NEW PALESTINE — Thursday night’s softball matchup at New Palestine High School was a battle of ranked teams, was a potential sectional semifinal preview, and was a game between the top two teams in the Hoosier Heritage Conference.

But more than anything it was a chance for New Palestine to get revenge against the team that knocked them out of last year’s sectional.

The No. 3 ranked Dragons (16-1, 6-0) did just that, defeating No. 13 Pendleton Heights (15-8, 4-1) 5-1.

“This game specifically was a revenge game because they beat us in the sectional last year. Last year we beat them in the regular season but then they beat us in sectional,” New Palestine senior shortstop Allie Blum said. “We don’t want a repeat of that, so this year we’re just really focused on not letting that happen again.”

With the win, New Palestine remained unbeaten in conference play and clinched a share of the HHC title. They can win it outright with a win over Delta on May 17.

“We knew Pendleton would be a great battle. It always is. It was a good game and a good preview of two weeks from now,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “I thought we came out really focused early but then lost some of our intensity later on and made some bad swings in key moments. We told them that’s something we have to learn from to be ready to go come sectional time. But Pendleton is always a good team and it was another great battle.”

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Courtney Study in the circle, the high-powered New Palestine offense wasted no time jumping on Pendleton Heights starting pitcher Shelby Messer in the bottom half of the inning.

Leadoff hitter Jersi Gross walked to kick things off, and a batter later, Blum smacked her 12th home run of the season over the centerfield fence to give the Dragons an early 2-0 lead.

The Dragons No. 3 hitter, Syd Oliver, followed Blum with a triple and scored on a Paige Ernstes sacrifice fly to cap off a three-run first inning.

“I was just looking for something to hit there,” Blum said. “I show bunt before the pitch when I’m out in front because it slows me down and helps me be on time, and it worked out.”

In the third, the Dragons loaded the bases with three straight singles, but Messer avoided damage with a pop-out to second and a double-play pop-out to the catcher in foul territory. Katelin Goodwin made the catch and caught Oliver trying to tag up and score.

Two innings later, the New Palestine offense tacked on a pair of insurance runs. Oliver started the inning with her third hit of the game and later came around to score from first on a Maddie Engle double. The next batter, Reese Rosenbaum, singled in Engle to make things 5-1.

The five runs were more than enough for pitchers Study and Cailyn Hurst.

Study, after running in the HHC track meet Wednesday, rejoined the Dragons on Thursday and picked up right where she’s been all season long.

She moved to 10-0 on the year with 5.1 innings of one-run ball.

The lone Pendleton Heights run came in the fourth inning with three straight hits to start the frame. Skylar Baldwin got the Arabians first hit of the game with a bunt and moved to second on a passed ball before being brought home by a Goodwin double.

A single by Kelsey Day put runners on the corners with no outs, but the Dragons defense came up big. Day was caught by Rosenbaum trying to steal second, Ernstes got Goodwin out at home on a ground ball to third, and a hard groundout back to Study in the circle ended the threat.

“My changeup was working well tonight. They hit the changeup but they would be ground balls and Paige and Allie made the plays,” Study said. “Our defense is amazing and I know I can always count on them.”

The Dragons defense made zero errors on the night. At shortstop, Blum was responsible for six of the outs and made a tough play on a ground ball up the middle to end the sixth inning with runners on first and second.

“Our defense was incredible,” Marcum said. “Allie made a couple of plays out there that not many shortstops can make, and she made them look easy.”

Relieving Study in the sixth was Hurst. After throwing a shutout the night before against Fishers, she came in and shut down the Arabians in the sixth and seventh.

After a single to the first batter she faced, Goodwin, she sent the next five batters down and ended things with a strikeout.

“Courtney pitched really well, and our hope was for her to get through the lineup a few times and then bring in Cailyn. That’s basically what happened,” Marcum said. “Cailyn pitched so well the other night that I thought she deserved the opportunity and she came in and did another great job for us.”

The Dragons are back in action Friday at home at 5:30 p.m. against Eastern Hancock. The game was originally scheduled to be played at Eastern, but due to field conditions has been moved to the artificial surface at New Palestine.

New Palestine 5, Pendleton Heights 1

Pendleton Heights (15-8, 4-1);000;100;0;—;1;5;0

New Palestine (16-1, 6-0);300;020;0;—;5;8;0

Shelby Messer and Katelin Goodwin; Courtney Study, Cailyn Hurst (6) and Reese Rosenbaum. 2B: PH – Goodwin. NP: – Maddie Engle. 3B: NP – Syd Oliver. HR: NP – Allie Blum (12). WP: Study (10-0). LP: Messer (8-4).