For the Daily Reporter
GREENWOOD — In a game of improbable comebacks, Mandy Dallas delivered the most improbable one.
Center Grove coach Russ Milligan didn’t mince words on how poorly Dallas looked in going hitless in her first four at-bats Wednesday.
“All she wants to do is kill the ball and hit it hard,” Milligan said. “She finally shortened (her swing) up and punched it up the middle.”
Dallas’ two-run single gave the No. 3 Trojans a 8-7 victory against No. 10 New Palestine in nine innings in the Class 4A Sectional 13 final at Center Grove. New Palestine (24-4) had scored three in the top of the ninth inning to take a 7-4 lead. The Trojans (25-2) won their first sectional title since 2005 and advance to Tuesday’s regional.
“I had to do what was right for the team and it worked out,” said Dallas, a junior second baseman.
The ball was sharply hit right up the middle.
“It was too quick for the pitcher to react to and it went between her legs,” Dallas said. “I knew we could do it. We did it (Tuesday night). I knew we could do it again.”
The Trojans had rallied to beat Franklin Central 3-2 in the sectional semifinals.
“You never feel comfortable against Center Grove,” Dragons coach Ed Marcum said. “The thing you know about Center Grove is they are never going to quit. They’re very well-coached and have a great group of players. We knew we were going to have to have some balls go to us. The key was seventh inning.
“We get the ball that goes off my third baseman’s glove. If it’s four inches closer to her, she fields it and throws her out and the game is over right there.”
Instead, Mallory Baker followed with an RBI single to tie it a 4-all and send it into extra innings. Trailing 4-1, Center Grove had scored two in sixth.
New Palestine scored three runs in ninth with an RBI double by Duncan, a sacrifice fly by Issy Hoyt and a run-scoring single by Adie Lorsung. The Dragons had scored three runs in the top of the first with Hoyt getting a two-run double.
“They’ve got great hitters, and we didn’t make enough plays,” Marcum said.
There were no outs when the Trojans scored the winning run, but Marcum said he felt the umpire missed calling a Center Grove runner out on interference.
“They blew an interference call against (Franklin Central), or we would have been playing FC,” Marcum said. “My shortstop is coming up to field it and the girl runs right into her and knocks it away. In my opinion, he blew the call. (The umpire) thought she was going for the tag. We never go for the tag. It was tough play. I don’t know if he had the best angle on it.
“But you have to overcome those things. Twice we had three-run leads and we couldn’t shut the door.”
When all the runners were safe on that controversial play, Center Grove scored to make it 7-6 with bases loaded and no outs. Dallas then delivered the game-winner.
Milligan said the players just believe in each other.
“I’m so glad that every kid that might have done something bad got a opportunity to redeem themselves,” Milligan said.
Baker, a senior first baseman, delivered four hits, including two doubles.
“The girl is just a flat stud, she’s going to Purdue for a reason,” Milligan said. “She’s got ice water in her veins when she’s up at the plate.”
Baker said she had concerns because New Palestine is strong.
“But I was confident we could pull through, we’re a great team,” she said.