NEW PALESTINE — Veteran head coach Ed Marcum recalled a time — around 10 years ago — his New Palestine Dragons softball team was getting ready to play Edgewood.
The Edgewood coach, Mick Hammett, called his friend, then-Mt. Vernon coach Mike McGill, for a scouting report on the Dragons.
“They hit 1-through-15,” McGill told his friend.
“I’ve always told my team that,” Marcum said. “We’re known for our hitting. I love defense, but I’ve told our team, if you’re playing for us, you can hit.”
The six-time state champions have another one of those 1-to-15 type lineups.
Coming off a 23-4-1 season, with two of the losses coming to state champion Roncalli, the Dragons are a team that will be veteran and talented up and down the lineup (but just nine at a time).
“We’re mostly returners from last year,” Marcum, now in his 20th year leading the program, said. “I’ve got 12 that were on varsity last year, four seniors that are really good, and great leaders. We’re expecting another good year.”
Among the vets are a number of Division I recruits.
Catcher Aglaia Rudd is headed to Purdue Fort Wayne. She was the 2022 Hancock County Player of the Year.
Rudd hit .488 and did not strikeout in 90 plate appearances. She had a team-best 12 doubles, to go with six home runs and 41 RBI, also tops on the team. She also does a great job with the Dragons’ pitching staff which will be extra-important this season with a young group of pitchers.
The left side of the infield has already committed to a pair of Southeastern Conference schools, and they’re still juniors.
Shortstop and Kentucky-commit, Allie Blum led the team with nine homers last season. She hit .371 with seven doubles and is stellar on the defensive side.
Third baseman Paige Ernstes hit .433 last year and had six doubles and three homers. She’s committed to Mississippi State.
Second baseman Alyssa Mumaw, a University of Southern Indiana recruit and one of the four returning seniors.
Katie Hirschy started at first base as a freshman. She’s back after hitting .429 with seven home runs and five doubles. She tied with Blum for second on the team in RBIs with 29.
“I’m amazed watching her hit every day,” Marcum said of Hirschy. (She is) another one that I think will go big-time.”
Sydney Oliver, who has committed to D-II University of Indianapolis, is slated to take the center field spot that was Alaina Miller’s a year ago. Miller, who was also the Dragons’ leadoff hitter, is now at the University of Illinois.
Ella Holman, another junior D-I recruit (Dayton) is also expected to see outfield time along with sophomores Maddie Engle and Jersi Gross and junior Nyla Lewis.
Still, Marcum will want to find lineup spots for senior utility players Sydney Hughbanks (Mt. St. Joseph) and Kayla Bain (Mt. St. Joseph) and Reese Rosenbaum, a junior catcher/third baseman.
“It’ll vary from game to game,” Marcum, who is 465-67-1 for his career with six state titles, said of his lineup card. “They are all very talented. I have a lot of different options. Especially, defensively, we can use them in a lot of different areas.”
There will be plenty of hitting up and down the Dragons lineup. The big question is pitching.
New Palestine graduated its top two from last season, Katie Kottlowski (Taylor) and Alexa Holman (IUPUI).
Junior Courtney Study is the only pitcher with varsity experience, and it was limited. Plus, Study doubles as one of the top distance runners on the track team, so there will be times she’s unavailable.
Marcum said he’s currently unsure who will take Study’s spot when she can’t pitch, but it’ll likely come down to two freshmen, Kenna Tweedy and Cailyn Hurst.
“It’s pitching,” Marcum said on what will be a big key to his team’s success. “We have to come up with a No. 2 and we need more time to work with them. Everything else, I think we’re going to play really good defense, but there are going to be days when you hit it hard and you hit it at people. We have to still be able to shut people down when you need to. Courtney has worked really hard. She’s much improved over last year. She’s got a big load ahead of her unless somebody else steps up, which we need. There are going to be times when we don’t have Courtney.”
2023 New Palestine Softball Schedule
March 20;vs. Eastern Hancock;5:30 p.m.
April 6;vs. Avon;6 p.m.
April 7;at Plainfield;6 p.m.
April 11;at East Central;6 p.m.
April 12;at Franklin Central;6 p.m.
April 13;at Hamilton Southeastern;5:30 p.m.
April 14;vs. Carmel;6 p.m.
April 17;at Westfield;6 p.m.
April 18;vs. Yorktown;5:30 p.m.
April 20;vs. Mt. Vernon;5:30 p.m.
April 21;at Zionsville;5:30 p.m.
April 24;vs. Noblesville;5:30 p.m.
April 25;at New Castle;5:30 p.m.
April 26;vs. Center Grove;5:30 p.m.
April 27;vs. Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
May 1;vs. Franklin;5:30 p.m.
May 3;vs. Roncalli;5:30 p.m.
May 4;vs. Greenfield-Central;5:30 p.m.
May 6;at Jennings County;11 a.m.
May 9;vs. Connersville;5:30 p.m.
May 10;at Fishers;5:30 p.m.
May 11;at Pendleton Heights;5;30 p.m.
May 13;at Munster;11 a.m.
May 13;Crown Point (at Munster);TBD
May 19;at Delta;5:30 p.m.