After losing 3-1 to Champaign last Thursday at the double-elimination Junior American Legion State Baseball Tournament in Bartonville, the Belleville I Post 58 Hilgards started digging.
Needing six straight victories after that to claim the state title, they won five before coming up short Sunday in a loss to defending state champion Bartonville Limestone.
It was an emotional comeback that saw the Hilgards (34-16) claw from behind three times in their four Sunday games.
After finishing off a rain-delayed 9-2 win over Bethalto that began the day before, the Hilgards posted a 5-4 win over Urbana and a 4-3, extra-inning victory over Limestone to force one more contest.
In the championship game against Limestone, Belleville erased a 6-0 deficit by scoring seven runs in the top of the seventh.
The score was tied 8-8 in the eighth inning when a Belleville player was ejected. With no remaining players on the bench because of earlier substitutions and pitching changes, the umpires declared a forfeit that awarded Limestone the victory.
"Belleville played 26 innings that day and made three really incredible comebacks," said Belleville Senior Legion manager Zach Rakowski, who attended the tournament. "It was a really incredible run for them. It would have been real easy for them to be just happy to be there, but that win against Teutopolis really got the ball rolling."
Their comeback from the loser's bracket began with a 9-1 win over Teutopolis, the same team that had beaten Belleville 3-1 in the Fifth Division tournament.
Belleville needed a rain-delayed 9-2 victory over Bethalto to continue its trek to the finale and then edged Urbana 5-4 in the first of what became 3 1/2 games on Sunday to claim a shot at Limestone.
The Hilgards came from behind in three of the four Sunday games.
"Every time they took a punch they got back up and were able to get back in the game and get over the hump," Rakowski said.
Pitcher Parker Beine had 15 strikeouts and allowed five hits Friday in the 9-1 victory over Teutopolis.
Belleville led 6-2 against Bethalto on Saturday morning when the game was halted by rain. The teams returned at 10 a.m. Sunday to finish up, with Belleville winning 9-2.
Against Urbana on Sunday, the Hilgards were down 4-1 going into the bottom of the fifth, but they scored once in the fifth and three times in the sixth to escape with a 5-4 win. Luke Frazier's two-out, two-run double was the difference.
Trailing 2-0 in the first game Sunday against Limestone, Belleville tied it 2-2 in the fifth. It tied the game again in the seventh, then won it in the eighth on a hit by Ross Dosier.
At that point, Rakowski said tourney officials gave Belleville a 90-minute break between games before resuming play for the championship.
The Hilgards again fell behind and were down 6-0 heading into the top of the seventh. However, a seven-run rally gave Belleville a 7-6 lead with many of the runs scoring after two were out.
Limestone forced extra innings with a run in the bottom of the seventh to tie it 7-7. Belleville took an 8-7 lead in the top of the eighth, but Limestone scored again to tie it.
Belleville's manager was Corey Muendlein and the assistant coaches were Joe Bendick, Derek Hoppe and Tyler Rybicki.
The Belleville I roster included pitchers Parker Beine, Austin Keen, Alex Kellogg, Evan Meinrink, Brendan Reeb, Tyler Schmid and Zach Skaer.
Other players were Shawn Cable, Joe Delsignore, Ross Dosier, Jake Fisher, Luke Frazier, Brayden James, Alec Pellegrino, Brendan Saak and Brett Silvestri.
Contact reporter Norm Sanders at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2454.