Villa Grove gets redemption in sectional title win

May 25—LEROY — Villa Grove coach Jeana Block schedules with a purpose every spring. That includes regularly challenging her team in the first month-plus of the season by securing matchups with high-level opponents.

This season was no different. The Blue Devils played strong area teams like Unity, Salt Fork, Westville and St. Joseph-Ogden early in the season. A tournament featuring Bradley-Bourbonnais, Centennial, Champaign Central and Danville pitted Villa Grove against Class 3A and 4A competition.

Then there's the annual trip south. Kentucky this time for three games in early April. Three losses that had the Blue Devils 8-11-1 on the season.

A month-and-a-half later Villa Grove is rolling. And Saturday's 3-2 win against LeRoy to claim a Class 1A sectional title marked the Blue Devils' 15th victory in their last 17 games.

"We always, by design, start out with a really tough schedule," Block said. "A lot of times we start off slow, but that's OK because we're figuring out where our weak spots are. We take an annual trip to Tennessee or Kentucky and always come back much stronger. Since we've been back, we've continued to excel. We've felt it for a little bit now that we're playing to our potential."

That potential let Villa Grove (24-13-1) get a measure of redemption Saturday morning. LeRoy ended the Blue Devils' seasons a year ago with a walk-off win in the sectional semifinal round. Payback was a top of conversation knowing a rematch was coming.

"They were pretty excited," Block said about her team after the win. "There were a few happy tears shed. I have six seniors on the team, and they were certainly not ready for their season to be over."

Villa Grove struck first with a run scored in the bottom of the second inning. LeRoy (31-8) answered with two runs in the top of the fourth with Lauren Bossingham and Molly Buckles driving in the runs. The Blue Devils got both back in the bottom half of the inning, which included a key hit from Ella Schweighart, who finished 1 of 2 with two RBI. Hayden Thomas also had two hits for Villa Grove.

It was enough run support for Alex Brown. The Blue Devils' starter gave up two runs on five hits and one walk and struck out six. Solid defense behind her was also a factor.

Saturday's win puts Villa Grove one win away from a state tournament appearance. The Blue Devils are scheduled to play Serena in an 11 a.m. Monday super-sectional game on the Illinois Wesleyan Campus in Bloomington.

"I think we're peaking at the right time," Block said. "Alex is throwing well. Our defense is pretty solid. We've moved some people around this year but found homes for everyone where we're the most competitive. Our bats are hot. We'll just have to see what Serena has to offer."