Freeport baseball rallies to top Deer Lakes for section title
Wednesday, May 8, 2019 | 8:17 PM
The first time the Deer Lakes and Freeport baseball teams played this season, the Lancers earned a low-scoring, one-run victory.
Wednesday’s rematch at Freeport Community Park, with the Section 1-3A title on the line, was expected to be that same type of game, and it turned out that way as the Yellowjackets prevailed 3-2.
Pitchers Greg Geis of Deer Lakes and Jarrett Heilman of Freeport kept the game scoreless through six innings.
The Lancers struck first with two runs in the top of the seventh off Heilman, but the Yellowjackets rallied in the bottom of the inning off Geis and reliever Justin Brannagan.
Heilman’s bases-loaded, two-out single to deep left brought home pinch runner Alec Asti to give Freeport a walk-off victory and its first section title since 2014.
“I was ready for it, and I knew my name was going to be called,” said Heilman, who also pitched a five-hitter with eight strikeouts.
“I wasn’t swinging the bat well, and I knew they would attack me early with the fastball. I knew it was coming, a low and outside pitch. I got the barrel on it, and I saw it fly into left-center. I saw it was hit well enough. I feel like I blacked out rounding first. All I knew is that I threw my helmet, and my teammates were on top of me.”
Freeport won its final seven games in the regular season, all of them in section play.
“In the fall, nobody expected us to be section champions,” Freeport coach Ed Carr said. “We were wondering if we were going to be a playoff-caliber team. We had nothing to lose and took that mentality into games.”
Freeport (13-5, 10-2) and Deer Lakes (11-8, 9-3) will find out their playoff fates Friday when the WPIAL committee releases the 3A pairings.
The first round could begin as early as Monday.
“I knew when we got here today, it was going to be a fight,” Deer Lakes coach Josh Tysk said. “We play them tough, and they play us tough. We had a great game earlier in the year, and both teams went back and forth. We got to Heilman the first time and were able to win that game. Today, it was Freeport’s turn, and that’s baseball. You make a play here and there, there’s a call that’s close or something else happens little, and we just didn’t come out on top today.”
Pinch hitter Dominic Kurn got Freeport started in the bottom of the seventh by beating out an infield single. He went to second on an error and scored on a two-out single from Matt Grove.
Zachary Allen followed Grove with a single to score Austin Kepes, who reached on a fielder’s choice.
Deer Lakes intentionally walked Matt Mitchell to load the bases, bringing Heilman to the plate for the game-ending heroics.
“With a two-run (deficit), you get a leadoff runner on, and anything can happen,” Carr said.
“We had confidence, and we knew the top of the order was coming through. These guys have fought all year, and they fought hard in that seventh inning.”
Deer Lakes, which had one baserunner in 17 plate appearances off Heilman in a stretch from the second to seventh innings, got started in the seventh with one out as Andrew Bokulich singled for the second time in the game. He stole second, went to third on a throwing error and scored on a passed ball.
Will Meyer drew a two-out walk, and Trey Darrah, batting for the first time in the game, singled to score pinch runner Elliot Knickerbocker.
Geis pitched into the seventh for the Lancers and had to leave the game because of the pitch-count rule with no outs and two on. He gave up five hits, walked one and struck out nine.
“Greg battled tough today,” Tysk said. “He didn’t have his best stuff early and kind of got up in the pitch count. But then he worked really efficiently and strong.”
Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .