INDIANAPOLIS — It’s a small sample size, but New Palestine has been dominant in two regular-season games and one postseason tilt against Class 3A Sectional 26 competition in 2014.
The Dragons run-ruled host Chatard 10-0 in five innings Thursday – after beating Guerin Catholic 3-0 April 16 and blanking Brebeuf Jesuit 11-0 in five innings May 19 in regular-season contests – in a Sectional 26 quarterfinal contest that further inflated the red and white’s statistics against its common sectional foes:
The arms: Zero runs and four hits allowed in 19 innings, including a no-hitter by Connor Swain against Brebeuf.
The bats: Twenty-one runs scored on 27 hits.
Back in a 3A sectional after playing in 4A for two seasons, NP (19-9) jumped all over the Trojans Thursday, sending 15 batters to the plate in a nine-run second inning. That was more than enough backing for senior right-hander Evan Vance, who yielded one hit in five innings, striking out three and setting the side down in order three times.
“It was nice to get run support,” said Vance, who improved to 5-3 and lowered his ERA to 2.81. “It’s easy when you pitch with run support behind you – especially nine runs.”
Thursday was the fifth time this season Vance went at least five innings and surrendered three or fewer runs.
“He had all three pitches working today,” NP coach Shawn Lyons said of Vance’s fastball, curveball and changeup. “He pitched to the defense. He was up in the zone Friday against Mt. Vernon. We had a good session the other day. Everything was low in the zone today and that was good.”
Freshman Keegan Watson smacked two home runs over the ‘Blue Monster’ in left field, his two dingers the lone Dragon base knocks that weren’t singles. The ninth-grader who began the year on JV raised his varsity batting average to .524 in 16 games and finished 3-for-3 Thursday, driving in four runs and scoring three times.
“He’s going to have good days and bad days, but he’s going to have a lot more good days, believe me,” Lyons said. “He’s very talented. We’re proud of him.”
The Dragons move on to play Guerin (12-14) in the first Sectional 26 semifinal Saturday at 11 a.m. Indianapolis Herron (record not available) and Brebeuf (21-6) face off in the second semifinal. The championship game is Monday at 5 p.m.
During its nine-run, nine-hit second inning, 11 of the first 12 NP batters to come to the plate reached base. A sacrifice fly by Evan Hickman brought home the first run. Nick Butcher and Cameron Clark followed with RBI singles. Swain reached on a two-base, two run error, then Steven Clark made the score 6-0 with an RBI base hit.
The visitors used the FieldTurf surface at Dave Alexander Field Thursday to its benefit both offensively and defensively.
“What we told our guys this week was that the turf was pretty fast and that the better the team, the more advantageous it is. The ground balls you hit hard at our field might get held up by grass; here it’s going to go through,” Lyons said. “You can also pick your hops. We played pretty good defense because we knew the hops. I think the field helped out, but it’s just one game.”
In the second, Watson followed Steven Clark and slugged one over the tall blue wall in left field for a three-run round-tripper. The right fielder added a solo shot in the fourth to roughly the same area beyond the fencing.
“Unbelievable,” Vance said of Watson’s day. “When he comes up he’s going to deliver. I wish we had people on every time so he could hit them in.”
In search of their 15th sectional crown, the Dragons know past success isn’t an indication of future gains.
“We’re going to have to be on it. We have to hit more consistently,” said Lyons, who added he’s unsure of who he will pitch Saturday. “(Guerin) is pretty solid. It was a good ball game last time.”
Notes: Chatard has 11 sectional championships, the last of which came in 2011. … Guerin beat Indianapolis Marshall 15-2 in the first quarterfinal Wednesday.
New Palestine 10, Chatard 0
SCORE BY INNINGS R H E
NP (19-9) 090 10 — 10 11 1
BC (14-12) 000 00 — 1 1 2
WP: Vance (5-3). LP: N. Casey.
NP: Vance 5 IP, H, 3 K; Watson 3-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 3 R; Gilvin 2-3, R; Hall-Manley 1-2, HBP, R; Hickman SAC Fly; C. Clark 2-3, RBI, R, BB.
BC: Schapker: H, BB.