyout in his two batters, then reliever Elias Czech appeared to hit Senators’ RBI leader Damien Pierce with a pitch. The umpire quickly ruled that Pierce didn’t get out of the way, then Pierce stroked an RBI double to left.
With two outs, Springfield’s Trevor Minder ripped a bases-loaded, three-run double.
“I’m proud of the kids, they got big hits at the right times,” Springfield coach Jim Steinwart said. “Damien’s hit was big; their lefty (Czech) threw real well, I didn’t feel real confident after the first couple pitches by the way he looked. But he left a fastball (up), which is obviously tough to do with Damien.
That broke it open a little and then Trevor’s hit was huge. That pretty much sealed it for the most part.”
Jordan Fritz had a two-out, two-run double in the third to chase Springfield starter Austin Troemper. Despite having the bases loaded in the fifth and sixth, the Midgets couldn’t muster enough offense.
Dill hit a one-out triple in the sixth and the Midgets loaded the bases with one out before Klay — whom Steinwart said was one pitch away from coming out of the game twice — retired Fritz and Braeden Chandler.
“We knew they were going to be a tough team and credit to them, they’re here for a reason, too,” Gericke said of the Senators. “We battled back, but we just ran out of gas on the mound. They’re too good of a hitting group for that. If we’re at 100 percent with our pitching staff maybe it would have been different, maybe not.”
Baxmeyer fully believed the Midgets would end up at the state tournament in Joliet.
“One timely hit, we could have come out on top,” he said. “We had our chances; sixth inning, bases loaded, one out, but all credit’s to them. They played a great game. When it comes to hitting with two outs and all that we’ve been very strong all postseason doing it, but today they were better at it.”