INDIANAPOLIS — More times than not, when the Class 3A No. 7 New Palestine Dragons lead early, they go home happy.
On Saturday, the fifth-ranked Brebeuf Jesuit Braves (24-7) had other ideas.
Turning a 1-0 deficit into an eight-run swing, Brebeuf Jesuit charged back behind two 360-plus foot home runs from Jett McGowan to beat New Palestine 9-5 in the Sectional 26 semifinals.
The Braves beat the Dragons 3-2 on May 16 in a nine-inning affair, but with ace John Nierman rolling, Brebeuf Jesuit pulled ahead 7-1 after a five-run bottom of the third.
“I felt the winner of this game had a great shot of getting to the state championship,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “They’re very talented, but we’re just as good, talent for talent.”
Nierman (7-0), a Lipscomb recruit, settled in after a Braden Roberts’ RBI single scored Jason Hall-Manley in the top of the first. The junior left-hander gave up just two hits through the first five innings.
He one-hit 4A No. 3 Cathedral on May 17. Against New Palestine during Saturday’s semifinal, he struck out two and walked three.
“We had to stay in there. We were going to get to him. It was just a matter of when?” Lyons said. “We let it get away a little bit, which made it difficult, but we have a pretty tough hitting squad. It’s a marathon with our hitters, and we were going to figure him out. And we did.”
The Dragons finally broke Nierman, scoring four runs with two earned in the top of the sixth. New Palestine logged three hits and Hall-Manley, an Eastern Illinois commit, crossed home plate on an error to initiate the rally.
Patrick Hopkins drove in Roberts with a ground out before Colby Jenkins crushed a three-run home run 370 feet over the left-field wall to chase Nierman.
Jamie Born relieved Nierman and gave up one hit — a double to Nick Rusche in the bottom of the seventh. Roberts went 2-for-2 and the Dragons logged seven hits.
Zachary Lovell (7-2) suffered the loss and was pulled after Michael Hogan belted a three-run home run over the left-center field fence during the Braves’ big third inning.
“We didn’t have the day we had hoped he would have, but he gives it his all,” Lyons remarked on his senior ace. “We won the sectional last year, we won the regional before that, and we won our conference this year. Without Zach Lovell, we would not have done that.”
Jarrett Jaques and Keegan Watson combined to limit the Braves to three hits, but the final knock was a McGowan solo blast.
The Dragons finished the season 19-10 and Hoosier Heritage Conference champions after winning three sectional titles the past five years and two regional championships.
Brebeuf Jesuit 9, New Palestine 5
WP: John Nierman LP: Zachary Lovell
HR: Jett McGowan 2, Michael Hogan (BJ); Colby Jenkins (NP).
2B: Nick Rusche (NP).
Notables: Braden Roberts 2-2, run, RBI; Colby Jenkins 1-2, run, 3 RBI, HR; Jason Hall-Manley 1-3, 2 runs; Patrick Hopkins RBI (NP), Zachary Lovell 1-3, Nick Rusche 1-3, James Crumlin 1-1, run.