FORTVILLE — It wasn’t a perfect game but it wasn’t far from it.

New Palestine’s Blaine Nunnally was close to perfect on the mound and, considering his contributions to the Dragons offense, definitely had a phenomenal game.

The senior right-handed pitcher retired the final 15 batters faced, and 20 of the last 21, in a one-hit, 2-0 upset victory over Mt. Vernon (22-8) in the championship game of Class 4A Sectional 9 at Mt. Vernon High School Monday.

The Marauders won the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship and had swept the Dragons in their two-game HHC series earlier in the season. They came into the game ranked No. 10 in Class 4A by Indiana Prep Baseball Report.

New Palestine (22-9) will play No. 5 Indianapolis Cathedral (22-4) in a regional game Saturday with time and site to be determined Wednesday.

Along with his dominant performance on the mound, Nunnally drove in the game’s first run with a fielder’s choice and had a crucial bunt single in the sixth when the Dragons added an insurance run.

“You could see it in warmups. You could see it (Monday) morning. You could see it when we texted him (Sunday). He was just fully-focused. We saw it in the bullpen before the game,” New Palestine coach Shawn Lyons said of Nunnally. “I didn’t have to worry about his stuff. His mentality, he seems to have that extra level or extra gear.

“We knew (pitching in a sectional championship) wasn’t going to faze him. He’s been in three sectional championships in football and in basketball and in baseball. We rode this whole half of the season with our pitching and defense and today it was pitching, defense and Blaine.”

Nunnally had 13 strikeouts, six were third outs of an inning.

“I knew my job when the bracket came out what I was going to do,” Nunnally said, knowing that if it was going to be Dragons vs. Marauders in the final, he’d be getting the ball. “That helped me prepare and get ready for this big game. It’s just amazing (to win the sectional).”

In the first inning with one-out, Nunnally walked DJ Scheumann. Nick Heitman, his pitching counterpart, followed with a line drive single to center field. A ground out moved the runners over, but Nunnally ended the frame with a strikeout. It was the first of four straight.

He walked Grant Payson to begin the third inning. Payson stole second base, but Nunnally fanned the next three, two looking. Six of his 13 strikeouts were called.

New Palestine’s bottom half of the first started a lot like Mt. Vernon’s. Nic Deering drew a one-out walk. Wes Stiller, who had the game-winning hit in Saturday’s semifinal win over Pendleton Heights, singled to right field.

Deering was able to get to third and Nunnally followed with an RBI-fielder’s choice.

Heitman was nearly as strong for the Marauders. He threw the first four innings and gave up only the hit to Stiller and three walks. He struck out seven.

Cam Sullivan, who pitched in the team’s sectional opening win over Greenfield-Central on Wednesday and won a regular-season pitcher’s duel vs. Nunnally in April, entered in the fifth.

He got out of trouble in his first frame by retiring the final two batters, but the Dragons were able to get a key insurance run in the sixth.

Stiller singled to left field. Nunnally put down a sacrifice bunt, but placed perfectly, he not only moved pinch-runner Brock Whitaker to second base, he was able to beat the throw to first for a single.

Sullivan fanned the next two, but back-to-back walks scored Whitaker with the Dragons second run.

“Our coaches say this all the time, ‘There’s nothing better than a one-run lead, other than a two-run lead,’” Stiller said. “We were really trying to get one more run in or two more runs in. That was the main focus. Once we got that in, it packs a punch, as a defensive team. They had to score two just to tie it. ”

It was the second straight sectional title for the Dragons. They won Sectional 11 in 2022. Reclassification put the Dragons back in the tournament that includes county and conference rivals Mt. Vernon and Greenfield-Central, as well as conference rival Pendleton Heights.

The Dragons lost 11 seniors from last year’s team and started 2023 with a 5-5 record. They’ve won four straight, including three straight shutout wins in tournament play.

“When you graduate 11 seniors and seven of them go to play college baseball, we had to kind of start over, but we just keep it going,” Lyons said. “Our culture’s great. Our kids buy into our philosophies and they work hard in the winter. We knew if we kept it on the rails early, we’d get more confidence and get going, and we did.”

It was a great year for the Marauders, too. They spent most of the season ranked in the state’s Top 10. They became the first school to win three consecutive outright HHC titles and had a 12-game winning streak. It was a big accomplishment considering they played much of the year without standout pitcher/shortstop Eli Bridenthal, who was lost for the year with an injury on April 19.

“That was what a championship game is supposed to be,” King said of Monday’s title game. “Obviously, we’re disappointed that we didn’t win it. My gosh, Nunnally threw a great game. Heitman threw a great game and Cam threw a great game. You had three good pitchers out there doing what they do. That’s what you want a championship game to look like even though we fell short.”

Along with the conference title streak and season winning streak, the Marauders’ 22 wins are the second most in school history. Three straight appearances in a sectional championship game is a first since the IHSAA went to class sports.

The most wins was 27, achieved two years ago when Mt. Vernon made the Final Four.

“A couple of year ago I said I’d get this tattoo if we got to the Final Four and we did,” King said. “It has ‘Trailblazers’ on it. This senior class was my first (four-year) senior class here, and they have. They’ve blazed a trail that everybody else has to live to that standard going forward at Mt. Vernon. They’ve done stuff that no one has ever accomplished.”

New Palestine 2, Mt. Vernon 0

Mt. Vernon (22-8);000;000;0 —;0;1;1

New Palestine (22-9);100;001;x; —;2;4;0

Nick Heitman, Cam Sullivan (5) and DJ Scheumann. Blaine Nunnally and Wyatt Matheis. WP: Nunnally (6-1). LP: Heitman (3-3).