---- — ALTAMONT — Altamont Post 512 has played five must-win games this postseason in its run from Effingham to Centralia to West Frankfort.They've won all five, even requiring two last-ditch comeback efforts in West Frankfort to continue its run to the state finals.Post 512, who was the fourth seed in its six-team district in Effingham, is now one of the last eight teams standing in Illinois Junior Legion baseball. They open the state tournament Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in Paris, taking on the hosting Paris Post 211 junior team.The rough road has made coach Jeff Fritchtnicht's squad stronger. "When you go through any difficult time with a group of people, it pulls you together," he said. "When you have tough baseball games, and you have to count on each other to pull together, they all start believing in each other."Belief in one's self and one's teammates has been the mantra for Post 512 all along, and the belief has bloomed and taken on a life of its own. Now, Post 512 is making its first appearance in the state tournament since the team's inception four years ago."We couldn't even win a game in districts our first year," Fritchtnitch said. "We're proud to be there, but we're staying focused. We set a goal to be competitive all the way through."Altamont's strength has undoubtedly been its pitching, as its rotation of Ryan Armstrong, Nick Miller, Caden Miller and Klaiton Wolff have carried them through multiple trips to the losers' bracket. The bats have done their fair share when called upon in close games, but it's been the pitching and defense that has kept them in games. In divisional play in West Frankfort, Altamont scored just 10 runs in four games, but allowed only seven runs. The team didn't have to pitch its fifth arm, Cole Borders, as Armstrong, Wolff and the Millers tossed complete games in four straight games in West Frankfort."Our pitching is definitely a strength. Even when they throw bad pitches, our defense has made good plays and bailed them out," Fritchtnitch said. "We have five guys we can put on the mound and feel confident. Whoever's pitching, we're going to play great defense behind them."They'll hope to keep that up against a relatively unknown Paris team, whom Altamont did not face during the regular season. Fritchtnitch has done his homework, but ultimately knows what to expect out of Paris and the other six teams Altamont could potentially face. "Doing the little bit of research I've been able to do, they're a good-hitting baseball team," he said. "That should be expected this time of year. You don't blow anybody out. You can expect to be in a 1-0 game, a 2-1 game, a 3-2 game."The rest of the field is made up of Moultrie-Douglas, Jerseyville Post 492, Moline Post 246, Orient Post 1961, Belleville Post 58 and Macon County Post 105.A win will move Altamont on to the second round at 5:30 p.m. Sunday, and a loss will send them to the losers' bracket at 10 a.m. Sunday. A loss in the first round would require six straight wins to take home the state crown. It's been the team-based attitude that's pushed Post 512 this far, and Fritchtnitch said his squad is something to be proud of. "A lot of communities wish they had a team," he said. "A lot of communities have baseball players that play together, but don't have a team."Altamont's push for a state tile begins at 3:30 p.m. Saturday at Laker Stadium, 137 W. Steidl Road, in Paris.