NEW PALESTINE — Two sounds eventually became very familiar for Dragons fans on Friday night at New Palestine. First was the high-pitched screech of the bat after another powerful Dragons’ hit. The second? The smack of the catcher’s glove after consecutive Keegan Watson strikeouts.
Class 3A No. 3 New Palestine used a five-run third inning and 11 strikeouts from its senior ace to secure a 10-0 win over visiting Yorktown Friday in the first game of a Hoosier Heritage Conference doubleheader.
The Dragons needed just five innings and eight team hits to secure the win, moving them to 7-0 and 3-0 in the HHC.
Senior third baseman Jacob Hickman led New Palestine in the first game, finishing 3-for-3 with a home run, a double and three RBIs. He was a triple shy of the cycle and sparked the biggest inning of the game for the Dragons steady offensive attack.
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“We started off towards the bottom of our order, Hickman really got us going,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “We squared up a lot of balls (tonight). Our kids have bought in. It makes it a little easier to buy in when you are having success.
“Keegan threw one situation where he threw two balls in a row, but for the most part he had command.”
Between the first and second innings, Watson, a University of Nebraska recruit, struck out five consecutive batters. His fastball, which reaches approximately 85 miles per hour, was hard enough to keep the Tigers off balance while working in his slider, curveball and changeup.
“It was like a video game, anything I pressed he threw,” Lyons added. “It was as dominant a performance we have seen here at New Palestine.”
Hickman’s home run to left-center field in the bottom of the third inning broke things open for the home team, which would finish with four hits in the frame. Senior Jacob Smith also homered in the inning and finished with three RBIs and a walk.
Of the team’s eight hits, two went over the fence and three more went for doubles. Sophomore catcher Colby Jenkins also ripped a triple in the high-scoring third inning. Juniors Kyle Gardner and Cameron Pitzer knocked doubles in the win.
“One through nine, we are trying to get to a point where they can’t pitch around anyone in our lineup,” Lyons said. “We are getting close. (Yorktown) is talented, scouts here tonight weren’t just looking at our kids.”
New Palestine added four runs in the fourth inning and one in the fifth to seal the win. Hickman hit a single in the bottom of the fifth frame to end the game.
Junior shortstop Nick Rusche also had a hit for the Dragons in the first game Friday.
New Palestine’s offense struggled to bring home runs late in the second game Friday, losing 5-4 in seven innings.
The Dragons finished with eight hits, same as the first game, but could not overcome an inspired Tiger ball club, led by senior pitcher Cole Barr, an Indiana University recruit. Barr would finish will 11 strikeouts in the win and also added a three-run home run in the sixth inning.
Barr’s longshot would tie the game at 4-all as Yorktown would score another run in the inning to take the final 5-4 advantage. A base running error in the top of the seventh inning allowed the Tigers to secure the final out and the win.
New Palestine starting pitcher Kyle Gardner, a senior, retired 12 straight batters at one point in the game but allowed four hits in the sixth inning before being replaced by junior Cameron Pitzer. Gardner would finish with eight strikeouts.
Senior Jacob Smith led the Dragons offense in Game 2, finishing 2-for-4 with two singles. Gardner helped his own cause with two RBIs, while senior Tyler Martin added a triple in the second inning as New Palestine held a 2-1 advantage.
Third-ranked New Palestine, which is now 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the HHC, looks to bounce back on Monday at home against Whiteland.
New Palestine 10, Yorktown 0
NPHS (7-0, 3-0 HHC);005;410;x-;10;8;2
YTHS (4-3, 2-3 HHC);000;00x;x-;0;2;0
WP: Keegan Watson (3-0). LP: Mariotti (YT).
RBI: Jenkins 3, Smith 3, Hickman 3 (NP). HR: Smith, Hickman (NP). 2B: Pitzer, Gardner, Hickman (NP). 3B: Jenkins (NP).
NP: Watson 11 Ks; Smith HR; Hickman 3-3, HR.
New Palestine 4, Yorktown 5
NPHS (7-1, 3-1 HHC);020;020;0;-;4;8;3
YTHS (5-3, 3-3 HHC);100;004;x-;5;8;4
WP: Swingley (YT) LP: Gardner (1-1).
RBI: Jenkins, Gardner 2 (NP); Swingley, Barr, Spears, Spangler (YT). HR: Barr (YT). 2B: Barr, Spears (YT). 3B: Martin (NP).
NP: Gardner two RBIs, eight K’s; Jenkins RBI single; Smith 2-4, two singles; Martin single and triple.