NEW PALESTINE — It looked like a Michaela Ballman home run was going to set the stage for the Greenfield-Central vs. New Palestine Hoosier Heritage Conference matchup Thursday.
Ballman’s homer gave the Cougars the edge in just the second at-bat of the game — or so it seemed. But the Dragons had no intentions of hiding in their lair, winning 11-1 in five innings.
The Dragons came out roaring with five hits in the first seven at-bats and 10 hits in the first 14 at-bats. These included a home run, a triple and four doubles.
“I thought the girls came out really fired up,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “They understood what was at stake with both of us undefeated in the conference.”
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New Palestine was 5-0 in the conference and Greenfield-Central stood at 4-0. New Palestine notched the Hancock County championship on their belts while also getting one game closer to the conference championship.
They face Delta next Friday at Delta in their past conference game.
“One of our goals is to win conference, so we knew if we didn’t get the job done tonight, it would be close to impossible to win it,” Marcum said.
They certainly got the job done at the plate. The hits kept coming. Tatum Biddle’s bullet in the bottom of the fifth inning went right between a Cougar’s legs and sealed the win in walk-off fashion.
The first strike of the game for New Pal was Abigail Davis’ lead-off plate appearance. Her double to left-center was followed by an Emily O’Connor triple to right field. Elisha Barker followed in like kind smashing a home run to put the Dragons up 3-1.
“I thought we all came out hitting the ball really well that first inning after we gave up that home run,” Marcum said.
With 10 hits in two innings, New Palestine boasted depth in the lineup — something Greenfield-Central head coach admitted.
“You’ve got to have a good mental approach and that’s what makes New Pal so good, they don’t swing at bad pitches,” Jason Stewart said. “There’s no weak spots in his lineup.”
Greenfield-Central had their chances. They responded to New Pal’s big first inning with two hits and a sacrifice bunt to set up runners on second and third, down by two. This is when Barker showed her strength on the mound as well. She struck out two in a row to strand those two hits in the field and steal back the Cougars’ momentary momentum.
“You just can’t dig that hole and when you get opportunities you got to get them in,” Stewart said. “We left a lot of people on base today.”
After the second, five more were left on base, two on third in the fourth and fifth innings. On the Dragons’ side, they kept the flames going, getting five hits in a row and scoring five more in the second inning.
“We’re fortunate, we hit all the way through the order so we can have some big innings like that,” Marcum said.
Davis, O’Connor and Barker all ended going 3-for-4 at the plate. Mary Crumlin added two hits of her own and Michaela Jones scored the game-winning run in the fifth after knocking a double.
Barker finished with the win on the mound, totaling seven strikeouts, five hits and two walks.
“She’s not really a strikeout pitcher but the key thing she has done for us this year – we’ve allowed baserunners — but she’s made the pitches when we’ve had to have them to induce a ground ball or strikeout,” Marcum said.
This is the 10th game that New Palestine has scored in double digits and their 11th win in a row. In addition, they broke Class 4A No. 12 Greenfield-Central’s 15-game winning streak.
“If you would have told me when we lost on April 1 that we wouldn’t lose for a month and a half, I would have taken that,” Stewart said. “And with this sport, you have off days all the time. We’ve played really well but it happens. Sometimes you run into a bus and that’s what we ran into tonight.”
There is a reason New Pal is No. 1 in Class 3A.
New Palestine 11, Greenfield-Central 1
GC (16-2, 4-1);100;00;—;1;5;5
NP (19-2, 6-0);350;21;—;11;15;0
WP: Elisha Barker (NP). LP: Makayla Durick (GC)
HR: Michaela Ballman (GC), Barker (NP).
3B: Emily O’Connor (NP)
2B: Sarah Morris (GC), Abigail Davis 2 (NP), Ashley Prange (NP), O’Connor (NP), Barker (NP), Michaela Jones (NP),
Notables: Barker 5.0 IP, 7 K, 2 BB, Davis 3-4, O’Connor 3-4, Barker 3-4, Crumlin 2-3, Prange 2-4 (NP); Morris 2-2, Ballman 1-1, 2 BB (GC)