20 years later, Jacksons on other side of diamond for state title game


They’ll reminisce, laugh and hug, but this reunion has a lot on the line.

There will be friendly faces across the diamond when New Palestine and Hamilton Southeastern softball teams meet this evening for the championship game of the Class 4A IHSAA Softball State Finals at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium.

Sisters Megan Jackson and Erin (Dawson) Jackson were members of New Palestine’s first state championship softball team in 2004. Now they are part of the Hamilton Southeastern Royals coaching staff looking for their first state titles as coaches.

The Jackson sisters played for New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum and their parents, Mike and Tina Jackson, were in the same graduating class as Marcum at NPHS (1979).

Ed’s daughters, Michelle (Hokl) Marcum and Alyssa (Dillard) Marcum, are assistant coaches with the Dragons. Alyssa was a teammate of Erin’s at New Palestine and Michelle played at Marian University with current first-year HSE head coach Emily Pusti.

“It’s going to be cool, a New Pal reunion,” Marcum said.

Megan was a senior third baseman and pitcher on the 2004 team, which celebrated the 20th anniversary of the school’s first-ever state title at NPHS earlier this season. Erin was a freshman left fielder.

Megan was the head organizer of the anniversary celebration which took place on April 19. She and Katie (Armour) Molinder, the team’s pitchers that season, threw out the first pitch prior to the Dragons’ game with Zionsville.

“It’s surreal,” Megan said. “I had this really nostalgic feeling when we won our sectional championship game at Cherry Tree Complex (the same place the Dragons won the state title in 2004). I posted (on social media) a side-by-side of my sister and I with our state trophy 20 years ago next to our sectional championship picture.

“We’ve been playing it one game at a time and now we’re here facing coach Marcum. It’s very cool. We’re trying to figure out what colors my parents are going to wear the night of the game.”

The 2004 season was the start of something big. It was Marcum’s first year as head coach and the first of the program’s six softball state championships. If New Palestine wins No. 7 Friday night, it will tie the state-record currently held by Center Grove. Marcum already owns the state record for most state championships by a head coach (6).

“(They’re) great kids and were a very special part of the things we started, basically with them,” Marcum said of the Jacksons. “That’s what I told (this year’s) team when they came out for the anniversary celebration. If we come in (in 2004) and they fall on their face and I don’t get the job done it’s a totally different deal. All the little Dragons in the stands looking up to those girls and wanting to follow in their footsteps … that’s exactly what’s happened. It’s really cool.”

Erin is in her first season as an HSE assistant. Megan is in her second. The Royals and Dragons had a regular season game scheduled this year, but it was rained out. The teams met in 2023 at HSE with the Royals winning 11-7.

“I’m excited,” Erin said. “I want our team to win, but I love Ed, I love Alyssa, and of course, I love the Dragons. But, I want to win more.”

Erin said she tries to use some of what she learned from Marcum in the way she coaches.

“I’m extremely hard on myself and Ed’s been super awesome about being positive and reinforcing confidence in his girls. That is something that has affected me in my career,” Erin said. “It’s something I really try to do as a coach myself. I see some of the girls doing the same things I used to do when I was upset. I really try to be like coach Marcum and bring up their spirits. ‘It’s just a game. You’ll get the next one. It’s OK.’ Ed’s just a really good guy.”

“(Ed) was my JV coach before varsity coach and called pitches. I loved playing for him,” Megan added. “He texted me the night they won and it said, ‘Who would have thought?’ This is crazy. We’re both super competitive and I don’t think either of us said, ‘Good luck.’ I have a lot of respect for what he’s done with the program. I look at these girls and think, I was never that good when I played. They are extremely talented and probably the best team we’ve played all season.”

The connections don’t end with the two coaching staffs.

New Palestine sophomore pitcher Sadey Hughbanks is cousins with HSE’s Kiemeyer triplets, players Alex and Ava and manager Zoe. Plus, Mike Jackson will be working with NewPalRadio.com for the game’s broadcast.

IHSAA Softball State Finals

Class 4A Capsule

New Palestine Dragons (25-4)

Head coach: Ed Marcum (21st year, 513-76-1)

Assistant coaches: Alyssa Dillard, Michelle Hokl, Audrey East, Matt Hayden

Stat leaders: Allie Blum (Sr., SS, .560, 21 HRs, 52 RBI, 61 R, 14 2B), Paige Ernstes (Sr., 3B, .398, 11 HR, 51 RBI, 31 R, 8 2B), Sydney Oliver (Sr., RF, .510, 12 2B, 5 3B, 40 RBI, 36 R), Maddie Engle (Jr., CF, .407, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 6 2B), Katie Hirschy (Jr., 1B, .372, 7 HR, 26 RBI) Courtney Study (Sr., P, 17-2, 1.99 ERA, 105.1 IP, 73 Ks, 8 CG)

State championships: 6 (2004, 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018, 2019)

Hamilton Southeastern Royals (24-4)

Head coach: Emily Pusti (1st year, 24-4)

Assistant coaches: Casie Fletcher, Kaylee Carter, Megan Jackson, Kassie Roberts, Erin Dawson

Stat leaders: Reese Garland (Sr., IF, .375, 5 HR, 23 RBI), Alex Kiemeyer (Sr., C, .328, 4 HR, 6 2B, 17 RBI), Addy Justice (Sr., OF, .464, 14 RBI), Lani Wyrick (Sr., IF, .396, 31 R, 3 HR, 7 2B, 3 3B), Grace Swedarsky (So., P, 17-2, 1.50 ERA, 133 IP, 257 Ks, 69 H).

State championships: 2 (2007, 2010)

2024 IHSAA Softball State Finals Information

Site: Bittinger Stadium, Purdue University, 1324 McCormick Road, West Lafayette

Admission: All tickets will be digital through your mobile phone and may be purchased through Eventlink (additional fees may apply). No cash. Present your purchase verification on your mobile phone at the gate for admission. $15 per person. Children age 5 and younger admitted free. All seats general admission. No pass outs.

Gates Open: Gates open to spectators 90 minutes before the start of the first game each day. Due to anticipated large crowds, admission gates may close prior to the second game of the night until Game 1 is over. Please be patient as spectators exit from the previous game. Spectators are also encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on the hill overlooking center and right field.

Streaming: All four state championship games will stream exclusively at IHSAAtv.org via pay-per-view for $15 per game or $20 for all games. Free audio streaming at NewPalRadio.com.

Home Team: The winner of the northern semi-state is the designated home team in each game. The home team shall occupy the third base dugout.

Friday, June 7

Class 2A State Championship, 5:30 p.m.

Cascade (29-2) vs. Lapel (24-5)

Class 4A State Championship, 8 p.m.

New Palestine (25-4) vs. Hamilton Southeastern (24-4)

Saturday, June 8

Class 1A State Championship, 4:30 p.m.

Tecumseh (24-9) vs. Rossville (27-3)

Class 3A State Championship, 7 p.m.

Tri-West Hendricks (28-6) vs. Western (28-2)