If sports bookies wandered into southern Hancock County and were asked to handicap New Palestine’s chances at winning 20 games for the 11th season straight season, claiming a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference title for the 10th consecutive spring and reaching a sectional championship game for the 11th year a row — and were armed with the knowledge that NP would be without 129 RBI and all but three wins from its 2012 pitching staff — the estimations would be as dim as the chances Peyton Manning starts at quarterback for the Colts next fall.
But, area hard ball enthusiasts know it would be unwise to bet against the brand that is Dragon baseball, a program whose tradition of success was established by Al Cooper and has been carried on by second-year coach Shawn Lyons.
“I think New Palestine baseball has a culture. Coach Cooper set the foundation, and I’ve tried to carry it on,” explained Lyons, who went 25-7 and acquired a semistate berth in his initial season. “Now, you never know what you’re going to have year to year. You hope it’s kind of a pay-it-forward thinking with our past players, you hope that’s what’s going to happen.”
Hancock County Player of the Year Brian Page, along with fellow all-county and all-Hoosier Heritage Conference honorees Reid Clark and Jacob Barnes, were the main cogs to depart. Fellow seniors Ryan Evans, Stephen Ochs, Andrew Rejer and Alec Shull were key contributors.