Dragons fall to Royals in sectional final

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By Andrew Smith/For Daily Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS — When New Palestine and Roncalli meet in the state tournament, it’s usually a state title preview.

Four times, the two softball titans had met in the tournament prior to this season. In three of the meetings, the winner has hoisted the state championship trophy. The two schools have combined for four state championships in the last four years.

Roncalli looked every bit the part of a champion Wednesday night, as the top-ranked Royals defeated the fourth-ranked Dragons 10-0 in five innings to claim the Class 4A Franklin Central sectional title.

The Dragons’ season finished with a 23-4-1 mark, with two of the four losses coming to the unbeaten Royals, who are now 29-0 and ranked No. 1 nationally by MaxPreps.

Roncalli outhit the Dragons 8-1 and blasted three homers, including two by senior Tori Candler.

The Royals set the tone early, as junior pitcher Keagan Rothrock struck out the first two batters she faced in the top of the frame. In the bottom, Dragons starter Alexa Holman recorded two quick outs and battled Abbey Hoffman in a 10-pitch at-bat.

On a full-count, Hoffman drew a walk on a changeup that bent back toward the plate. Two pitches later, Rothrock homered to left to give Roncalli a 2-0 lead.

“I knew it was going to be a tough one. We were going to have to play really well. We didn’t play well enough and they played really well,” Dragons coach Ed Marcum said. “I knew we would have to play well, they would need to hit it at us and we needed to get some breaks. In the first inning, we throw a beautiful changeup for (what would be) strike three, instead she ends up walking and the next kid hits it out. I knew right then, the breaks aren’t going to go our way.”

Freshman Katie Hirschy laced a two-strike pitch into center field for a second-inning single, but she was the Dragons’ lone baserunner in the contest. Rothrock finished the game with 10 strikeouts. The Dragons battled against Rothrock, fouling off multiple pitches and staying in at-bats. She is the only pitcher to have shut out New Palestine since the middle of the 2017 season.

“Rothrock pitched great,” Marcum said. “We had some really good at-bats. When you look at the scorebook, it doesn’t look like it, but I was really proud of the way my girls competed. We didn’t chase many high pitches. She’s really good. There’s a reason she’s the No. 1 pitcher in the nation.”

Candler homered in the second and Roncalli broke the game open in the third with three hits, two walks, a hit batter and two errors leading to five runs, three of which were unearned.

Reliever Katie Kottlowski set the heart of the Royals’ lineup down in order in the fourth — capped by a strong running catch by Alaina Miller in foul territory. Earlier in the game, Sydney Oliver made a flying grab in right-center to rob a double. But Roncalli ended the game in the fifth on Candler’s two-run homer.

The Dragons finish with the program’s 20th consecutive 20-win season. Seniors Miller, Kottlowski, Holman, Grace Paquette and Delaney Barton finish their careers with an 80-8-1 record and were part of two Hoosier Heritage Conference championships and the 2019 state championship.

“I’m really proud of these girls. We had a great group of seniors. They’ve been amazing young ladies to coach,” Marcum said. “This was a really great group, all the way through. I went with 18 players on varsity, and I’ve never gone with more than 14. They accepted their roles. They trusted us and did what we asked them to do. This game won’t take away from how I feel about these young ladies and this team.”

Roncalli 10, New Palestine 0

New Palestine (23-4-1);000;00;—;0;1;3

Roncalli (29-0);215;02;—;10;8;0

HR: Tori Candler 2, Keagan Rothrock (R)..

WP: Keagan Rothrock (5.0 IP, 1 H, 10 K, 0 BB, 0 R, 0 ER). LP: Alexa Holman (2.0 IP, 4 H, 1 K, 1 BB, 5 R, 5 ER).