FORTVILLE — The New Palestine softball team has put together a nine-game win streak against some of the state’s best programs.
Mt. Vernon, at 1-7 and the Dragons’ foe Thursday, is not among Indiana’s elite. But the Marauders gave their Class 4A No. 5-ranked Hancock County rivals a stiff test.
The Dragons took a 2-1 lead into the sixth inning before adding a pair of insurance runs to cap a Hoosier Heritage Conference 4-1 victory.
“I knew it would be a tough one,” New Palestine coach Ed Marcum said. “Doesn’t matter what the records are, Mt. Vernon always plays us tough. Mike (McGill) does a great job with them. And they battled. I thought their pitcher did a nice job of moving it around.”
Markie Wood doubled and Brittany Duncan singled to open the game for the Dragons (10-1, 2-0 HHC), and each came around to score. Issy Hoyt plated Wood with a base knock and Duncan scored on a Mt. Vernon infield error off the bat of Adie Lorsung to make it a 2-0 game.
With runners on the corners and one out, MV centerfielder Emily White caught a fly ball and then threw out Hoyt at the plate for an inning-ending double play.
But, thanks to a flawless defense backing them up, two runs was enough for Dragons hurlers Kaylin McMurray and Elisha Barker. McMurray started and allowed five hits in 5.2 innings before giving way to Barker with two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth. Barker took the mound and induced a ground ball out to end the MV threat.
Ground balls were a theme on the night, with McMurray and Barker recording only one combined strikeout while letting the Dragons’ D do the job.
Third baseman Hoyt was perfect in seven total chances, recording seven assists at the hot corner, while the NP middle infield of Lorsung and Addi Clouse combined for six assists and one putout.
In the grass, right fielder Abby O’Connor ran down three tricky fly balls under blustery conditions.
“It was awesome,” Marcum said of his squad’s defense. “I thought Kaylin did a real nice job of hitting her spots, and then that’s what we’ve got to do. We’re not going to strike a bunch of people out. We’re going to have to play good defense. And I thought this was the best defensive game we’ve played so far.
“Abby was just amazing in right field. We had talked with this wind, nothing in the air was easy, and she certainly took care of business out there and she made at least three spectacular plays.”
In the top of the sixth, Lorsung contributed again at the plate, driving in Duncan with a triple to make it 3-1. Casey Lehman’s sacrifice fly scored Lorsung for the final 4-1 tally.
McGill, the Marauders’ veteran coach, was impressed by the Dragons’ all-around ability. NP’s recent victims include 3A defending state champ Yorktown and ranked 4A squads Roncalli (No. 2 at the time of the NP game), Hamilton Southeastern (No. 5) and Franklin Central (No. 8).
“New Pal might be the best team in the state right now, based on who they’ve beat,” McGill said. “And I thought we played pretty good.
“I don’t care about wins early in the season. Never have. If we get ’em, great. But my main focus is on improving. And we are getting better.”
MV (0-1 HHC) scored its lone run in the fifth with an RBI double by Mikala Poe, who finished 2-for-3. Poe drove in pinch-runner Mackenzie Loehr, who took first after Karly Van Slyke singled.
On the mound, Marauders senior Ambry Turpen succeeded in keeping the Dragons’ offense to four or fewer runs for only the third occasion this season. Turpen allowed three earned runs on seven hits with one walk and three strikeouts.
“Ambry has struggled a little to start the season, but to her credit she has continued to work very hard,” McGill said. “And she gave us seven very good innings tonight. I think she’s turned the corner.”
The Dragons will attempt to keep its winning streak alive tonight against 2A Eastern Hancock. Next week’s docket includes HHC foes 4A No. 8 Pendleton Heights (8-3, 0-1 HHC) and Shelbyville (6-3, 3-0 HHC), as well as Center Grove (5-5).
The Golden Bears handed Pendleton Heights its lone HHC loss, 5-2, while Center Grove is a possible 4A Sectional 13 foe for the Dragons.
Whiteland, another Sectional 13 member, gave New Palestine its only loss, 7-5, in the second game of the season.
“Huge week,” Marcum said of the Dragons’ impending challenges. “Three good teams. Center Grove, you look at their record and they’re down, but they’ll come ready to play.”
As has worked for the Dragons so far, they’ll rely on defense, the pitching of McMurray (3-1, 1.99 ERA) and Barker (6-0, 1.38) and timely hitting.
Duncan raised her average to .410 with a 3-for-4 effort Thursday. Lorsung has a team-best .579 average and 22 RBI, with Mary Crumlin (.400), Lehman (.344), Barker (.333) and O’Connor (.306) among several offensive contributors.
“Our schedule was so loaded that I wouldn’t have really anticipated 10-1, but I wouldn’t say it surprises me because of the character and the talent that we have,” Marcum said.
New Palestine 4, Mt. Vernon 1
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (10-1, 2-0 HHC) 200 002 0 — 4 8 0
MV (1-7, 0-1 HHC) 000 010 0 — 1 5 1
WP: McMurray (4-1). LP: Turpen. SV: Barker (2).
NP: Wood 2-4, 2B; Duncan 3-4, 2B, 2 R; Lorsung 3B, 3 RBI; McMurray 5.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER; Barker 1.1 IP, 0 H.
MV: Poe 2-3, RBI, 2B; VanSlyke 1-3, 1 R.