Daily Reporter Correspondent
NEW PALESTINE — The third-ranked New Palestine Dragons kept their perfect season alive, but their 11th-straight victory did not come without a few close calls.
Pushed to the brink by Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Mt. Vernon on “Throwback Thursday,” the host Class 4A Dragons squeaked out a 4-3 win on a runner interference call with the Marauders threatening in the top of the seventh.
“We knew it would be a tough game. Throw records and everything else out. It’s Mt. Vernon-New Pal. It’s going to be a great game,” New Palestine coach Ed Marcum said.
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Mt. Vernon trailed 4-1 late after taking a one-run lead in the top half of the first inning. A solo home run in the sixth by junior Morgan Moss — her second of the year — cut New Palestine’s lead to 4-2.
The comeback attempt continued in the seventh as the Marauders chased New Palestine’s right-handed ace Kaylin McMurray (8-0) behind a one-out double to right field from junior Jennah Ruddick. A seeing-eye single up the middle from pinch-hitter Mackenzie McCann forced New Palestine to make a pitching change.
“We did a lot of things well. Granted, that one play (to end it) doesn’t say much about how we played,” Mt. Vernon coach Veronica Kirby said. “We have a solid offense, and we keep getting better and better. … We knew we had to come in here and play our game, at our pace and execute. We did.”
An RBI-single from junior Sadie Baugh off Elisha Barker, who came on in relief, pulled the Marauders (5-4, 0-2 HHC) within one run as two runners stood on base with only one out.
In the next at-bat, Barker induced a pop-up to center for the second out and earned the save on Kristin Conners’ hard grounder to second base, which resulted in the unorthodox game-ending call.
Attempting to advance to second base on Conners’ hit, Baugh collided with New Palestine’s Ashley Prange along the base path, forcing the final out.
“It’s fun to win 16-2, but these are the games that make you better,” Marcum said. “Plays we had to make at the end of the game were big, and I thought Elisha came in and did a really good job. It was a tough situation, and she did nicely for us.”
The Dragons’ (11-0, 3-0 HHC) day opened in equally uncharacteristic style as former state champions of the past were honored during the game.
McMurray, who came into the game with a flawless 7-0 record and 0.60 ERA, gave up back-to-back hits to start the top half of the first.
A walk issued to Moss loaded the bases, and an RBI-groundout from Kylie Lyons put the Marauders up 1-0 with two outs.
McMurray ended the rally with a heads-up catch on a comeback liner to the pitcher’s circle off the bat of Tracy Gordon.
“We were very fortunate she made that catch on the line-drive. Who knows what might have happened if she didn’t,” Marcum said. “It would have been a different game.”
The hurler settled in after a shaky first inning, retiring 12 of the next 15 batters before Moss’s big home run over the center field wall in the sixth. It was the first extra base hit the starter had allowed all year through 40 innings pitched.
McMurray tossed 6.1 innings, walking one, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. She struck out three for the win.
As they’ve done all season, the Dragons’ offense powered to a 4-1 lead by the end of the fourth inning via the home run. This year, seven of the team’s nine starters have at least one home run. The team carries a collective .416 batting average.
Entering the game with 15 home runs, 111 runs scored and 102 RBIs as a team, New Palestine charged to a 2-1 lead after two innings with home runs from Issy Hoyt in the first and Madison Whitaker in the second.
Hoyt, a Purdue recruit, upped her RBI count to 15 on the year with her fourth home run this spring.
“Every at bat was important. We really had some clutch hits,” Hoyt said. “We didn’t have our best hitting day, but we hit well when we needed to.”
Whitaker led the Dragons with two RBIs, driving in another run in the bottom of the fourth as New Palestine plated two to go up 4-1.
Consecutive singles by Casey Lehman and Mary Crumlin kicked off New Palestine’s fourth-inning rally as Whitaker and Prange drove in both runners with fielder’s choices.
Prange went 2-for-3, and Brittany Duncan had two singles.
Ruddick, who went 2-for-3 with a double, and Baugh each supplied two hits for the Marauders.