NEW PALESTINE — With six Hoosier Heritage Conference baseball games in eight days, Mt. Vernon needed to have a strong, inning-eating, starting pitching performance.

With its top two returning home run and extra-base hitters, and another returning starter on the shelf, it needed to find a different way to score runs, too.

The Marauders got both of those in Wednesday’s HHC matchup at New Palestine, splitting the two-game series with their conference rivals.

Junior Tristan Sitton went the distance on the mound, his longest outing as a varsity pitcher, and the Marauders bunted, stole bases and got clutch hits in a 7-4 victory.

New Palestine defeated Mt. Vernon, 5-1 at Mt. Vernon, Tuesday.

After Wednesday’s matchup, the Marauders are 3-4 overall and 2-2 in the HHC. New Palestine dropped to 7-2 and 4-2.

Closing in on the midway point of the 14-game conference schedule, six teams are within one loss of each other. Delta and Greenfield-Central are 3-1. Pendleton Heights and Shelbyville are 3-2.

“We know that any time you play New Pal it’s going to be a good game. They put it to us (Tuesday),” Mt. Vernon head coach Brad King said. “I challenged our guys going into (Wednesday). We needed to swing the bat a little bit better, be more aggressive, play defense better and get good pitching and that’s what happened.”

Sitton struck out six and gave up just three hits, and two earned runs.

In the seventh, he gave up a leadoff triple to Jacob Morris before striking out the side.

“Tristan did a nice job on the mound and we needed that with all these games,” King said. “We had to have that kind of performance. I went out to talk to him and he said, ‘I got it. I got it. I got it.’ He wanted it and he took it.”

Due to rainouts, Mt. Vernon was the last of the eight HHC teams to play a conference game. It also forced them to go away from the usual Tuesday-Wednesday conference series. The Marauders split a doubleheader at Shelbyville Saturday, which included a loss in extra innings. They have another makeup doubleheader scheduled this Saturday at Delta.

For the second straight night Mt. Vernon freshman Mason Meyer got the Marauders off to a good start.

On Tuesday, his solo home run gave Mt. Vernon an early 1-0 lead over New Palestine. On Wednesday, he hit a first-inning two-run home run over the left field fence to put the Marauders on top of the Dragons 2-0.

New Palestine starter Henry Thorpe struck out the side in the opening inning, but in between a pair of the outs Ryker Baer singled to right field. He stole second base and scored on Meyer’s two-out longball.

Meyer’s home run was the only run Tuesday, but the story was different on the road at New Palestine.

Mt. Vernon had four third-inning hits leading to three more runs and a 5-0 lead.

Gage Blanchard started the inning with a bunt single, placed perfectly by Thorpe and in between the Dragon pitcher and first baseman Ben Hirschy.

Blanchard moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Josh James and to third on Baer’s second single of the game. Baer stole second base and both he and Blanchard scored on a double to left field by Grant Payson. With two outs, Will Jacobs got a bloop single over second baseman Morris’s head to score Payson.

“I felt like the biggest play for us offensively was when Gage Blanchard laid down the bunt,” King said. “And, that was all on him. I didn’t give him the bunt sign. I just said start something and be aggressive. He took it upon himself and he felt with a (left-handed pitcher) going off to the other side he could take advantage of it. He did a great job and got us rolling.”

The Dragons cut it to 5-2 in the bottom half of the third. Adam Rickey led off with a walk and stole second base. Nic Deering was hit by a pitch, and with two outs, Jackson Kamp doubled off the left field fence, scoring both Rickey and Deering.

Baer continued his big day at the plate in the fifth. A liner up the middle was his third single of the game. James, who had opened the inning with a single and moved to second on a wild pitch, scored. Baer scored on a bases loaded walk to pinch-hitter Hayden Ford.

The Dragons scored two in the sixth without a hit. They cut it to 7-4 after Sitton walked a pair and hit two batters. There was also a Marauder error in the inning.

Mt. Vernon had nine hits, seven were singles. Baer went 3-for-4 with three stolen bases and three runs scored.

The Marauders are having to fine different ways to get runners across the plate. They are currently playing without three returning starters from last season, Nick Heitman, D.J. Scheumann and Nathan Criss.

Heitman, who has signed to pitch next year in the Big 10 at Iowa, had 1o doubles and two home runs a year ago. Scheumann, a catcher headed to Ball State, had four home runs last year. Criss, an outfielder/pitcher who will play at Wabash College next year, hit .284 with 20 RBI last season.

“We’re not the type of team we’ve been the last couple of years,” King said. “We can’t just go out and hit double, double, double. We’ve got to play a little bit more small-ball, and we’re going to start runners, and steal bases, and do things like that.”

New Palestine had its opportunities. It left a runner in scoring position in the first, third and seventh innings and left the bases loaded in the sixth.

“We were a hit or two away from getting right back in the ballgame and had the bases loaded in the sixth,” New Palestine coach Shawn Lyons said. “We barrelled it up, we just hit it a little high. We were a hit here or hit there. We always preach that it’s not what it’s when. You can hit .230, but if you hit with a guy on base that’s what matters. We just didn’t do it.”

Mt. Vernon hosts Muncie Central Thursday before the Saturday doubleheader at Delta.

New Palestine visits Beech Grove Friday and plays host to Franklin Central Saturday.

Both teams will have key HHC matchups next week. The Dragons’ scheduled two-game set is with Greenfield-Central. The Marauders are slated to take on Pendleton Heights.

“We’re not happy. We’re disappointed (with the loss), but our goals are still in front of us,” Lyons said.

Mt. Vernon 7, New Palestine 4

Mt. Vernon (3-4, 2-2);203;020;0;—;7;9;1

New Palestine (7-2, 4-2);002;002;0;—;4;3;0

Tristan Sitton and Grant Payson; Henry Thorpe, Rigg Mahurin (5) and Jackson Kamp. 2B: MV – Payson. NP – Kamp. 3B: NP – Jacob Morris. HR: MV – Mason Meyer (2). WP: Sitton (1-1). LP: Thorpe (1-1).