GOREVILLE — The timing for Austin Hagel's first home run couldn't have been better.
Hagel, a junior outfielder, blasted a three-run shot as part of a six-run outburst in the sixth inning to help Steeleville stun Goreville, 8-5, Saturday in the championship game of the Goreville Class 1A Sectional.
The Warriors had just tied the game after trailing by four runs before Hagel turned on an inside fastball and cleared the bases with a home run onto the playground in between Shadowens Field and the high school.
"It felt good off the bat," Hagel said. "I was rounding first and I heard the crowd and my heart just stopped. I've never hit one before so I couldn't really believe it.
"I was just trying to rip anything that was in the zone. I was just trying to do anything to get some runs in."
Goreville put two runners on base in the top of the seventh, but Jordan Wilson induced a grounder that shortstop Owen Gross bobbled but gunned to first for the final out to set off a celebration.
Steeleville (22-5) now takes on Altamont at the Carbondale Super-Sectional on Monday. Game time is set for 1 p.m. at Itchy Jones Stadium.
Goreville, which was trying for its fourth straight sectional title, finishes at 23-8.
"It was a good year," said Blackcats coach Shawn Tripp. "I just wanted these seniors to get one more sectional championship to make it four. I'm just sad to see it end for them because they worked their butts off this year."
The Blackcats had a 5-1 lead after Landon Albright's two-run homer to center field in the top of the fifth inning, which came after Logan Hankins hit a double off the top of the fence.
After a seemingly harmless run by the Warriors in the fifth that came on a dropped third strike, the comeback really ramped up when Gross hit his second homer of the game to start the sixth.
Dylan Hill followed with a homer of his own to suddenly make it a one-run game, this all coming after Goreville's Casey Lenon and Albright had both went deep.
"The wind was blowing out and the ball was carrying," said Steeleville coach Jon Sutton. "They hit a couple of home runs early and I told our kids after the second one that the ball is going to fly for us too. We just needed better at-bats and good swings at good pitches. And that's what happened."
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Wilson, who relieved Gross on the mound in the fourth inning and ended up with the victory, said the team followed their season motto when the runs started coming.
"Our motto is 'smell the blood,'" Wilson said. "We knew we were going to get some runs because we're a really good offensive team."
After Hill's home run, Wilson reached on an error and that prompted Tripp to remove starter Hankins for reliever Payton Miller, who got two outs around a single by A.J. Stearns.
But then Mel Mulholland smacked a double that drove in Wilson's courtesy runner, Jackson Hamilton, and Hagel followed with his first home run.
A round-tripper that Sutton saw coming.
"Austin hits the ball so hard all the time and I was standing down there and told myself this is the time for his first one," Sutton said. "And it couldn't have come at a better time. He crushed it."
Gross put the Warriors on the board with his first homer in the fourth and went deep again in the sixth.
Wilson pitched around a leadoff walk to Trent Glidewell and an error in the seventh to finish off the win. Gross, the starter, only gave up an RBI hit to Albright in the first inning and Lenon's two-run shot in the second. Albright, who went 3-for-4, hit his homer off Wilson in the fifth.
"Jordan did a great job," Sutton said. "Owen did not want to come out of the game and it was hard to make myself take him out. But our pitching is pretty deep and I'm not afraid to use any of them in any situation."
Now the Warriors take on Altamont, the team that Goreville defeated in last year's super-sectional, for a chance to play in the Class 1A semifinals in Peoria. No matter how that turns out, the first giant was slayed.
"We've been working for this all year," Wilson said. "We knew Goreville was one of the powerhouse teams in the state. You can see all their banners. We knew once we got to this game that it was our chance to take the crown and try to make a name for Steeleville.
"We haven't done anything like this in a long time."