While they did not leave Indiana with a championship trophy, it was still a productive weekend for the Belleville Hilgards American Legion baseball club.
The Hilgards (22-5) won five of six games at the Eugene Pate Throwback Tournament in Evansville, Ind., before losing 5-3 Sunday to West O'Fallon (Mo.) in the championship game.
Belleville knocked off Princeton (Ind.) 6-2, Newburgh (Ind.) 1-0, Piatt County 8-0, Sullivan (Ind.) 11-1 and Blissfield (Mich.) 5-0 before dropping the finale.
"I think we just ran out of steam," Belleville manager Zach Rakowski said. "It was a long week and we probably didn't hit as well in that game as we did in the other games. We still had opportunities, but weren't able to push enough runs across.
"Our pitching was great."
West O'Fallon scored twice in the bottom of the sixth to break a 3-3 tie. Matt Klosterman took the loss despite striking out seven in 4 2/3 innings, allowing 10 hots and all five runs.
In the other game Sunday, Rend Lake College right-hander Cory Renois tossed a three-hit shutout as the Hilgards knocked off Blissfield, Mich., 5-0.
Quincy University recruit Brendan Saak tossed the other shutout for Belleville, limiting Piatt County to four hits and striking out eight in an 8-0 victory on Saturday.
Bryce Richter authored a 1-0 shutout of Newburgh, Ind., allowing four hits and striking out two.
Tyler Schmid got the win in an 11-1 victory over Sullivan, Ind., allowing four hits and striking out four.
"There were some really good teams there," said Rakowski, whose team also competed in the tourney in 2013 and lost in the semifinals. "Princeton won the (2013) Indiana state tournament and their high school finished second in the state. Every year Newburgh is one of the better teams in Indiana."
Seven of the Hilgards' nine starters are hitting .300 or better led by Sam Haudrich (.432, eight RBIs, 27 runs scored, 17 stolen bases) and Southwestern Illinois College first baseman Adam Bauer (.385, six doubles, two triples, 22 RBIs.
Second baseman Luke Frazier is tied with John Dozier at .368 and Frazier has 10 doubles and 31 RBIs in 25 games. Dozier has 14 RBIs.
Six of the team's eight pitchers have ERA's below 2,00 led by Richter (4-0, 1.00 ERA), Jefferson College recruit Parker Beine (3-0, 1.80 ERA), Klosterman (2-1, 1.00 ERA), Schmid (4-1, 1.95 ERA) and Saak (2-1, 1.56 ERA).
Rakowski hopes his team will benefit from the experience of playing so many games in a short time span with the annual Firecracker Tournament approaching this weekend.
Belleville's Whitey Herzog Field is one of three tournament pool locations along with Longacre Park in Fairview Heights and Hoppe Field at Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
"Playing that many games so close together helps you prepare for that and it also helps you recognize the importance of each game in pool play," Rakowski said. "There were games where we just torched the ball. We hit through the lineup this weekend about as good as we have all year."
Belleville plays host to the Metro-East Bears on Tuesday, a team compiled of players from Bethalto, Edwardsville, Alton and Roxana, among others. The Hilgards are 5-2 in District 22 play.
Rakowski said Saak, Frazier, Bauer and Haudrich all had strong offensive weekends for the Hilgards.
"Brendan's really upped his offensive level from where he was during the spring, which is great," Rakowski said of the recent Belleville West graduate headed to Quincy to play football and baseball.
Rakowski has also been pleasantly surprised by the hitting of Renois (.359, 10 RBIs) and Richter (.275, four RBIs). Renois pitched at Rend Lake and Richter was a pitcher for the University of Illinois club baseball team.
"That gives you more depth and options during the games to try to do different things," Rakowski said.