NEW PALESTINE – The top-ranked New Palestine Dragons took Kankakee Valley’s best shot on Saturday afternoon, and then they delivered the knockout.
Tied 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning after leading 2-0 through two frames early, the Dragons’ erupted with a decisive eight-run rally during the IHSAA Class 3A state championship en route to the program’s fourth title all time.
New Palestine defeated Kankakee Valley 13-6 behind a record-setting offense, which flexed its muscle in the spotlight at Ben Davis High School.
The Dragons set three 3A state finals team records and tied another to win their first state championship since 2009. Their triumph capped a 23-game winning streak and cemented the team’s place in history as the Dragons broke two more state records.
“This is a great group. They’re a lot of fun and a real pleasure to be around,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “I thought we came out hitting the ball early, but I knew Kankakee’s pitcher was very good. Fortunately, we scored enough runs.”
The Dragons had 17 hits, which was a 3A title game record and tied another mark with seven hits during their tide-turning fourth inning.
New Palestine’s 13 runs set a new standard in the 3A title game, along with its 10 RBIs, which surpassed the Dragons former championship record at nine in 2009.
Ashley Prange added to her own state-record season by belting her 21st home run, driving in three of New Palestine’s eight runs in the fourth.
The bomb, which soared over the center-field fence, pushed her RBI total to 67 on the year, which eclipsed New Palestine assistant coach Michelle (Marcum) Hokl’s former state record of 65 RBI.
“We had that huge inning, and the atmosphere was great,” Prange said. “No one ever gets down. I’m so proud of my team. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
The Dragons led 2-0 after breaking through in the top of the second. A two-run single by Abby Davis put the prolific offense in motion and helped New Palestine tie the state record for most hits in a single season (453).
An Emily O’Connor single in the third inning put the Dragons over the top in that category before the lineup tacked on 11 more the rest of the way.
Kankakee Valley tied the game 2-all in the bottom of the third behind a two-run double by Emma Maple, but the Dragons responded.
New Palestine scored another run in the fifth and added two more in the top of the seventh to hand Maple her sixth loss in 23 starts this season.
Elisha Barker earned her 22nd win of the year, pitching a complete game with four strikeouts. She was named the IHSAA’s Mental Attitude Award winner for 3A.
“I’m happy I could experience this with this team. We’re so close. We’re like a family,” Barker said. “This is an amazing experience. It’s unbelievable.”
Prange finished 3-for-4 with three RBI as nine Dragons recorded at least one hit. Kanakee Valley and New Palestine combined to set 3A state title game records in most combined hits (29) and most combined runs (19).
Mary Crumlin, who went 3-for-4 with an RBI, tied the 3A championship record with two doubles.
Prange’s home run marked the 28th time the Dragons (31-2) have had at least one ball leave the park during a game this season. Their 13 runs pushed their state-record total in a single season to 383.
The championship is the first in eight years for the team and fourth for coach Marcum, who led the Dragons to titles in 2004 and their second in 2008.
“There’s nothing like it. I don’t even have words,” Prange remarked afterward. “I’m amazed.”
For more on the New Palestine Dragons’ championship finale, read Tuesday’s edition of the Daily Reporter.