Wheaton still hoped to win an American Legion state baseball title even though it was in a no-lose situation when it faced Moline on Saturday afternoon at Grimes Field in Mattoon.
Even though Wheaton (32-12) fell short of a state crown with a 10-2 loss, its season will continue as the top two teams in Illinois advance to the Great Lakes regional starting Thursday in Midland, Mich.
"I'm very happy with the way the kids battled," said Wheaton coach Jerry Miller, whose team will face the hosts in the eight-team regional at approximately 7 p.m. Thursday. "Our kids were drained but it was the same for both teams. Our kids still wanted to win."
Wheaton bounced back from a 4-2 loss to Moline to beat Danville 12-2 in 7 innings late Friday night and advance to Saturday's championship. But 5 errors led to 4 unearned runs as Moline (43-6) took a 5-2 lead after seven innings and then put away the game with a 5-run eighth en route to its second state title in three years.
"Our defense let us down for the first time all tournament," said Miller, whose team would have needed to beat Moline twice Saturday to win the title. "(Justin Harrington) did a very good job of getting groundballs like we wanted but we couldn't pick them up and we couldn't throw the ball."
The opposite was true when Wheaton threatened as Charlie McGinnis had 2 singles and an RBI, Kevin Fahy had 2 singles and Mike Rostine had an RBI double, but Moline turned 4 double plays.
Harrington had also pitched 2 innings of 1-hit, shutout relief in the Friday loss to Moline as Fahy had 2 hits, a double and an RBI and Bryan Polowy had 2 singles. Danville scored twice in the top of the first in Friday's elimination game, but Wheaton responded with 4 runs in the bottom of the inning and 5 runs in the third as Sam Nafziger threw a 6-hitter with 8 strikeouts and no walks.
Rostine, who caught every inning of every game in the tourney, had a double and a single, Andrew Mamlic had a double, single and RBI, Fahy had 2 hits and Ed Norris and Polowy drove in runs.
"Our kids exploded and Sam pitched a really good game," Miller said. "He started out a little rough and then he settled down."