FRANKLIN — The New Palestine softball team was shut out for the first time all season Wednesday. As a result, the Dragons were denied their first Class 4A sectional title.
Coming out on top 1-0 in a pitchers’ duel, Olivia Paszek of the host Grizzly Cubs held the No. 5-ranked Dragons to five hits over seven innings. New Palestine starter Kaylin McMurray also allowed five hits, one of which came to start the bottom of the seventh inning, as Gabi Terhune reached on a infield single and was replaced by pinch-runner Krystal Scott, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, advanced to third on a groundout and scored the winning run on a wild pitch.
Franklin players mobbed Scott at home in a manner that would be expected of a program without a softball sectional title since 1999. In the 15 years since the Grizzly Cubs (17-9) last claimed a crown, New Palestine (24-4) won seven sectionals, the first of which was in 2A and the last six in 3A.
State champs for 3A in 2004, 2008 and 2009, the Dragons were hoping to take the first step toward expanding their powerhouse program into the 4A era Wednesday. They were bumped up one class due to increased enrollment in 2012; the Dragons’ last sectional title was 2011.
“If you don’t end with a win it stinks, no matter how far you go,” NP coach Ed Marcum said. “Every loss stinks. But we had an opportunity to win a 4A sectional.
“I thought we did a great job coming back (Tuesday in a 7-5 win over Center Grove) and I was hoping that momentum would carry over for today. But I was also afraid of a letdown. And we just didn’t have the same fire that we had at the end of the game last night.”