NEW PALESTINE — Winners of six state titles and yearly toward the top of their classification’s poll, New Palestine’s softball team does fine on their own.

Give them a little extra help and that spells disaster for an upset-minded opponent.

On Monday, in the season-opening softball game between two of Hancock County’s and the state’s top softball programs, Class 4A New Palestine took advantage of Class 2A Eastern Hancock’s lone error and turned it into a four-run inning.

The Dragons’ four-run fourth inning was the difference in a 5-1 victory over the Royals at NPHS.

“You take (Allie) Blum’s home run out of there, it should be 1-1,” Eastern Hancock head coach Terry Stephens said. “We should catch that fly ball all day long. We certainly helped them along the way, that’s for sure.”

The teams traded early inning solo home runs.

Eastern Hancock junior all-state shortstop Sammie Bolding got the scoring started. The second batter of the game drove a pitch over the centerfield fence for a 1-0 Royals’ lead. A year ago, Bolding set a single-season school record with 17 home runs.

In the bottom of the second inning, New Palestine evened the score on a home run from Alyssa Mumaw. The senior Southern Indiana commit led off the inning by driving the ball over the left-center field fence.

Tied 1-1 in the fourth, New Palestine scored twice on a two-out error. It was followed by a two-run homer from Blum.

Eastern Hancock pitcher Madison Stephens appeared to be getting out of fourth-inning trouble. Mumaw had led the inning off with a walk. With one out, Kayla Bain doubled to right field on a ball right fielder Emma Bolding lost in the sun. With runners at second and third, the Royals’ pitcher fanned Nyla Lewis.

Syd Oliver followed with a fly ball to left field, but both Royals’ outfielders thought the other was going to catch it. It turned into a three-base error and gave New Palestine a 3-1 lead.

It also brought the Dragons to the top of their order and to the ultra-talented Blum. The junior shortstop, also an all-stater as a sophomore, hit a shot over the leftfield fence for two more New Pal runs.

“(Eastern Hancock center fielder) Brooklyn (Willis) called it and she heard (left fielder) Lilli (Ringer) call her back off,” coach Stephens said. “She veered off of it and they both thought the other one was going to get it. It happens. They’re going to have to get used to each other.”

Both outfielders are playing new positions this season. Willis has moved from left field to center field. Ringer is a freshman.

For Blum it was a redemption at-bat. The University of Kentucky commit had gone 0-for-2 in her first two plate appearances with a strikeout and infield pop out.

“She’s a competitor and she was pretty frustrated with herself the first couple of at-bats,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “I just told her to get on that first good pitch she saw, and she did. It may still be going.”

Eastern Hancock wasn’t able to muster many threats against New Palestine junior pitcher Courtney Study.

The Royals had two first-inning hits. Following Sammie Bolding’s home run, Kaylee Kline had a two-out single. In the third, Sammie Bolding drew a two-out walk, but was left stranded after stealing second base.

In the fifth, Grace Stapleton had a two-out single up the middle. Willis followed with a walk. With the big-hitting Bolding back to the plate, Study got her to ground out to end the inning.

“I made sure (after her home run) I wasn’t going to pitch anything on the plate. I had to pitch her away,” Study said. “It was a curveball outside (on the ground out). (Coach Marcum) came in and told me to pitch on the corners and I pitched her on the outside corner.”

The Dragons didn’t have many offensive threats on the night either.

Junior catcher Aglaia Rudd had a first-inning, one-out double and a third-inning single, but both times courtesy runner Jersi Gross was left stranded at second. After the Blum home run, Madison Stephens retired seven of the final eight Dragon hitters.

“I thought (Stephens) pitched a really good game,” Marcum said. “We weren’t very disciplined and part of that was it being the first time out. (Stephens) pitched well and kept us off-balance. I thought our hitters, overall, came around. We just have to be more consistent. We will be once we get into more consistent live pitching.”

It was the opener for two teams that boast some of the state’s top players. Both Sammie Bolding and Willis are returning all-staters, as are Blum and Rudd for the Dragons. Both clubs have multiple players that have committed or signed with college programs.

New Palestine went 23-4-1 last season. The Dragons were eliminated in the sectional round by eventual state champion, and nationally-ranked, Roncalli. The Royals were 21-5-1 and won sectional and regional titles before being eliminated in the semi-state roun.

Last year’s tie, for both teams, was the 2022 opener at EH, which was called, due to darkness, with the game tied.

New Palestine 5, Eastern Hancock 1

Eastern Hancock (0-1);100;000;0; —;1;4;1

New Palestine (1-0);010;400;x; —;5;5;0

Madison Stephens and Kaylee Kline. Courtney Study and Aglaia Rudd. 2B: NP – Rudd, Kayla Bain. HR: EH – Sammie Bolding (1). NP – Alyssa Mumaw (1), Allie Blum (1). WP – Courtney Study (1-0). LP – Madison Stephens (0-1).