BUTTE — The Butte Miners dropped their final regular-season conference game to the Belgrade Bandits and vowed to not lose another game this season.
They did just that.
The Miners proceeded to go 4-0 at the South A District title and then 5-0 at both the State A Legion Tournament in Belgrade and the Northwest Class A Regional Tournament in Vernal, Utah.
"We ended up losing our last conference game at home and it was just crushing," said catcher Evan Starr of that loss just before the postseason.
Nevermind that heading into that defeat to the Bandits, the Miners had already locked up the top seed at the upcoming district tournament. This was a team that grown accustomed to winning, and anything less that just wasn't going to cut it.
"We all came together as a team and nobody wanted that to happen again," Starr continued. "Everybody was more upset that we lost that game than happy we got the No. 1 seed."
The Miners parlayed that searing disappointment into arguably the greatest season in program history. Butte proceeded to win its first state title since 1953 and then traveled to Utah where the Miners captured the regional title for the first time ever.
Even as the Miners went on their victory tour back to Montana, these Butte boys were still aglow from what they had accomplished.
"We were driving away from Utah and I was just filled with excitement," said pitcher Ethan Cunningham. "Kind of felt like a dream. I don't think I'll ever experience anything like that again."
Trey Hansen, who pitched in Butte's final games of the state and regional tournaments said he doesn't know when — or if — he'll experience something quite like what the Miners pulled out this year.
"It was just an honor to be able to pitch that final game," Hansen said. "Can't really relive that moment."
Ask any of these players or coaches and they'll attest that the support from their hometown — and beyond — played a pivotal role in helping this team reach the Class A Legion apex.
"At state it was the most listened to/watched state game tournament ever for Montana, at least for A baseball," Starr said. "Like some 2,000-odd people were listening in."
The Miners' first-year coach Jim LeProwse also tipped his cap to the droves of fans this team drew in as the postseason stakes continued to rise.
"I wanted to give a huge shout out to Butte, Montana and all of the fans," LeProwse said. "I was getting text messages from all of Montana and even the whole region. I was getting text messages and phone calls from people I hadn't talked to in years."
Said Starr: "It was huge, I mean Butte always comes out. For any sport as soon as they recognize that, the team is there for us. Everybody backs us. It's huge."