BELLEVILLE — With an extra infielder staring it at him from just a few feet away Tuesday and only two outfielders, Belleville's Bryce Richter had his sights set on getting something to the outfield grass.
Fairview Heights took away the squeeze play, but Richter's third hit of the night chased home Ryan Marcum from third with the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning for a 5-4 American Legion baseball victory.
Richter had a basic strategy that he was able to execute.
"Just try to get it in the outfield, that's about it," Richter said. "Hit it hard. It felt really good. They're a big competitor and so are we; it's fun to go at it with them."
With the score tied 4-4 heading into the bottom of the seventh, Marcum was hit by a pitch by Fairview Heights starter Rich Boatman.
Marcum was bunted to second and took third on a passed ball before scoring on Richter's hit to right that pushed Belleville's record to 16-4.
"They've got 2-3-4 up and you've got to take away the squeeze," said Fairview Heights assistant Jeff Birk. "A fly ball's going to win it anyway and we had Richter at 2-2. He did what he's supposed to do, he got the job done.
"If the right fielder's out there that ball's over his head or caught going back and they win anyway. You take (the squeeze) away and you make them put it in play. It didn't work out."
It was the fourth straight loss for Fairview Heights (7-8) which battled back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it in the fifth on an RBI single by catcher Brenndon Tindall.
Belleville manager Zach Rakowski was glad to see the Hilgards pull one out and beat Fairview Heights for the second time this summer.
"It's been really tough with all the rainouts," Rakowski said, noting his team has already lost 17 games to wet weather. "We haven't been able to really get a flow going and come together as a team.
"These are the kinds of wins that help you be able to do that. We have nine or 10 games in about eight days, so this is the kind of thing where if you can build off it you can ring up a bunch of wins in a row."
Boatman issued a leadoff walk to Adam Bauer to start the Belleville half of the first and the Hilgards quickly grabbed a 2-0 lead. Following a single by Richter, Missouri State recruit Aaron Meyer stroked run-scoring single to right on an 0-2 pitch.
Jason Klein drove in another run with a groundout to short.
Belleville starter Parker Beine hung a breaking pitch in the third and Fairview Heights shortstop Marty Brunk deposited it over the fence in left for a solo homer to cut Belleville's lead to 2-1.
Brendan Saak drove in another Belleville un in the third, hustling all the way into second on the play. Ryan Marcum's sacrifice fly in the fourth gave the Hilgards a 4-1 advantage, but Fairview Heights answered back in the fifth.
Beine issued two straight walks to start the inning and both runners ended up scoring. Joel Yates chased them home with a two-out, two-run double before Tindall tied it 4-4 with an RBI single down the right field line off Hilgards reliever Cory Renois.
Beine allowed just three hits and struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings, while Renois finished up to get the win. He allowed one hit and struck out three in 2 1/3 innings.
Boatman also pitched well for Fairview Heights, allowing seven hits and pitching out of several tight spots.
"Beine pitched really well, he was overpowering us at the beginning of the game," Birk said. "We had good offense against Beine tonight, but we're just not quite there yet. We're trying to figure a lot of things out."