NEW PALESTINE — Playing consistently good baseball and finishing up the Hoosier Heritage Conference schedule strong was what New Palestine was after Saturday.
The Dragons got well-rounded performances and are on their way to a potential 4-0 run to end league play, as they swept Pendleton Heights 3-0 and 10-5.
Evan Vance blanked the Arabians on four hits in the opener, and NP (17-8, 5-5 HHC) rallied from a 3-0 deficit with two runs each in innings four through six and tacked on four in the final frame.
This was the first time this season the Dragons won both ends of a twin bill that counted in the conference standings. NP beat new HHC member New Castle twice April 18, but the Trojans will begin to compete for league titles in baseball next year.
“That felt pretty good,” NP coach Shawn Lyons said. “A lot of times we’d win the first game and we’d be satisfied and lose focus the second game. But (Saturday), we kept at it and played very well both games.”
Cameron Clark’s two-out, two-run double in the second was the big blow for the Dragons in the first contest. That followed a bases-loaded walk to Wes McBride that plated Keegan Watson.
Vance (4-2) also received great defensive support all game, including diving plays by second baseman Tyler Woodcock and left fielder Jason Hall-Manley, the latter in foul ground.
The Dragons went ahead 4-3 in the nightcap on Connor Swain’s run-scoring single off reliever Cody Cochran, who’d just come in.
After PH (15-9, 3-7 HHC) retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth, both McBride and Logan Gilvin scored for NP on wild pitches in the sixth.
NP insured its margin the final inning, beginning with Evan Hickman’s second home run of the season, this to right off PH’s fifth pitcher, Spencer McCool. Justin Anderson sacrificed a run home and McBride and Woodcock drew RBI walks.
Andy Edwards pitched two 2/3 innings of perfect relief to get the win. Swain added two doubles, after starting the day 0-for-4.
The Dragons wrap up HHC and regular-season play Friday at Mt. Vernon, and can finish second outright in the conference.
Shortstop Nick Butcher was out Saturday because of a death in the family. His .459 average and senior leadership were missed, but as it turned out that was barely noticeable.
Clark filled in at short and Gilvin took Clark’s normal spot at third. Gilvin had three singles on the day and scored two runs in the second game.
“We told Nick to be with his family and to forget about baseball, because life’s more important than baseball,” Lyons said. “We felt like we picked him up.”
Also, two other senior reserves pitched in to NP’s final-inning outburst in the nightcap.
Zach Biddle laid down a bunt and got aboard, and Anderson, another pinch-hitter, drove Swain home on a sacrifice fly to make it 8-5.
“Our seniors have bought into the team before me, and they’re great leaders for our baseball team,” Lyons said.
Vance was another senior who led, and his example was his right arm.
He struck out two, hit a batsman and walked the game’s first batter, Austin MacMillan, who went as far as third (the only Arabian to do so in the first game).
“That’s two back-to-back (quality) outings,” Lyons said. “He beat a very good Batesville team and (Saturday) he was able to get his secondary pitches over the plate. Once he gets his command, he can be really good.”
Edwards came into the nightcap with one out in the fifth and the bases filled, and PH up 5-4. He struck out the next two Arabians and retired the side in order from there, two by K.
Two days earlier, Edwards (3-1) earned a save against Franklin Central by also getting out of a bases-loaded jam.
“He’s had his ups and downs, but he had a lot more ups (Saturday) and the future’s bright for him,” Lyons said.
Around the bases
Hogan Fulkerson started Game 2 for NP and allowed five runs on eight hits in four innings. ... Vance was the winning pitcher when NP shut out and no-hit New Castle. He went 5 1/3 innings that night. ... PH was missing two of its top players, Thomas Hall and Hunter Cook, who were out with injuries. ... PH beat Alexandria-Monroe 11-3 Monday. ... Swain tossed a five-inning no-hitter as NP downed Brebeuf 11-0 Monday.
New Palestine 3, Pendleton Heights 0
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
PH 000 000 0 — 0 4 0
NP 030 000 X — 3 4 0
WP: Vance (4-2). LP: Miller.
PH: Miller 6 IP, 3 R, 4 H, 2 K
NP: Vance 7 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 2 K; C. Clark 2B, 2 RBI.
New Palestine 10, Pendleton Heights 5
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (16-8, 5-5 HHC) 000 222 4 — 10 11 0
PH (14-9, 3-7 HHC) 102 020 0 — 5 9 1
WP: Edwards (3-1). LP: Cochran.
NP: Swain 3-4, 2 2B, RBI; Hickman 2-2, HR, 2 R; Woodcock 2-2, 2B, 2 RBI, Edwards 2 2/3 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 K
PH: McCool 3-4, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 R.