The New Palestine Dragons blazed through the Class 3A Sectional 26 tournament in decisive fashion. Now, it’s off to the Crawfordsville Regional. Here are three things to keep an eye on Saturday as the Dragons chase a potential seventh regional title.
All stats and records gathered via Maxpreps are as of Tuesday.
Perfect time for a hot streak
New Palestine (20-11) finished the regular season strong with a 6-4 win against Hoosier Heritage Conference rival Mt. Vernon to split their doubleheader finale May 22. Prior to the victory, the Dragons went 7-5 in the month of May, never winning more than three consecutive.
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Winning four straight, however, coach Shawn Lyons and his players have matched their longest winning streak of the season (April 18-24).
During their recent run, hits have been abundant. In the sectional tournament, the lineup racked up 30 hits collectively and outscored the competition 22-3. The total ramps up to 39 hits when adding in a regular-season win against the Marauders.
In the Sectional 26 title game against Brebeuf, New Palestine had seven hits, with senior Evan Hickman leading the way, finishing 2-for-3 with a double and an RBI. Junior Zach Lovell supplied two more base knocks, going 2-for-3.
The team is hitting .314 and averaging 8.5 hits per game.
Not the team you expected?
The Frankfort Hot Dogs did the Dragons a tremendous favor during the Sectional 25 championship game. The underdogs prevailed 3-0, knocking off the state’s seventh-ranked program and a conference rival. Crawfordsville finished the year 24-8 but was only 9-5 in the Sagamore Athletic Conference. Guess which team won the league?
The Hot Dogs are hitting .308 as a team and are led by Leo Lopez, who brings a .508 batting average to the fold.
Unranked Frankfort went 12-2 in the SAC and are 19-5 overall. While on paper their win against Crawfordsville was an upset, the Hot Dogs entered the state tournament on a nine-game winning streak, since losing to? Yes, Crawfordsville.
What: New Palestine vs. Frankfort (regional semifinal, 11 a.m.)/West Vigo vs. Danville (regional semifinal, 1 p.m.)
Where: Crawfordsville Regional
When: Saturday (semifinals: 11 a.m./1 p.m., championship: 8 p.m.)
Last regionals: New Palestine has won two regional titles in three years, including last year. They own six overall, winning the program’s first in 1993-94. Last year, the Dragons lost to state runner-up North Gibson at semistate, 8-5. Frankfort hasn’t won a regional championship since 1967-68.
Don’t forget about the other bracket
The Dragons aren’t looking ahead, but fans need to pay close attention to the other regional semifinal at Crawfordsville. As predicted, No. 10 West Vigo (24-4) advanced to regional with an 11-0 thrashing of Owen Valley in five innings to capture the Sectional 28 title. Danville (15-11) rallied late to beat Beech Grove 7-6 in eight innings to win Sectional 27.
If Danville wins or pushes West Vigo’s pitching staff in the semifinal, the championship finale could be a battle of attrition and bullpens. The Dragons have relied heavily on their hitting this year, but they own a 3.75 ERA and have a staff which runs 10 deep with 64 appearances combined.
New Palestine’s Hogan Fulkerson, a junior, is 7-1 this season with a 2.68 ERA in 10 appearances. Andy Edwards, a senior, is 3-2 and has a 3.18 ERA. Overall, seven Dragons pitchers have logged wins while keeping opponents to a .267 batting average against.