JASPER – The New Palestine Dragons are going back to state.
After an eight-year hiatus, the top-ranked Class 3A Dragons broke through with a dominating performance on Saturday, scoring a combined 26 runs in two games to seize the Jasper Semistate Tournament championship.
New Palestine run-ruled Edgewood 16-0 in five innings during the semifinals to reach the semistate title game and never let up in the finale.
Led by Elisha Barker, who blasted a pair of home runs, including a grand slam over the center-field fence in the top of the seventh, the Dragons defeated Evansville Memorial 10-1 to secure their spot in next weekend’s Indiana High School Athletic Association’s State Finals at Ben Davis High School.
New Palestine will make its first state finals appearance since winning it all in 2009. The Dragons (30-2) will face Kankakee Valley (22-8), last year’s state runner-up, in the 3A state championship game this coming Saturday at 4:30 p.m.
“I was really proud of how they came out,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “We talked about this, it was a business trip, and they came out early on and did a great job.”
Business was good for the Dragons, who won their 21st and 22nd straight games with 32 hits and five home runs overall to increase their single-season state-record total to 56.
Mary Crumlin provided the power against Edgewood as she launched a three-run home run to highlight the team’s six-run bottom of the first.
In the finals, Barker crushed a two-run home run in the top of the fourth and finished with six RBIs. Michaela Jones belted a solo homer to give the Dragons a 1-0 lead in the second.
Ashley Prange hit her state-leading 20th home run to drive in a pair of runs in the top of the fifth as New Palestine went up 5-1.
Barker won both games to improve to 21-2 on the season and 4-0 in the postseason. The Dragons’ ace threw a two-hitter through 4.0 innings in the semifinals and scattered four hits over 7.0 innings in the title game.
The offense posted 11 extra-base hits overall and won its 14th game this year by nine or more runs.
“We didn’t really have any nerves coming into it. We knew we would score runs. That’s what we’ve done, and I knew I had a great defense behind me,” Barker said. “This year has been special. The team is like a second family. It’s made it an enjoyable ride.”
Read more about the Dragons’ semistate championship run in Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Reporter.