DIXON – Heart, desire, and hustle. Dixon American Legion Post 12’s baseball season had been an overly successful one with those three key elements.
However, in their division championship game against Freeport Post 139 on Friday, Dixon lacked in those areas, according to coach Jason Burgess. The end result was the end of their Legion season with a 9-3 loss at Veterans Memorial Field.
Freeport (10-3) took advantage of errors and walks to score its first five runs, and Dixon (6-2) wasn’t able to put up much of a comeback.
“You got to throw strikes and make plays behind the pitcher when they aren’t getting in there, and we just didn’t do it,” Burgess said. “You got to have a little more heart and desire, and we just didn’t show that.”
Dixon starter Quinton Matznick was roughed up in three innings of work, giving up four earned runs and four walks, but he struck out five. The performance was a far cry from how he felt during pregame warm-ups.
“In the bullpen, I was throwing everything right on, right where I wanted to,” Matznick said. “I had good break on all of my pitches. When I got out on the mound, I was right where I wanted to be, but when the first batter came in the box, I couldn’t throw a strike.”
Jackson Holder, who led Freeport with three RBIs, notched his first in the game’s first inning by driving in Tegan Woods, who drew a walk. Owen Van Horn doubled to start Dixon’s half of the first inning, and later scored when Freeport pitcher Trevor Thompson was called for a balk.
But Dixon never grabbed the lead. Mitchell Schneider led off the second inning for Freeport with a single, and came home on an error after Ethan Hill’s single to center field. Ben Swords, the reigning NIC-10 high school most valuable player, put Freeport up for good in the second inning with a two-RBI triple.
Thompson reached on an error to start the fifth inning, and scored on Jackson Sosnowski’s one-out single.
“Our guys are motivated to go out and compete,” Freeport coach Shaun Dascher said. “We took advantage of their mistakes, and we only had one error on our end.”
Thompson earned the win, allowing four hits, striking out six, and walking two in seven innings. From the end of the first inning to the end of the sixth inning, Thompson retired 16 of 18 Dixon batters.
“He went on a groove there,” Dascher said. “He’s a strike-throwing machine, and that really helped us. We had some pitching ready with multiple guys if we needed it, but he was able to go out there and eat some innings.”
Freeport scored three runs in the sixth inning to put the game away. Dixon’s only other runs came on sacrifice flies from Jack Doane in the fifth inning and Tucker Cole in the seventh inning.
“They definitely got the better end of us,” Burgess said, “and I said it the other night – if we don’t come here and play a better game than what we did against Sterling, then they’re going to get us – and they did.”
Matznick came to the Dixon club on the advice of Cole and Nate Olson, a Newman graduate who played for Dixon last season. Matznick, a Rock Falls graduate, played for the Sterling club last season, and had planned on playing travel ball this summer before having to take summer classes at Sauk in preparation for his transfer to Highland.
“I like playing for Coach Burgess, and like playing with all these guys,” Matznick said. “I didn’t really know any of them before I got over here, just a couple. They were all pretty cool and were all accepting.
“It’s a lot like playing for [Rock Falls coach] Donnie [Chappell]. He just wants you to hustle. He’s not going to get mad if you’re making an error, as long as you are trying hard. He’ll get mad if you’re not hustling.”
Freeport 9, Dixon 3
Star of the game: Ben Swords, Freeport, 4-for-4, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI, 2 IP, pickoff
Key performers: Jackson Holder, Freeport, 3-for-6, 3 RBI; Mitchell Schneider, Freeport, 2-for-4, RBI; Quinton Matznick and Jack Doane, Dixon, sacrifice flies