A big comeback in their last series of at-bats meant that the Midgets would be standing tall and playing on.
Freeburg erased a three-run deficit in the top of the seventh inning and went on to beat Columbia 12-8 in the finals of the IHSA Class A Red Bud Regional Monday.
“They just took great at-bats that last inning and put the bat on the ball, didn’t try to do too much,” Columbia coach Keith Jany said. “We just didn’t make the plays. We put too many guys on base via the walk and we hit a guy. We just didn’t finish.”
Columbia led 2-0 early, but the Midgets came back to take a 4-2 lead. The Eagles scored five in the fifth to take a 7-4 advantage, but Freeburg scored eight in the seventh to put the game away.
“They just had good at-bats,” Jany said. “(Junior) Billy Haag threw a great game for us the first six innings and I let him go out there to start the seventh. He was right around 100 pitches and he was getting tired, and it was pretty hot out there. He gave up a leadoff hit, which was just the third hit of the game he had given up.”
Senior Andrew Thompson came on in relief and walked the first guy he faced. Freeburg notched a pair of singles and the Eagles committed a big error with the bases loaded, throwing wide to the plate, and the Midgets scored two to take an 8-7 lead.
“I came back with (sophomore Drew) Bicklein and he threw well, giving up just one hit,” Jany said. “Unfortunately it was a grand slam, which was pretty much the icing on the cake.”
Columbia got one back in the home half of the frame, but Freeburg got the final out and the victory.
The Eagles have to look themselves in the mirror and own their mistakes, but the Midgets have been growing in stature all year and showed themselves to be sleeping giants.
“I have been saying all season long that they are a much better team than the record indicates,” Jany said. “(Freeburg coach) Fred Blumberg always does a really good job of getting them prepared in the postseason and has them playing their best ball of the year. They played a great game today.”
Freeburg (13-23) advanced to face Pinckneyville in the semifinals of the Alton Marquette Sectional Thursday.
Columbia finished the campaign 21-15.
“I am definitely happy with the season, with 21 wins, a (Mississippi) Conference championship and a tournament win in Galesburg,” Jany said. “The way we fought and finished, even though we didn’t finish the last game, the last two weeks we were playing great baseball, much better than the beginning of the season.
“I think that’s what it is all about. You want to improve because that’s what you work so hard for and I think we did that. It was tough today, but we did make big strides throughout the season and did a lot of good things.”