Burwell's hot hand delivers Blue Devils' first-ever sectional title

Burwell's hot hand delivers Blue Devils' first-ever sectional title

CHAMPAIGN — The scoreboard at St. Thomas More's softball field sits just past the fence in left field. A sign reading "Home of the Sabers" hangs under it.

Ownership was ceded — temporarily, at least — Saturday morning in the Class 1A sectional championship game. Villa Grove's Madison Burwell staked her claim by launching home run after home run — three of them in fact — to lead the Blue Devils to their first-ever sectional title with a 15-5 victory against Salt Fork. The win puts Villa Grove (24-12) in Monday's 11 a.m. super-sectional against Peru St. Bede (19-7) on the campus of Illinois Wesleyan.

"Mady can get hot," Villa Grove coach Jeana Block said. "She's a kid that can come up in big games. She just swung for the fences, and it worked three times."

Burwell entered Saturday's game with five home runs for the season, tying her for 20th among the area's power hitters. Her 3 for 3 day off Salt Fork pitcher Jordan Jones vaulted her into a tie for ninth with Mahomet-Seymour's Aubrie Shore.

"She pitched me the same pitch every time on the home runs," Burwell said. "It was low outside. That's my money ball."

Burwell got Villa Grove going with a two-run home run in the top of the first inning. Block said her team was a little disappointed it lost the coin flip and was the visitor for the game, but she provided a different perspective.

"I said, 'I like it because if we score first we're going to set a precedence and go. Score in the first inning, and I think we can win,' " Block said. "They took my advice, we scored in the first inning and never looked back."

Burwell added a three-run home run in the third inning and another three-run shot in the fourth. It wasn't totally unexpected. Her home runs this season have come in bunches, with two against Urbana and two against Cumberland earlier this spring.

Burwell's timely hitting also wasn't isolated. Maris Eversole and Kyleigh Block, who was on base for all three of Burwell's home runs as part of a three-hit day, each had a two-run double in the seventh inning, as Villa Grove continued to take advantage of runners in scoring position. Salt Fork (23-7) couldn't match it.

"(Burwell) had Jordan's number," Storm coach Elizabeth Craft said. "She tagged the ball, and props to her for that. When they had runners in scoring position, they put the bat on the ball. Three swings that had the majority of their runs. We had runners in scoring position but never got that one big hit. Our big hits were when nobody was on base or just one runner on."

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