Earning redemption: Dragons avenge last year’s lone loss, top Trojans

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NEW PALESTINE — The New Palestine Dragons had been eyeing Wednesday’s game for a year, now. It provided the perfect opportunity to bounce back from Monday’s loss, their first of the season.

With Class 4A No. 5 Center Grove in town — the only team to defeat the Dragons a year ago — the hosts were fired up and looking for some payback.

They got it.

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After taking the lead in the top of the third, Center Grove gave it right back. The defending Class 3A state champion Dragons pulled away inning by inning, snapping the Trojans’ four-game win streak, getting revenge from last year’s loss and rebounding from Monday’s defeat with a big 5-2 win.

“We hoped Monday was a wake-up call,” New Palestine coach Ed Marcum said. “They were intense from the start, from when we started hitting today. They had their intensity back. I thought the girls responded and really played well.”

This was a win the Dragons really wanted. The 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Trojans a year ago stung during the state championship run, and it stung this year looking back at it.

The hosts came out swinging, grabbing some momentum immediately. After keeping the Trojans off the scoreboard in the top of the first, Jaylin Calvert led off the bottom of the inning with a double. A single up the middle from Emily O’Connor scored Calvert, giving the Dragons an early 1-0 lead.

“It was really important,” New Palestine pitcher Kaylea Bullock said. “Last year that was the only team we lost to, so I think we really wanted to beat them the most this season. We started off in the fieldhouse cheering loud, and I think that was the energy that got us going for the rest of the game.”

Center Grove used small ball to tie the game and gain the lead in the third inning. An error put the leadoff hitter on base, and a sacrifice bunt was followed by a triple to tie things at 1-1. A bunt back to Bullock scored the runner from third, giving the Trojans the lead.

It didn’t last long.

Calvert again led off an inning with a base hit. O’Connor singled to move the runner to third, and Macy Miller reached on a force-out that scored a run. Tatum Biddle followed up with a double, scoring Miller on a throwing error back to the infield.

New Palestine pushed the lead further in the fifth inning. Calvert led off an inning with a base hit for the third time. A walk to O’Connor was followed by a double to deep left-center by Miller, driving in another run and doubling the lead.

Back-to-back singles from Kendal and Jaylin Calvert in the sixth plated the final run, as Kendal Calvert scored on another Trojans throwing error following her sister’s base hit.

Jaylin Calvert led the Dragons with a perfect 4-for-4 night at the plate, scoring twice, her second straight big game against Center Grove.

“Jaylin had a huge night, just a huge night,” Marcum said. “She did that last year. She went 3-for-3 against her (Center Grove pitcher Abby Herbst). I told her that hoping it would give her some confidence, and she came out really, really confident tonight. That was big.”

New Palestine notched 10 hits in the game, while Bullock held Center Grove to just five.

The junior threw a complete game, bouncing back from Monday’s loss in a big way. She struck out five and walked one, allowing just the two unearned runs.

“I was really nervous, but I just knew I had my defense behind me, so I really wasn’t too worried,” Bullock said. “I knew if they got a hold of my ball, they would just be behind me. From Monday, I really felt like I had to redeem myself. It just made it that much better.”

It was a standout performance for Bullock, one her coach identified as her best outing of the year. While they played strong defense behind her, New Palestine needed every bit of their pitcher’s strong showing to topple the Trojans.

“She was getting ahead in the count, using her changeup effectively, and I thought that was key,” Marcum said. “For the most part, we played really good defense behind her, but she was working from ahead. I thought she was really, really sharp tonight, and it takes that type of effort to beat a team like Center Grove.”

New Palestine (10-1) is back in action tonight for a Hoosier Heritage Conference game at Shelbyville.

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New Palestine 5, Center Grove 2

CG (10-3);002;000;0;—;2;5;2

NP (10-1);102;011;X;—;5;10;1

WP: Kaylea Bullock. LP: Abby Herbst.

HR: 3B: Piper Belden (CG). 2B: Jaylin Calvert, Tatum Biddle, Macy Miler (NP); RBI: Macy Miller 2, Emily O’Connor (NP); Belden, Addison Osborn (CG).

Notable: Calvert 4-for-4, 2B, 2 R; O’Connor 2-2, RBI, BB; Bullock 7 IP, 5 H, 5 K, 1 BB, 2 R.

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