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All-Metro baseball player of the year: Brueggemann stared down tough moment to help Freeburg's title quest

All-Metro baseball player of the year: Brueggemann stared down tough moment to help Freeburg's title quest

From the 2021 All-Metro baseball series

FREEBURG — Colin Brueggemann trotted off the mound on June 14 at SIU Carbondale with a sinking feeling in his stomach.

The Freeburg High senior was certain he had just cost his team its season.

"It wasn't the greatest feeling," Brueggemann said. 

What greeted him when he got to the dugout wasn't cold shoulders or accusatory glares.

Quite the opposite welcomed Brueggemann — smiles, laughs and a reaffirmed belief that a six-run deficit after one half an inning in a super-sectional playoff wasn't insurmountable.

"They were picking me up and being super helpful," Brueggemann said. "That helped me out a lot."

With his teammates' encouragement behind him, Brueggemann flushed the only bad outing of his season on the mound, picked up his bat and did what he did so often during the 2021 season.

He ripped the cover off the ball.

The Post-Dispatch All-Metro baseball player of the year, Brueggemann was a terror in every way possible as he helped Freeburg win the second state championship in program history and the first since 1989.

Brueggemann led the area in home runs (12), doubles (18) and RBI (60). He scored 47 runs, stole 11 bases and only struck out nine times in 146 plate appearances. He posted a .478 batting average, held an on-base percentage of .521 and slugged .910. 

As a pitcher, he was a perfect 9-0 on the mound with a 2.12 ERA in 46 1/3 innings pitched. He collected 47 strikeouts and held a 1.10 WHIP. 

"I think he would have put up these stats last year and would have been even more dangerous this year," Freeburg coach Drew Gericke said. "This is only his second year of varsity baseball. You put that experience and knowledge and you never know what will happen."

Brueggemann is the first player to lead the area in home runs, as well as finish in the top four of wins on the mound since Highland's Jake Odorizzi, achieved the same feat in 2008, when he led the Bulldogs to a Class 3A state title. Odorizzi has pitched for five major-league teams since 2012, including an All-Star appearance for the Minnesota Twins in 2019.

But Brueggemann faced a daunting test in the Class 2A Carbondale Super-Sectional when Harrisburg chased him after one inning pitched with six runs, five of them earned, on five hits.

The 6-foot-7 stalwart's response came in the top of the second inning when he slammed a triple to the right-field wall that scored three runs before he raced home on an error. 

"We all knew going into the year we'd be a good team," Brueggemann said. "We didn't want to have one bad game or one bad play to decide a season."

Brueggemann drove in a season-high five runs to help Freeburg bounce back from what became a seven-run deficit to beat Harrisburg 15-8.

Four days later, Brueggemann and the Midgets fought past Normal University High 5-3 in a state semifinal and Elmhurst Timothy Christian 12-0 in the championship game.

"He's a kid that does a very good job of handling adversity," Gericke said. "If he strikes out in one at-bat, he's good at forgetting that and moving on. He knows that he won't get a hit every at-bat or strike out everyone. He knows how to move forward."

Brueggemann was great in the regular season and performed even better in the postseason.

In seven do-or-die playoff games, he went 15-for-30 with 15 RBI and picked up two wins in three games pitched in the playoffs. Brueggemann drove in two runs in the semifinal round and then was 3 for 4 in the final with one RBI.

At the moment, he still hasn't decided if he wants to pursue a career on the mound or in the field.

"I feel like I've had a better year at the plate this year," Brueggemann said. "If I keep putting in the work and getting up the velocity, I could have a chance to do two ways because I really love both."

Brueggemann, who only went hitless in three games this season, is signed to play for Johnson County Community College in Overland, Kansas. 

Johnson County posted a 43-10 record last season and was no fewer than 38 games in a season since 2013.

"With the dead period and COVID, that didn't help to recruit," Brueggemann said. "But I've always wanted to go the JUCO route because I feel like that's the best fit for me. Going to (a major NCAA Division I school) afterward, that's the goal." 

Johnson County has had 15 National Junior College Athletic Association All-Americans, with 13 players selected in the Major League Baseball draft since 2010.

"They're getting a mentally tough kid who will work his butt off," Gericke said. "He won't settle to be mediocre. If he's not doing well, he'll put in the time to change that around. If he's starting and producing, he'll continue to work to be even better. Johnson got a great kid, a great worker and a great baseball player with a great baseball mind. The sky is the limit for him."

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