NEW PALESTINE — Pendleton Heights found a way to beat the wind and get the win.

In a battle of the two favorites in the IHSAA Class 4A Sectional 9 softball tournament, No. 12 Pendleton Heights defeated host No. 6 New Palestine 5-3 in Thursday’s championship game to advance to Tuesday’s regional round.

In a stiff wind, the visiting Arabians hit a solo home run in the third inning to tie the game and a three-run home run in the fifth to take the lead.

“Two swings,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said.

“We’re the home run hitting team, but we were just chasing too much and hitting too much in the air. Give my girls a lot of credit (for fighting back), in the sixth inning we were down two, had first and third with nobody out at ended up just scoring one. We had a runner on third with just one out, we just needed to do something and get that run in to tie the game.”

The Dragons came into the game with 44 home runs on the season. The Arabians had 32.

New Palestine out-hit Pendleton Heights 10-6, but the Arabians had the game’s only home runs. Four of Pendleton Heights hits were for extra bases. New Palestine had just one extra-base hit.

The Arabians added an insurance run with a pair of sixth-inning doubles. In the top of the seventh, New Palestine had runners at first and second with one out but were unable to score.

New Palestine, by tournament draw the visiting team, had three first-inning singles to jump out to a 1-0 lead. Aglaia Rudd, Paige Ernstes and Sydney Oliver delivered base hits. It could have been more but a questionable out call on a force play at second gave the Dragons their second out of the inning.

In the third, Pendleton Heights shortstop Bo Shelton more than beat the windy conditions by hitting the top of the scoreboard on her home run to left field.

“We didn’t have our best game, for sure, but when the moment’s big you have to be bigger,” Marcum added. “Unfortunately, we didn’t play as well as we needed to (Thursday). Give their shortstop (Bo Shelton) credit. The ball she hit into this wind was incredible. We had her 1 (ball) 2 (strikes) and couldn’t quite put her away.”

“She’s a strong kid. When she hits it, they’re bombs,” Pendleton Heights coach Rob Davis said. “They’re not just over the fence. They’re shots. Earlham (College) is getting a steal with her.”

Shelton’s shot was the Arabians first hit off New Palestine pitcher Courtney Study.

The Dragons regained the lead 2-1 in the fifth. The Arabians committed two errors in the inning and the Dragons got a pinch-hit single from Kayla Bain.

The lead was short-lived.

With a runner on base and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Shelton reached on a check-swing single. The ball popped straight up and just out of the reach of a diving Study. Katelin Goodwin followed with an opposite field line drive over the left field fence for a 4-2 Pendleton lead.

“Shelton hits a check swing pop up right where we couldn’t get to it,” Marcum said. “If it stays up in the air or a little bit closer to (pitcher) Courtney (Study), we make that catch. That’s how this game goes. Sometimes you have to create your own breaks. That was a huge break for them. We throw two perfect pitches (the umpire) calls balls and with first and second we have to come to (Goodwin). To her credit, she just laced it. A three-run homer into this wind …”

“I think we got the breaks and they didn’t,” Davis added. “It was going to come down to that. (Study) threw a changeup and (Shelton) had the barrel in the zone. That’s the breaks. It comes down to who gets the breaks and who doesn’t. We got a break there. That’s what happens.”

New Palestine got a leadoff double from Ernstes in the sixth and a single from Oliver, her third of the game. A Maddie Engle ground out made it 4-3, but the Dragons couldn’t’ score again.

Kayla Fisher and Gloria Richardson had sixth-inning doubles to score the Arabians some insurance.

The sectional title is the 20th for the Arabians. The Dragons were going for their 15th. They won consecutive state titles from 2017-19. They lost 2020 to the pandemic and played the last two seasons in the same sectional as two-time defending state champion Roncalli.

“(Disappointing) especially for my seniors,” Marcum said. “We’ve been with Roncalli and we haven’t had an opportunity to win the sectional. Pendleton did a great job. They won last year. I told my wife today, I really wanted this sectional for my seniors. I just felt like they deserved it, I’m not saying Pendleton didn’t they have more seniors than us. We have four outstanding kids (in Rudd, Bain, Alyssa Mumaw, and Sydney Hughbanks).

The Dragons finish the year 23-5. The Arabians are 23-5-1.

Pendleton Heights 5, New Palestine 3

New Palestine (23-5);100;011;0; —;3;10;1

Pendleton Heights (23-5-1);001;031;x; —;5;6;2

Courtney Study and Aglaia Rudd; Shelby Messer and Sydney Clark. 2B: NP – Paige Ernstes. PH – Kylie Fisher, Gloria Richardson. HR: PH – Bo Shelton (12), Katelin Goodwin (11). WP: Messer (12-0). LP: Study (17-2).