NEW CASTLE — Michaela Jones’ first varsity softball game was one to remember. Her second wasn’t bad, either.
After hitting a home run in her first career at-bat at the high school level — junior varsity or varsity — in New Palestine’s season-opening win against Southport earlier this week, the freshman continued her impressive play in a 19-3 Hoosier Heritage Conference win against New Castle on Friday.
Jones, whose older sister, junior Mackenzie Jones, also starts for the Class 3A No. 4 Dragons, knocked her second career home run against the Trojans and finished 2-for-4 with five RBIs. She added a double in the third inning to help New Palestine build a 6-0 lead.
After fellow underclassmen, sophomore Emily O’Connor, blasted a home run in the fourth inning, Jones followed with a three-run shot of her own in the sixth. The ball tapped the top of the fence before falling to the other side, giving the Dragons a commanding lead.
New Palestine (2-0, 1-0 HHC) scored nine runs between the third and fourth innings before bringing home eight in the sixth.
“(Michaela) is an athlete. She is really not a home-run hitter, so to speak,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “I was trying to think back. I don’t think I’ve ever had someone hit a home run in their first at-bat.”
The Dragons, who finished 6-1 in conference play last season, finished with 18 hits between nine players Friday. O’Connor, in her second season starting for the varsity team, finished 3-for-4 at the plate and was a triple shy from hitting for the cycle. Also for New Palestine, senior second baseman Abby Davis was 3 of 6 with two doubles and junior shortstop Ashley Prange was 2-for-5 with a triple.
Eight hits and eight RBIs came between Davis, Prange and O’Connor, who hit 1-2-3 in the team’s batting order.
“We really try to work on hitting our pitch and making the pitchers work,” Marcum said. “The girls were pretty patient. We really haven’t seen a ton of live pitching, but we have gotten repetitions in.”
Dragons senior pitcher Elisha Barker improved to 2-0 on the mound with the win against the Trojans. She threw three innings while striking out four and allowing one earned run — a home run to Cameron Tabor in the third inning. Ma. Jones threw the fourth and fifth innings for New Palestine, while junior Cameron Green tossed a scoreless sixth.
“(Barker) is struggling a little with a tight quad right now,” Marcum said. “But she will be fine once it gets a little warmer out.
“I thought all our pitchers battled. They pitched well, and I thought defensively we played well.”
Mackenzie Jones, senior Mary Crumlin and sophomore Tatum Biddle were all 2 of 3 at the plate to help pace New Palestine. Junior Reiley Widmann and senior Kaylee Kropp also registered a hit Friday.
The Dragons look to move to 3-0 on Monday with a home contest against Roncalli.