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June 03--SAUGET -- Freeburg's head coach wouldn't tell his starting pitcher anything about Teutopolis' potent offense in the lead-up to Monday's game.
But Milton Pinkston, throwing on three days rest, solved the Wooden Shoes' offense, which had scored 40 runs in four games this postseason.
Midgets head coach Drew Gericke weighed the risk of giving Pinkston the ball, but did it anyway and right-hander led the Midgets to a 3-1 win in the Class 2A Sauget Super-Sectional to punch the team's tickets to Peoria's state finals.
"We didn't know what we were going to get from him, but we knew he was the right man for the right situation," Gericke said. "I would chalk that one up to his best of the year."
The only run Pinkston gave up was unearned when Shoes designated hitter Jordan Thoele, singling to start the third inning, came around to score on a combined error. He moved from second to third base on a passed ball, then continued around to score when Midgets catcher Keegan Baxmeyer sailed a throw over the third baseman's head.
Pinkston only gave up three hits, including two to Shoes pitcher Louis Niemerg. He held the Shoes' first five batters hitless -- a combined 0-for-14.
Teutopolis head coach Justin Fleener said the Shoes' seven losses this season came against similarly dominant pitching performances. The Shoes finished 31-7.
"We ran up against somebody who was able to do that against us -- a kid with a lot of off-speed and a pretty live fastball," Fleener said.
Pinkston kept the Shoes' hitters off balance by limiting fastballs to only about one-quarter of his pitches, Gericke said, and locating his tricky off-speed the rest of the time.
Gericke said good-hitting teams, like the Shoes, often cash in by hitting fastballs. An off-balanced team tends to make weaker contact when they meet bat to ball.
The same was the case on the last out of the game, a soft fly ball to center fielder Derrick Rozcyke to start the Midgets' on-field celebration.
"I was jacked out of my mind," Pinkston said.
Pinkston and Niemerg took a pitching duel into the seventh inning, tied 1-1. Shortstop Nick Yung, already 2-for-2, laced a line drive out of the second baseman's reach to start the action.
Midgets designated hitter Aaron Fritz sacrificed Yung to second and Niemerg pitched around lead-off hitter Cody Siebenberger to bring Ty Dill to the plate.
Gericke said Dill, a sophomore, was called up to the varsity team in the middle of the season.
Dill muscled off a pitch on the hands for an opposite field blooper, scoring Yung from second base for the game-winning run -- a hit true to Fleener's scouting report.
"He liked to move runners and he liked to spray the ball to right field," Fleener said. "We had Bobby (Wenthe) positioned in the spot that we thought he was going to hit it. That's a big outfield to cover."
The Midgets' Chris Smith tacked on an insurance run with a line drive to left field, scoring Siebenberger and giving Pinkston a two-run lead, 3-1, with three outs to go.
This only heightened the pressure Pinkston felt standing on the mound.
"It made the emotion part worse," Pinkston said. "I had to figure out how to keep (the ball) down even more, settle down and throw the next pitch."
Pinkston worked around a Niemerg single, striking out Alex Goldstein looking to open the inning and forcing Cody Will to ground out and Jordan Thoele to pop out.
Freeburg will play Pleasant Plains, a 7-0 winner over Monticello, in the Class 2A state final four at 3 p.m. Friday at Dozer Park in Peoria.
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Freeburg 010 000 2 3 8 1
Teutopolis 001 000 0 1 3 0
WP -- Pinkston (7 IP, 1 R, 3 H, 6 K, 2 BB) LP -- Niemerg (7 IP, 3 R, 8 H, 4 K, 3 BB)
Freeburg: Siebenberger (1B, 2 BB), Dill (1B, RBI), Smith (1B, RBI), Baxmeyer (BB), Rozcyke (1B), Yung (1B, 2 2B, RBI), Fritz (1B)
Teutopolis: Kenter (BB), Niemerg (2 1B), Thoele (1B, BB, R)
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