Prep Baseball & Softball

Freeburg takes advantage of Waterloo mistakes to win sectional

The Freeburg Midgets had heard enough.

Enough about just how good this year’s edition of the Waterloo Bulldogs were.

On Saturday, in the championship game of the Class 3A Triad Sectional, the Midgets did something about it.

Having just fallen behind 4-3, the Midgets took advantage of three fifth-inning Waterloo errors to push across six runs and pave the way for a 9-6 victory at Blazier Field.

“When you go back to your papers and write your articles, you’re going be saying ‘Freeburg upsets Waterloo,’” said Freeburg senior outfielder Keegan Baxmeyer, whose two-run home run in the first inning helped stake the Midgets to an early 3-0 lead. “But we know in our hearts this is not an upset. We knew the whole time, that we were going to win.

“Beating Waterloo is exactly what I wanted. Sectional championship, my favorite team to play, the biggest rivalry we have. It could not have come out any better.”

Midgets coach Drew Gericke also seemed to take some special satisfaction from seeing his team win its first sectional title since 2011 and its first as a Class 3A school.

“We’ve heard a lot about Waterloo this year and our kids were ready to play,” said Gericke, whose team also had defeated Waterloo 3-2 on April 4. “so they didn’t have to hear about it anymore.

“In fact, it was probably too much about Waterloo. These kids are tough as nails mentally and they just love to compete.”

With the win, the Midgets (26-9) advance to the Sauget Super-Sectional on Monday at GCS Ballpark against Springfield. Springfield (28-8) advanced with a 7-4 win over top-ranked Champaign Centennial at the Springfield Sectional. Game time is 5 p.m.

The loss ended an impressive season for Waterloo (27-7), which came into the contest ranked third in the Class 3A poll.

“You’ve got to five Freeburg a lot of credit,” said Bulldogs coach Mark Vogel. “They made some plays in the field when they needed too. Got some timely hits.

“That was the difference. One or two plays go a different direction and we’re celebrating a 9-6 win.”

Key sequence

Its 3-0 lead turned into a 4-3 deficit after Waterloo scored twice in both the second and fifth innings, Freeburg regained its lead and more with its six-run bottom of the fifth that featured three singles, two walks, a balk and three big Bulldog errors.

John Hilpert had the only hit of the inning which actually drove in a run. Josh Lugge also collected an RBI on a bases-loaded fielder’s choice. The other four runs scored directly off Waterloo miscues.

In addition to an error on a squeeze play where the ball was bunted right back to the pitcher, Freeburg scored two runs on an error by the second baseman and another on a wild pick-off throw.

“Our kids are so competitive,” said Gericke of his team’s response to falling behind 4-3. “In the postseason, you can’t afford to give away any at bats.

“We hit some balls hard, took some walks took advantage of some errors. It turned out to be a really good answer.”

Key players

Baxmeyer capped a rough first inning for Waterloo’s Tyler McAlister with his two-run homer. McAlister had come into the game with an ERA of 0.60.

Landon Touchette got the inning started with a one-out walk. He scored when Ty Dill followed with a double just before Baxmeyer’s blast out to right-center.

Waterloo’s Erik Kaiser had a two-run single in the third, making it 3-2.

Two innings later, Kaiser collected his third of four RBIs in the game with a double. When Cole Kaiping followed with a single, the Bulldogs led 4-3.

Waterloo added two more runs in the seventh against reliever Elias Czech.

Czech took over for starter Will Hogan during the fourth inning and earned the victory.

“This is just so amazing, I had no idea it was going to happen,” Czech said. “Beating Waterloo makes it 1,000 times better.”