A hard-throwing southpaw, Freeburg senior reliever Derrick Rozycke put an end to a seventh-inning Columbia rally by striking out the final two hitters as Freeburg defeated the Eagles 8-6 in a semifinal game at the Class 3A Freeburg Baseball Regional.
Scoring in every inning but one, Freeburg (26-5) held a comfortable 8-2 lead after six innings behind a solid pitching performance from starter Luke Yaekel. But Yaekel, who had allowed only a two-run home run to the Eagles Zach Mathews in the first inning, tired in the seventh and was pulled from the game after Ryan Gudeman singled in a run to cut the Midgets lead to 8-3.
Rozycke then took over and allowed a single to Cameron Touchette which made it 8-4 and Mathews followed three pitches later with a line drive into the left-centerfield alley which hit at the base of the fence for a two-run double as Columbia closed to within 8-6.
But with the potential tying run at the plate, Rozycke first struck our Lamont Read on a curve ball out of the strike zone, then fanned Brian Dougherty on a fastball to end the game and the Eagles season.
“I knew they (Columbia) wouldn’t quit. That’s a good baseball team which won over 20 games this season,” Midgets coach Drew Gericke said. “He (Rozycke) is a senior and he hadn’t ever been in a pressure situation like this before. But to his credit he was able to make good pitches to two pretty good hitters. It was good for him to be able to do that.“
The win over its Cahokia Conference rivals is the third of the season for Freeburg which advances into the regional title game on Saturday at noon. The Midgets will take on the winner of the Mascoutah-Waterloo semifinal which will be played on Thursday.
Columbia (21-13) started quickly on Wednesday. Touchette worked Yaekel for a walk to lead off the game and Mathws followed with an opposite field home run over the rightfield fence to make the score 2-0.
Unfortunatly for the Eagles, Yaekel (7-1) settled down after the rough start. Getting ahead of the hitters, Yaekel allowed only one hit over the next five innings while the Midgets offense went to work.
“I thought Luke pitched well the entire game. Tonight he was able to get ahead of the hitters and that’s something he didn’t do the last time out,” Gericke said. “Even the home run he gave up in the first inning was a pretty good pitch. It was on the outer-half of the plate and the hitter (Mathews) went with it and hit it out. It was a good pice of hitting.
“I think he (Yaekel) got a litle fatigued in the seventh inning which is why we made the change. He wasn’t a big part of our (postseason) run last year so pitching in a pressure game like this today wasn’t something he had done much of before. I thought he pitched a good game.”
Trailing 2-0, the Midgets got a run back in the bottom of the first inning off Columbia starter Brendan Wilhelm. Consecutive singles by Ty Dill and Landon Touchette put two runners on with nobody out and when senior Cody Siebenberger followed with a sharp single to left , Freeburg was within 2-1.
The Midgets took charge of the game in the bottom of the second inning. With one out, John Hilpert was hit with a pitch. Wilhelm then retired Dill for the second out but Touchette tied the game at 2 with a single. An RBI double by Siebenberger, followed by run scoring singles by Keegan Baxmeyer and Rozycke put Freeburg ahead to stay with a 5-2 lead.
“Brendan (Wilhelm) got behind on some hitters and they (Freeburg) took advantage ot it,” Columbia manager Keith Jany said. “There were a couple of bloops mixed in there, but they also hit the ball hard. That’s a good team. There aren’t many weak parts of that batting order.
Freeburd added single runs in the fourth and fifth inings and Baxmeyer hit a solo home run in the sixth inning to make the score 8-2. Baxmeyer and Siebenberger both finished 3-for-4 for the game and combined for six of the Midgets 13 hits.
As it turns out, Freeburg needed all eight runs.
“I’m proud of my team. Down six runs heading into the seventh inning, we kept battling and fighting until the end. We didn’t quit,” Jany said. We had the tying run at the plate in the last inning. That’s all I can ask. We gave ourselves chance.”
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at email@example.com or 618-239-2661.