WEST LAFAYETTE — After leaving seven runners on base, and six in scoring position without scoring a run, Hamilton Southeastern tied the game in the sixth and scored the winning run with one out in the bottom of the seventh inning to defeat New Palestine 2-1 in the IHSAA Softball State Finals Class 4A championship game at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium Friday.

New Palestine (25-5) managed just two hits and one run off Hamilton Southeastern (25-4) pitcher Grace Swedarsky, who finished the game with 13 strikeouts.

Prior to Friday, the Dragons had been 6-0 in state championship games, including consecutive Class 3A titles from 2017-19, to go with titles in 2004, 2008 and 2009.

“We were fortunate to be 6-0 in state championship games and we were really hoping for 7-0,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “Swedarsky gets all the credit. She was better than us (Friday). You’re not going to win too many games when you only have two hits. We had a shot going in the bottom of the sixth I felt like, and I told my coaches, we had to shut them down. She was getting better and we were struggling.”

The Dragons led 1-0 in the middle of the sixth inning.

Hamilton Southeastern’s Makena Burlingame started her team’s half of the frame with her second double. She moved to third base on a wild pitch. Pinch-hitter Sayla Stock drew a walk. New Palestine senior pitcher Courtney Study fanned Jenna Chase for the first out, but Keira Lodes’ fly ball to center field was deep enough for Burlingame to tag and score the game-tying run. The inning ended when shortstop Allie Blum dove to her right to snag a line drive headed into left field.

The Dragons went down in order in the seventh.

With one out in bottom half, Addy Justice singled to left field. Reese Garland reached on a walk and Alex Kiemeyer hit a double to left field to score Justice with the winning run.

“(When Burlingame) hit the ball to fence and then scored to tie it up I felt like that was big,” Marcum said. “If we go to the bottom of the seventh 1-0 the pressure is still on them. Once they tied the game now the pressure flipped and Kiemeyer had had really good at-bats.

“(They got) the first girl on and first and second with one out, I thought we were in trouble. (Kiemeyer) smoked it. Credit to her.”

The Dragons took a 1-0 lead in the third inning. With one out, Jersi Gross reached on a triple. She hit a hard grounder by Hamilton Southeastern third baseman Garland and it rolled all the way to the left field wall. Gross scored when Blum hit a sacrifice fly to center field.

New Palestine couldn’t muster much else against Swedarsky.

The Dragons had no other runner in scoring position the remainder of the game.

In the fourth, Sydney Oliver singled to right field but Swedarsky struck out the next three. Oliver reached on a two-out error in the sixth, but another strikeout ended the chance.

There were only two other base runners during the game. Gross led the game off with a walk and moved up on a wild pitch. In the second, Katie Hirschy got on after being hit by pitch. New Palestine had three innings — the first, the second and the fourth — where it got the leadoff hitter on. On all three occasions, Swedarsky retired the next three hitters, which included a combined seven strikeouts.

“She’s a great pitcher, one of the best pitchers we’ve seen all year,” Blum said. “She’s got a really good riseball and a really good curveball and she was mixing it well. She wasn’t missing. That’s the biggest thing about high school pitching is if the pitcher is missing the ball is going to be hit hard. She did not miss (Friday). She pitched an amazing game and props to her.”

On the other side, Study was having to get out of trouble almost every inning. There were no 1-2-3 innings.

In the first, one runner was left on third base. In the second, a runner was stranded at second. The third inning, the Royals had runners at second and third when Study ended the inning with a strikeout. Runners were at first and second when Study got out of the fourth with a strikeout. In the fifth, a runner was left on third base.

“You just can’t do that, they’re going to come through at some point,” Marcum said. “Courtney pitched very well and made big pitches when we needed it. We needed to score some more runs. Coming in I thought we needed to score three. Jersi had the big triple. Allie with the sac fly. Allie hit the ball to right field (in the sixth inning) I thought had a shot (at going out) but it died. We didn’t give ourselves enough opportunities. (Swedarsky) was just too good for us (Friday).”

Study finished with seven strikeouts, the most she had recorded in seven postseason games. She had eight twice during the regular season. She credited her team behind her for getting out of trouble during some tough innings.

“The defense is always amazing, the diving catch (by Allie in the sixth) really saved us,” Study said.

The Dragons finished the season 25-5. They won a Hoosier Heritage Conference title with an unbeaten 7-0 record. They claimed sectional, regional, and semi-state titles for the first time since 2019, and had outscored opponents 72-7 in postseason games until running into Swedarsky.

“The only word that comes to my mind is ‘proud,’ 100 percent,” Blum said. “We have accomplished so much this year. I know all of our seniors wanted it so much. We played great together and it’s so sad that that was our last game ever with the people we grew up with. I’m so excited to see what everybody does with their future. This season has shown me that every person on that field can do amazing things in life. I love every single one of them and the fact we lost doesn’t change a single thing. We are still one of the best teams in the state.”

New Palestine graduates seven seniors Blum, Oliver, Study, catcher Reese Rosenbaum, third baseman Paige Ernstes and left fielders Ella Holman and Nyla Lewis.

“I just told them they are going to look back and remember their friends and hopefully they look back how special this postseason run was,” Marcum said. “Second stinks. But, there are about 370 teams that would like to trade places with them. It just wasn’t our night. Swedarsky pitched great.

“It’s a great group of kids, I feel so bad for them. I wanted so bad for them to go out with a state title. Losing 2-1 doesn’t change how I feel about them. They are just outstanding young ladies, incredible softball players and have been an absolute pleasure to coach.”

It was Hamilton Southeastern’s third state championship and first since 2010.

The game was not completely without a pair of New Palestine victories. Senior outfielder Oliver was selected the recipient of the IHSAA’s Mental Attitude Award. Also, two HSE assistant coaches, sisters Megan Jackson and Erin (Dawson) Jackson are New Palestine graduates and were part of New Palestine’s first state championship team in 2004.

Hamilton Southeastern 2, New Palestine 1

New Palestine (25-5);001;000;0;—;1;2;1

Hamilton Southeastern (25-4);000;001;1—;2;8;1

Courtney Study and Reese Rosenbaum; Grace Swedarsky and Al. Kiemeyer 2B: HSE – Makena Burlingame, 2, Al. Kiemeyer. 3B: NP – Jersi Gross. WP: Swedarsky (18-2). LP: Study (17-3).