Dragons open season with walk-off win


NEW PALESTINE — It was a cold, windy night that felt nothing like baseball weather. It was a season-opener against a Hoosier Heritage Conference opponent with two games already under its belt. And, it was the Dragons first action since returning from spring break.

But an experienced New Palestine lineup didn’t let any of those things stop them from an Opening Night win in the first game on their newly installed artificial turf homefield.

Down by four after the first inning, New Palestine chipped away until a pair of runs in the bottom of the seventh gave the Dragons (1-0, 1-0) the 6-5 walk-off win over the visiting Shelbyville Golden Bears (2-1, 0-1).

“This one feels nice,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “That pitching staff that Shelbyville has is really good and our men have been on spring break for the last 10 days. To have to come back and face that is tough. We didn’t get discouraged, grinded it out and found a way.”

Down one run heading to the bottom of the seventh, the first two New Palestine batters reached base. Leadoff hitter Adam Rickey walked and Jacob Morris singled.

On a wild pitch by Shelbyville’s Kohen Myers, the pair each moved into scoring position.

Nic Deering tied the game and advanced the winning run to third on a sacrifice fly to right field, and after a pair of intentional walks, Rigg Mahurin followed suit with a sac fly of his own to right field to walk it off.

“That comes from the experience that we have. Our hitting is experienced,” Lyons said. “Those guys have been battle-tested. They went to a regional two years ago and went to the semi-state last year. They know to fight until the final out.”

On a night in which the wind was steadily blowing out to right field at 20 mph and had gusts of up to 35 mph, Shelbyville took advantage of the conditions first and scored four first-inning runs.

After a pair of hit batters and a walk by New Palestine starting pitcher Michael Thorpe, Shelbyville’s Jackson Kuhn drove in the first two runs of the game on a single to right field.

Two batters later, with two outs, Luke Jackson hit a high fly ball that got caught up in the wind and landed on the centerfield warning track for a two-run triple.

After those four runs, Thorpe settled in.

He held the Golden Bears scoreless over the next four innings, allowed just three more hits and struck out seven.

“It was tough throwing strikes in that wind tonight, but give Michael Thorpe credit. He had a rocky first inning, but he kept us in the ball game,” Lyons said. “Against good pitchers, you try to get them in the first inning. He settled down after that and kept us in things.”

While Thorpe shut down the Shelbyville hitters, the New Palestine offense — aided by five Shelbyville errors — chipped away at the deficit.

In the second inning, they scored one run on one hit and two Shelbyville errors. In the third, two throwing errors on the same play allowed Deering to score from second base, and in the fourth a throwing error on a dropped third strike allowed Mahurin to reach base and later come around to score on a Thorpe ground ball.

The Golden Bears added a run in the top of the sixth off of New Palestine relief pitcher Rickey, but the Dragons answered in the bottom half of the frame on a Gavin Neal RBI-double.

Rickey kept the deficit at one run with a clean seventh inning. On the night, he pitched two innings and allowed four hits and one run while striking out three.

The Dragons are back in action Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Shelbyville.

New Palestine 6, Shelbyville 5

Shelbyville (2-1, 0-1);400;001;0;—;5;9;5

New Palestine (1-0, 1-0);011;101;2;—;6;5;1

Aiden Smith, Kohen Myers (5) and Luke Jackson; Michael Thorpe, Adam Rickey (6) and Jackson Kamp. 2B: NP – Adam Rickey, Gavin Neal. 3B: S – Luke Jackson. WP: Rickey (1-0). LP: Myers (0-1).