NEW PALESTINE – Friday night at the New Palestine softball field was a celebration of the Dragons’ 2004 state championship-winning team.

Prior to the Dragons game against Zionsville, members of the ‘04 team were recognized and threw out first pitches. The team went 29-4 capped off by a 5-1 win over West Lafayette in the state championship game.

The win secured the Dragons first of six softball state titles under head coach Ed Marcum, and was the first state title for any New Palestine team.

“This was really neat. That was my first year as head coach, so I didn’t really even know what was going on. For that team to pull together like they did and win a state championship, it was a fun ride,” Marcum said. “I never anticipated that happening in my first year, so it was a blast. It’s always great to see them when they come together. It was pretty special.”

Although still early in the season, 20 years later, the 2024 New Palestine team has the seventh title in mind.

And the play on the field to start the year has reinforced that thought.

To move to 6-0 on the season, the No. 9 ranked Dragons defeated Zionsville (6-2) 6-1.

“It makes tonight’s win more special,” Marcum said. “The last few years we’ve taken care of Zionsville … but they’re a good team. We had to stay with it and grind it out.”

In front of the 2004 team, the Dragons put on a similar performance to the state championship win from 20 years ago.

Behind strong pitching and strong defense, the Dragons offense mustered more than enough runs.

But it took a few innings for them to get to that point.

Zionsville starting pitcher Leah Helton retired the first six New Palestine batters. In the first, she struck out the side and sent two more batters down on strikes in the second.

An error on a Payton Dye ground ball to start the third, kick-started a four-run Dragons inning.

“Their pitcher pitched a great game,” Marcum said. “We didn’t have the greatest at-bats against her but we made them count when we did get people on.”

Following Dye, catcher Reese Rosenbaum recorded the first New Palestine hit of the game with a hard-hit single to right field that advanced Dye to third base.

A few pitches later, Dye scored the first run of the game on a wild pitch, and just after that, Jersi Gross singled in courtesy runner Kylee Beranek for the 2-0 lead.

After striking out in her first at-bat, shortstop Allie Blum put the exclamation point on the inning with a two-run home run to centerfield to extend the Dragons lead.

“We’ve been struggling sometimes at the beginning of games against a good pitcher. It just takes us one time through the order to get it,” Marcum said. “Reese came through with a huge hit. We just had to stay on it. [Helton] did a great job of moving the ball around and we just stuck with it.”

With a four-run cushion, the Dragons pitching duo of Sadey Hughbanks and Courtney Study kept the Zionsville bats in check.

Normally the opposite, Hughbanks got the start and win, while Study picked up the save.

After a leadoff single by Zionzville’s Sylvia Mudis, Hughbanks retired the next six batters. In the third inning, the Eagles put runners on first and second with a pair of singles, but a ground ball to Blum at shortstop ended the threat. An inning later, the Eagles loaded the bases before a ground ball back to Hughbanks in the circle ended things.

Hughbanks threw four innings, allowed zero runs, gave up four hits and walked two. A typical ground-ball pitcher, she relied on her defense who committed just one error on the night. At shortstop, Blum assisted on seven of the 18 outs.

“I thought our pitchers did great. We mixed it up a bit. Courtney has been starting, but we wanted to give Sadey the start. She got us a lot of ground balls which is her specialty and she let our defense work,” Marcum said. “Defensively, we played great and then threw Courtney out there for the last three innings to mix things up, and she pitched great too.”

Study allowed just one run over the final three innings on an Abbie Geib solo home run in the sixth. She stuck out a pair and allowed two hits.

The Dragons added insurance runs in the fifth and sixth innings. In the fifth, Paige Ernstes singled in Blum, after she tripled, and in the sixth Maddie Engle singled and later scored on a Zionsville error.

New Palestine’s next game is Monday at 5:30 p.m. on the road at No. 13 Noblesville.

New Palestine 6, Zionsville 1

Zionsville (6-2);000;001;0;—1;6;2

New Palestine (6-0);004;011;x; —;6;7;1

Leah Helton and Abbie Geib; Sadey Hughbanks, Courtney Study (5) and Reese Rosenbaum. 2B: NP – Syd Oliver. 3B: NP – Allie Blum. HR: NP – Blum (4), Z – Geib (3). WP: Hughbanks (2-0). LP: Helton (1-1).