NEW PALESTINE — Elisha Barker doesn’t let pressure bother her, and she isn’t concerned about striking out every batter. With a talented defense backing her up at New Palestine, the senior remains calm in the pitcher’s circle.
Clinging to a 4-1 lead heading into the seventh inning on Tuesday against Class 3A No. 10 Yorktown, Barker and the No. 1-ranked Dragons would allow two runs to score in the top half of the inning, cutting their lead to one with two outs on the scoreboard.
After allowing just one hit through three innings against the Tigers, Barker took a deep breath and struck out the final Yorktown batter to give her team a 4-3 Hoosier Heritage Conference win.
The Tigers started the seventh inning off with two singles and later loaded the bases after Barker issued a walk to senior Isabel Moore. Consecutive Yorktown RBIs on ground outs would cut the Dragons lead to one before Barker would work her way into a full count.
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The senior, who is now 6-1 this season, delivered with a strike on the outside corner to get the batter looking, helping New Palestine improve to 8-1 overall and 2-0 in the HHC.
“I think I have one of the best defenses out there,” Barker said after the victory. “I have so much confidence in them, and I think they have confidence in me. We feed of each other. We know the other one is going to be there to pick them up. I can always rely on them.”
Barker helped her own cause in the bottom of the first inning with an RBI double to left field. Dragons’ junior shortstop Ashley Prange, who singled earlier in the inning, would score to help New Palestine take a 2-0 advantage heading into the second frame. Sophomore Emily O’Connor, who blasted a home run in the fifth inning, would also score in the first.
With sharp play from its defense, including a diving catch in right field from sophomore Emma Tucher in the fourth inning, which saved at least a run, New Palestine allowed just one Tiger to score through six innings.
Barker finished with three strikeouts in the win but none were more important than the final out.
“My movement (off speed) pitches were working tonight,” Barker said. “We started to change speeds and location more; not just left and right, but up and down. I also live off the corners.”
The Tiger’s ace wasn’t bad Tuesday, either.
New Palestine’s offense totaled six hits but struck out just once against Yorktown starting pitcher Brienna Bilbrey, who was named HHC pitcher of the week last week after finishing with 16 strikeouts in three wins.
Dragons’ head coach Ed Marcum said his team was more aggressive at the plate against Yorktown after ending last week in a funk. He also added that Barker made veteran plays when it mattered most.
“Tonight I thought we came out hitting the ball,” Marcum said. “(Yorktown) made a lot of great defensive plays. It kept them in the game.
“Overall, Elisha pitched pretty well. The key was she made quality pitches when she had to. Three straight innings they had runners in scoring position.”
Senior Mary Crumlin and sophomore Tatum Biddle also finished with a single for New Palestine, while sophomore Caitlyn Grim led Yorktown with two hits, including an RBI double in the fourth inning.
The Dragons play again today at Zionsville before two county games on Thursday and Friday against Mt. Vernon and Eastern Hancock.
New Palestine 4, Yorktown 3
NPHS (8-1, 2-0 HHC);200;011;x;-;4;6;2
YTHS (6-2, 2-1 HHC);000;100;2;-;3;7;3
WP: Barker (6-1). LP: Bilbrey (YT).
RBI: Barker, O’Connor, Biddle (NP). Grim, Bilbrey, Cox (YT). 2B: Barker, Mich. Jones (NP). Moore, Grim (YT). HR: O’Connor (NP).
NP: Mi. Jones double, O’Connor home run and two runs, Crumlin single, Prange single and run, Barker RBI double.