A Day to Remember: Dragons reclaim the prize, win Sectional 11

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New Palestine defeated Franklin Central to win the Class 4A Sectional 11 title at Roncalli on Monday, May 30, 2022.

Richard Sitler | Daily Reporter

By Andrew Smith/For Daily Reporter

INDIANAPOLIS – One pitch in Monday night, the New Palestine baseball team was put in a position to rally.

A first-pitch homerun by Franklin Central’s Taylor Mann put the Dragons down on the scoreboard, but as they’ve frequently done this season, they rallied quickly, took the lead and then pulled away for a 12-2, six-inning victory over the Flashes in Monday’s Class 4A Roncalli Sectional 11 final.

The Dragons clinched the program’s 17th sectional title and first since 2015. The Dragons (23-6) advance to Saturday’s regional, which they will host. They will face Brownsburg in the second semifinal.

“We’ve been down a lot and we’ve battled back. These guys have a moxie — they just don’t flinch, 1-0, so what,” Dragons coach Shawn Lyons said. “We’ve been down before. They believe in themselves and they don’t flinch.”

“That’s probably our biggest thing is being able to battle back through adversity,” Dragons senior Maddox Manes said. “We faced a lot this year and throughout our high school careers. I went up to Caleb after that ball was hit and let him know we’ve got him, we’ll hit for him, keep throwing, we’ll be fine.”

They were tying the game in the bottom of the first on three hits, including a long RBI double by Zayden Stiller. After FC re-took the lead in the third, the Dragons plated three runs in the bottom of the frame before breaking the game open in the fourth.

The big blow was Luke Legault’s fourth-inning grand slam, which capped a six-run frame and gave the Dragons a 10-2 lead. Eli Bruns led off with a single and scored on a base hit by Carter Stogsdill. The Dragons loaded the bases and plated a run when Manes was hit by a pitch. The next batter, Legault, blasted a pitch deep over the leftfield fence to put the Dragons up 10-2.

“That was surreal,” Legault said. “I looked up after second base and you see the whole town is jumping.”

An inning before, the Dragons took the lead by plating three runs on back-to-back hits by Carter Stogsdill and Zayden Stiller and a two-run double to the right field fence by Manes, who later scored on a wild pitch to put NP up 4-2.

Much like he did in the Dragons’ sectional-opening win over Southport Wednesday, Blaine Nunnally came on in relief in the fourth and slammed the door, throwing three hitless innings. He struck out four and surrendered only two baserunners — a walk in the fourth and a hit batter in the fifth.

“Blaine Nunnally did a really nice job,” Lyons said. “He settled down, threw strikes and he missed bats.”

The top of the Dragons’ order did much of the damage, as the first four hitters combined for nine of the team’s 12 hits. Stogsdill was 3-for-4 with a double, three runs and an RBI from the leadoff spot. Stiller was 3-for-3 with an RBI. Manes hit a double and drove in three runs, while Legault drove in four, scored twice and had two hits.

Earlier in the day, Manes threw the Dragons’ first no-hitter in six years, dominating Perry Meridian 7-0 in the semifinal. He allowed only two baserunners — via second and fourth-inning walks — and nobody moved past second base in the contest.

“I was very dialed-in,” Manes said. “ I didn’t really talk much. It was my first no-hitter, the perfect time to do it. It was special.”

The Dragons enter the regional having won 17 of their last 18 games, with the lone loss coming in extra innings to No. 1 Center Grove.

“The more confident they got, the better they played. We knew they were good. They didn’t believe in themselves as much as we did .They got on a roll and it took off — we beat New Castle’s top two players, we beat Cathedral, we should’ve beat Center Grove. They’ve been playing their best baseball at the end of the year. Our pitching staff did a great job throwing to contact. Our hitters, you saw tonight, when they’re focused, it doesn’t matter what you threw at us, we squared it up,” Lyons said.

The Dragons’ sectional title was the culmination of a run for their 11-player senior class, which avenged a heartbreaking loss to the Flashes in last year’s sectional title game.

“I’ve been around a long time and I’ve not seen so many years where the 24th player roots as hard for the No. 1 player,” Lyons said. “They do everything together. We’re fortunate to have great senior leadership from all 11 of them.”

That came after a 6-5 start, but the Dragons kicked off a 14-game winning streak against Greenfield-Central and never looked back.

“We started 6-5 and we were ‘win one, lose one, win one, lose one,’” Legault said. “We came in the locker room after one of those games and said ‘we’re too good for this.’ We have Maddox, Blaine, Carter, Eli. We have pitchers who throw strikes and get people out. Our one-through-nine, I’d put up with anybody in the state. We all can hit, we all can run, our speed is tremendous. We realized how good we can be. Coach Lyons and everybody has been telling us that since Day One. We finally bought in.”

New Palestine 12, Franklin Central 2

Franklin Central (6-17);101;000;—;2;5;0

New Palestine (23-6);103;602;—;12;12;1

HR: Taylor Mann (FC), Luke Legault (NP). 2B: Carter Stogsdill, Zayden Stiller, Maddox Manes (NP).

WP: Blaine Nunnally (3.0 IP, 0 H, 4 K, 1 BB, 0 R, 0 ER). LP: Ethan Haltom (3.1 IP, 9 H, 3 K, 1 BB, 7 R, 7 ER).