Daily Reporter Correspondent
NEW PALESTINE — Four days and four wins. That was the challenge New Palestine softball coach Ed Marcum put to his girls at the beginning of the week.
With Friday night’s 14-0 home victory against Hancock County rival Eastern Hancock (6-3), the Class 4A No. 3 Dragons aced their coach’s challenge and earned some much-deserved time off.
“I made them a deal at the beginning of the week that if we went 4-0, we wouldn’t practice in the morning,” he explained. “They’re pretty excited about that.”
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Athletic plays on defense and strong hitting helped set the tone early for New Palestine (12-0). Right-fielder Abby O’Connor made a diving grab to secure the first out of the game.
After that, two quick in-field grounders by the Royals ended the top half of the first and brought the Dragons’ high-octane offense to the plate.
Center-fielder Brittany Duncan tallied the first run of the game for the Dragons, crushing the ball over the center-field wall on the third pitch of her at-bat.
The home run by Duncan nearly ignited the rest of the offense.
After an infield popout, the next three Dragon batters each slapped singles to load the bases.
However, they were unable to capitalize on the prime scoring situation, as Royals’ pitcher Peyton Neisler maintained her composure and escaped the first-inning jam.
But the Royals only could hold off the Dragons’ high-powered bats for so long.
Issy Hoyt launched a two-run home run over the center-field fence to highlight the Dragons’ five-run second inning.
An inning later, she crushed another pitch, this time over the left-centerfield wall, but it was wiped away by the umpire, who had signaled a no pitch. Not only would it have been Hoyt’s second home run of the game, it would have been her first grand slam of the year.
“I was kind of shocked,” said Marcum on the no-pitch call. “I’m glad the game wasn’t real close this time. That would have been a tough one had it happened last night against Mt. Vernon.”
Two pitches later, Hoyt took one on the arm. She finished the day 2-for-3 with a double and a home run.
“Issy had a great night,” Marcum said. “A home run turned into a hit-by-pitch, but then she came up with a great gap double the next time up.”
The Dragons did not add to their home-run total — which stands at 19 for the season — any more on Friday. Instead they bombarded the Royals with singles and doubles.
Adie Lorsung and Madison Whitaker were perfect at the plate for the Dragons. Lorsung went 4-for-4 with a double and three base hits. Whitaker was 3-for-3 with two doubles and a single.
Great hitting has been the calling card for the Dragons this season. As a team, they are batting .432 for the year, with 155 hits and 129 runs scored.
“They’ve really worked on their hitting all year,” Marcum said of his team’s success at the plate. “They were in the weight room all winter, and I think all the hard work we put in during the offseason has paid off.”
Elisha Barker (4-0) pitched four shutout innings for the Dragons to earn the win.
Both teams will be back on the diamond this Monday. The Royals will host Alexandria-Monroe Tigers (5-7), while the Dragons (12-0, 3-0 Hoosier Heritage Conference) will travel to HHC rival Pendleton Heights to take on the Arabians at 5:30 p.m.
The Arabians (7-2, 1-0 HHC) are the only other undefeated team left in the conference.