NEW PALESTINE — It has been a well-formulated plan. The record proves it.

For the third straight year the New Palestine Dragons are sectional champions, beating neighboring-rival Greenfield-Central 6-0 for the Class 4A Sectional 9 baseball title at New Palestine High School Monday.

It is New Palestine’s 19th sectional championship and third time it has won three in a row. Along with the crowns from 2022-24, the Dragons won consecutive sectional championships from 1986-88 and 2008-10.

“That’s pretty big, I mean, how many programs can say they’ve won a sectional three years in a row?” New Palestine senior first baseman Ben Hirschy said. “We’re not done. We’ve got plenty more to do.”

Against the Cougars on Memorial Day, the Dragons used that same formula that has won them so many games and so many titles.

They get clutch hitting, strong pitching, and play flawless defense.

“Execution, pitching, defense and timely hitting are on our board,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “They’ve bought in and they’ve done it.”

There is another ingredient that Lyons said has been a big part of his program’s success. Each of the sectional title teams during this stretch have had large senior classes. They’ve continued to be a consistent winner even when they are graduating big segments of the previous year’s roster.

Two of three title teams have had 10 or more seniors, so not everyone is going to get to play. Lyons said those kids accept their roles and the team chemistry is their biggest key to success.

“We have tremendous talent, but the chemistry of our senior class is outstanding,” Lyons said. “We have 10 young men and they’ve all bought in. When you have good senior leadership like that, I always say, ‘What would you rather have chemistry or talent?’ The answer is chemistry. Talent helps, but you have to have chemistry. I think the last three years we’ve had tremendous senior leadership and they pay it forward.”

Hirschy got it going on the offensive side. He hit a two-run home run over the right-center field fence off Greenfield-Central junior right-handed fireballer Parker Rhodes — who has committed to Xavier University — with one out in the second inning. It was his first of the season. Rigg Mahurin, who had singled up the middle on the previous at-bat, scored in front of him.

“I feel like I’ve been working all year to get one and I finally got one,” Hirschy said. “We wanted his fastball. We train every day for that velocity, fastballs.”

“We missed one pitch in the second inning and it got hit about 385 feet. Hirschy hit a nice ball,” Greenfield-Central head coach Mitch Gibson said. “He left the ball in the middle of the plate and that’s what’s going to happen.”

With New Palestine leading 2-0 in the sixth inning, Jacob Morris and Jackson Kamp led off with singles. Mahurin drew a walk. After reliever Kaden Snodgrass struck out Hirschy, Wyatt Matheis hit a bases-clearing double to left field for a 5-0 lead. With two outs, Gavin Neal singled to left field to score Matheis.

The Dragons got seven hits from six different players. Neal was 2-for-2 with a sacrifice bunt. All nine in the starting lineup either reached base by hit, walk/hit by pitch or error.

“I thought the biggest play that helped us relax a bit was the two-run home run that Ben Hirschy hit,” Lyons said. “We had runners on base, but we couldn’t knock (Greenfield-Central) out. Then, Wyatt Matheis hits either the biggest hit today, or the second biggest hit today.”

On the mound, Morris threw a two-hitter. He walked one and hit one batter and faced just two over the minimum in his shutout victory. It was his third shutout of the season. He threw a six-inning no-hitter in a victory over Lebanon in an early season tournament and had a one-hitter in a victory over East Central, the evening the Dragons celebrated the 20th anniversary of their 2024 state title.

Morris retired the final 10 batters faced.

“They threw it well and they battled,” Gibson said of the Dragons. “New Pal competes. That’s one thing I’ve always known about New Pal. They compete in the batters box and they are tough outs. They’ve got a good hitting team that battles and battles and competes. It’s hard to pitch to. I think Parker did a good enough job to give ourselves a chance, but that one swing by Hirschy changed the game.”

There were other game-changing plays, too.

In the fourth inning, after Greenfield-Central’s Brady Johnson walked and stole a base, Morris got his lone strikeout. He relied on his defense to do the rest, and they did not let their pitcher down.

With Johnson at second, G-C senior cleanup hitter Kirk Knecht hit a deep drive to right-center field. It just missed being a home run and hit off the outfield fence, but an 8-6-2 relay (from Henry Thorpe to Adam Rickey to Kamp) was able to catch Johnson at the plate.

“I think one of the biggest plays was the (Knecht hit) that everyone thought was going out and we were able to record the out at home plate,” Morris said. “It said to me, ‘We have this ballgame.’”

“That was a huge moment,” Hirschy added. “That just killed any momentum they were building.”

Gibson agreed that it killed the momentum, though he didn’t agree with the call.

“The play at home, in my opinion, the catcher had the plate blocked (without having the ball),” Gibson said. “…That was a big momentum halt. … Knecht hits a ball that almost leaves the ballpark and we get thrown out at home on a bang-bang play I don’t think we got thrown out on. I’ll rest my head at night that that was a big part of the momentum shift for us. That really hurt us on the momentum side.”

The Cougars did not have a baserunner the rest of the game.

Instead of a 2-1 game, the Cougars had two outs with Knecht on second base. Morris got Owen Zumbolo to ground to Rickey to end the inning.

Both Greenfield-Central hits ended with outs.

In the first inning with two outs, Cobb hit a single to left field, but when he tried to stretch it into a double, Matheis threw to second baseman Michael Thorpe for the final out of the first inning.

It was a big day in the field for Michael Thorpe. He had seven assists and two putouts.

“Our fielding percentage is around .975,” Lyons said. “That’s amazing for high school baseball. (Our coaches) fungo with them every day, working on short hops, reading the hops.

“Pitching and defense, Jacob is a strikeout guy and it’s a testament to Greenfield, they kept the ball in play. We have tremendous defense, we did miss a cutoff, but we got the out at the plate. You’ve got to throw strikes and have the defense behind you.”

The Cougars were playing in a sectional championship baseball game for the first time since winning the tournament in 2019. Gibson’s club ended the year 13-14, but the first-year coach looks to have the Cougars pointed in the right direction.

He’ll miss a good group of seniors (four were in Monday’s starting lineup), but a large contingent of underclassmen, including a pair of freshmen starters in Gavin Markus (shortstop) and Jacob Welch (outfield) are among the returnees.

Rhodes is just a junior and is considered one of the state’s top pitching prospects in his class.

“You look at the year we’ve had, I’ll say as my first time as head coach at Greenfield, I’m very proud,” Gibson said. “I’m extremely proud of our guys and them helping me, and the coaching staff, create what that culture and what that standard is. It’s a standard of high school baseball at Greenfield that you haven’t seen in a long time. Our staff and our players will keep working to get there.”

New Palestine will play a regional game Saturday against Cathedral, the Sectional 10 champion, at a yet to be determined time and location.

New Palestine 6, Greenfield-Central 0

New Palestine (24-5);020;004;0;—;6;7;0

Greenfield-Central (13-14);000;000;0;—;0;2;2

Jacob Morris and Jackson Kamp; Parker Rhodes, Kaden Snodgrass (6), Gavin Markus (7) and Zander Cobb. 2B: NP – Wyatt Matheis; G-C – Kirk Knecht. HR: NP – Ben Hirschy (1). WP: Morris (4-2). LP: Rhodes (3-5).