going, going, GONE: Dragons hit 7 home runs in rout of Cougars

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NEW PALESTINE — The strategy was simple.

Much like Noblesville did in an April 22 upset against New Palestine, Greenfield-Central looked to keep the Dragons off balance with more offspeed pitching on Thursday. The Cougars went with three different pitchers, never using regular starter Lexi Rankin in the circle.

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It didn’t work. New Palestine hammered seven home runs, cruising to a 10-0 win in five innings.

“They see Lexi’s speed the majority of the ballgames they play,” Greenfield-Central coach Jason Stewart said. “We’ve had some success in the past throwing girls that throw more offspeed. We hoped it would have that effect tonight. They obviously were ready for it. You can’t defend balls when they’re flying out of the ballpark.

“They’re going to kill fastballs. You’ve got to try something different. We did, and they did a fantastic job tonight of not trying to lift it, just hit line drives.”

The slower pitching was a big change for the Dragons from Wednesday’s win against Pendleton Heights, when they bested standout pitcher Jordan Benefiel and hit three home runs off her.

“My concern was coming off a girl that threw harder like Benefiel last night, coming in they were trying to hit spots, were throwing a little slower than Benefiel,” New Palestine coach Ed Marcum said. “I was concerned that we’d struggle a little bit with our timing, but they came out swinging.”

The Dragons were swinging for the fences almost from the first pitch. After Jaylin Calvert popped out to open the bottom of the first inning for the hosts, Michaela Jones hammered the first pitch she saw well over the left field fence.

Emily O’Connor followed with a home run to center. A walk and a pair of singles loaded the bases for Emma Tucher, who drew a walk to score another run, giving the hosts a 3-0 lead after an inning.

After batting around the order in the first, the Dragons started the second with three straight home runs. Calvert and Jones homered to chase starting pitcher Macie Fultz, and O’Connor hit relief pitcher Madge Weidner’s first pitch over the center field wall to push the lead to six — on five home runs — before even recording an out in the second inning.

“I think after last night, we were feeling it,” Jones said. “Last night we faced a really good pitcher. I think we just fed off last night and kept it going into today.”

Kaylea Bullock and Calvert singled to start the third inning, setting the stage for Jones to hit her third home run of the first three innings, completing a perfect 3-for-3 night with three home runs and five RBIs.

“I think I was just really feeling it and seeing it good,” Jones said. “That put together, and a county game, I was really in the zone.”

The Cougars never found much success in the circle. Fultz allowed six hits and four home runs. Weidner threw two innings, allowing six hits and two homers. Hannah Holden pitched the final two innings, giving up two hits and one home run.

The final New Palestine long ball came on the first pitch of the fifth inning. Calvert launched her second home run of the day, an opposite field shot, to trigger the run-rule result.

That completed a huge day for the first three New Palestine batters, as Calvert, Jones and O’Connor finished a combined 8-of-10 with seven home runs and nine RBIs.

New Palestine finished the game with 14 hits, with Lexi Campbell and Raegan Hiatt each recording two singles and Vivian Long and Bullock each also getting singles.

The Cougars got one hit, a two-out single from pinch hitter Shelby Cobb in the top of the fifth inning.

“Defensively, we played a good game. At the plate, we didn’t do a very good job when we were ahead in the count,” Stewart said. “It seemed like we took more defensive swings than attacking the ball. We were in more of a defensive mode at the plate tonight. We had to put some pressure on. We hoped to shorten the game and use different pitchers, but when they come out with six in the first two innings and three in the first three, there’s not much you can do.”

Bullock got the win for New Palestine, throwing three innings and striking out three. She allowed no hits or runs but walked four. Sam Booe took over from there, pitching the final two innings and allowing the one hit. She struck out three of the seven batters she faced.

The win was the 400th of Marcum’s career, and it capped a tough week that saw the Dragons face three consecutive teams ranked in Class 4A.

“Obviously, a great win for us,” Marcum said. “I’m really happy with the way the team has played this week. Cathedral, Pendleton, Greenfield … that kind of sets the stage for the conference these last two nights.”

Greenfield-Central (14-5, 2-4 HHC) will look to get back on track Monday at Bishop Chatard.

The Dragons (15-1, 5-0) have another tough test ahead, with games against Class 4A No. 11 Jennings County at 11 a.m. Saturday, followed by a highly-anticipated 1 p.m. game against the No. 5 team in the USA Today Super 25 national poll, Louisville Male (19-0), who has outscored opponents 207-21 so far this season.

New Palestine is No. 8 in the Super 25.

“Our schedule is just so tough. Every night we play somebody who is ranked. We can’t have a night off,” Marcum said. “We’re trying to get through, get our wins, take care of our conference goals, but at the same time we’re trying to get kind of fine-tuned. We’re coming up on not only a big Saturday. Next week we play six games with it ending up at Kankakee Valley and Crown Point. A big key is not looking past anybody.”

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New Palestine 10, Greenfield-Central 0

GC (14-5, 2-4);000;00;—;0;1;0

NP (15-1, 5-0);333;01;—;10;14;0

WP: Kaylea Bullock (9-1). LP: Macie Fultz (5-3).

HR: Michaela Jones 3, Emily O’Connor 2, Jaylin Calvert 2(NP). RBI: Jones 5, O’Connor 2, Calvert 2, Emma Tucher (NP).

Notable: Jones 3-for-3, 3 HR, 5 RBI; Calvert 3-for-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI; O’Connor 2-for-3, 2 HR, 2 RBI.

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