NEW PALESTINE — Mary Crumlin dug her feet into the ground and looked up at the opposing pitcher. Just seconds later, the softball was over the left-center field fence. It never had a chance.
When the bottom half of New Palestine’s batting order produces, the top-ranked Class 3A Dragons are very difficult to beat. Crumlin, a senior, and freshman Michaela Jones proved it on Wednesday in a county and Hoosier Heritage Conference tilt with rival Mt. Vernon.
Crumlin finished 2-for-2 with three RBIs in the win, one day after her birthday, while Jones went 2-for-3 with a double and a single. Their play, mixed with another standout performance from junior shortstop Ashley Prange, helped the Dragons (9-2, 3-0 HHC) earn an 11-1, five-inning win over the Marauders.
“I thought the (middle of lineup) was key,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “We got it started there. That is the key, our 4-5-6-7 batters getting going in the order, and I thought they did a great job tonight.”
Having Prange doesn’t hurt, either. She hit her sixth and seventh home runs this season, both of which cleared the New Palestine scoreboard. She finished with six RBIs. Her second home run in the bottom of the fifth inning plated three runs and ended the game.
“When the ball leaves Prange’s bat, you know (it’s gone),” Marcum said.
Senior Abby Davis was productive at the top of the Dragons’ order, as well, going 3-for-4 with three singles.
Mariah Smotherman led Mt. Vernon (3-6, 0-3 HHC) with two hits — both singles. The Marauders finished with five hits in the game and used an RBI double from junior Morgan Scruggs in the fifth inning to score their lone run.
Elisha Barker (7-2) earned the win on the mound for New Palestine, finishing with two strikeouts and one walk. Junior Kaitlyn Nugent (3-4) took the loss for Mt. Vernon.
“I thought we played a solid game, and we didn’t hurt ourselves,” Marauders head coach Veronica Kirby said. “I thought (Kaitlyn) pitched well. She is growing and this is one of the best games I’ve seen her pitch this year. She had great snap and did a lot of things well.
“I really felt like our girls were not intimidated and really fought. Some balls just didn’t go our way today. I am honestly really proud of them.”
New Palestine sophomore Emma Tucher opened the game with a diving catch down the right field line before a 30-minute weather delay was issued with two outs in the top of the first inning.
Michaela Jones notched the first big hit for the home team, bouncing a double off the right field wall. She later stole second and scored on a Crumlin RBI single between the third baseman and shortstop.
After Davis walked to load the bases, Prange, an Ohio State commit, brought home two more New Palestine runs with an RBI single up the middle, which was bobbled by the center fielder after rolling into her glove. The Dragons led 3-0 after two innings, notching six hits.
Smotherman registered the first hit for Mt. Vernon in the third inning, lining a single over third base. After a walk from freshman Sydnee Perry, back-to-back fielder’s choices ended the threat with two runners left on base.
“Smotherman is definitely getting her time and experience,” Kirby said. “She is getting more confident within herself and is doing a fine job.”
Crumlin would give the Dragons a 5-0 lead one inning later with a home run to left-center field, which left the park in a hurry. Michaela Jones singled before Crumlin for her second hit of the game.
Prange would follow Crumlin’s act with a two-run home run of her own in the bottom of the fourth inning, giving New Palestine a 7-0 advantage.
“Last year, (Prange) struggled with some off-speed pitches,” Marcum said. “This year, she has really worked hard and is off to a phenomenal start.”
The Marauders also received singles from senior third baseman Makenzie Gee and junior second baseman Jadan Fithian, while the Dragons had singles from Barker, sophomore Emily O’Connor and sophomore Tete Hart.
New Palestine hosts Class 2A No. 7 Eastern Hancock today, while Mt. Vernon will play again on Monday at Delta.
New Palestine 11, Mt. Vernon 1
NPHS (9-2, 3-0 HHC);032;24x;x;—;11;13;2
MVHS (3-6, 0-3 HHC);000;01x;x;—;1;5;2
WP: Elisha Barker (7-2). LP: Kaitlyn Nugent (3-4).
RBI: Crumlin 3, Prange 6, Davis (NP). Scruggs (MV). 2B: Mi. Jones (NP). Scruggs (MV). HR: Crumlin, Prange 2 (NP). SB: Mich. Jones (NP).
NP: Prange two HR, six RBIs; Crumlin HR, three RBIs; Mich. Jones 2-2, double; Davis 3-4, RBI.
MV: Scruggs RBI double; Smotherman 2-2, two singles; Gee single; Fithian single.