MOORESVILLE — An early-game lead slipped away and a marathon ensued.

In quest of the program’s first semi-state title since winning the 2004 Class 3A state championship, New Palestine’s baseball team suffered a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss in 11 innings to No. 6 Mooresville, the state’s winningest team, in a Class 4A South Semi-State semifinal game at Pioneer Field Saturday.

The Pioneers (32-3) went on to win Saturday evening’s semi-state championship game 7-2 over Avon (19-16) to earn a spot into this Saturday’s Class 4A state championship game against Lake Central (24-9) at Victory Field in Indianapolis.

With one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, Mooresville freshman Liam Delp singled up the middle to score Bryce Brabender, who had singled earlier, with the game’s winning run.

New Palestine (25-6) ends its season for the third straight year in the state quarterfinals.

“It stings. It stings because we got a chance to win the game a couple times with a big hit, make a play, get a bunt down. That’s what stings about it,” New Palestine head coach Shawn Lyons said. “(Pitcher) Michael Thorpe just competed his butt off. He was really on it and he kept them off balance.”

A baffling changeup was the pitch of choice for senior Thorpe. He threw eight innings and had a career-high 12 strikeouts. It was his third double-figure strikeout game of the season. All three came in big games. In regular season Hoosier Heritage Conference wins over New Palestine’s biggest rivals, Thorpe fanned 11 in a victory over Greenfield-Central and 10 in win over Mt. Vernon.

He gave up six hits, walked two, one intentionally, and surrendered two earned runs before hitting his pitch count and handing the ball off to reliever Jacob Morris.

“The changeup was really good. They were trying to sit on 82-83 (mph fastballs) and the changeup was good and moving around. It baffled them. I was surprised how much it baffled them,” Lyons added.

New Palestine scored two runs in the third inning with the help of some control issues from Mooresville sophomore starting pitcher Hudson DeVaughan, who threw just 2.1 innings before being relieved by Gatorade’s Indiana Player of the Year Hogan Denny, who is 2-0 on the mound with 11 saves, a 0.69 earned run average and 73 strikeouts in 40.1 innings pitched.

DeVaughan struck out six of the seven outs he recorded, but also walked seven.

In the third inning, Morris, Jackson Kamp and Rigg Mahurin drew consecutive one-out walks. Denny entered and struck out Ben Hirschy before New Palestine senior left fielder Wyatt Matheis doubled off the left field fence, just missing a grand slam.

Morris and Kamp scored to give New Palestine a 2-0 lead.

It held up until the sixth.

Thorpe walked Denny, whose younger brother, sophomore Tyler Denny, followed with a single to left field. Hogan Denny got to third base and Tyler Denny ended up stealing second. Thorpe fanned both Deklan Thompson and Levi Dorn, but Brabender smashed a triple to score two runs and tie the game.

New Palestine had chances in the seventh, 10th and 11th innings.

In the seventh, Adam Rickey led off with a double. He got to third on an errant pickoff throw. Nic Deering fanned and when Morris tried to lay down a two-strike squeeze bunt he missed and Rickey was tagged out in a rundown to end the inning.

“It wasn’t a bad pitch. It’s a pitch we practice bunting. We gave two strikes, let’s go and let’s see if we get it down,” Lyons said of the squeeze play. “If we get it down we’re going to win the ballgame. You take in considerations previous at-bats, what’s transpired and I just wanted to try to create chaos and it didn’t work. If it works you’re a genius, if it doesn’t you’re a big dummy.”

In the 10th, after two strikeouts, Morris singled and Kamp doubled, but Hogan Denny was able to strike out Mahurin looking on a pitch that looked well outside of the strike zone.

In the 11th, Hirschy walked, Matheis reached on a fielder’s choice and stole a base. Gavin Neal drew a two-out walk, but Rickey flied out to end the inning.

After reliever Morris had faced the minimum in the ninth and 10th innings, the Pioneers got something going with one out in the 11th. Brabender singled and Selby Barton and Brendin Oliver each drew walks prior to Delp’s game-winning knock.

The game went three hours and 45 minutes. The teams combined to strike out 38 times, 24 of those were New Palestine’s. Mooresville pitching struck out at least two Dragons in every inning but the 11th. Hogan Denny recorded 17 strikeouts in 7.2 innings of work.

“Disheartening,” Lyons added on the loss. “We struck out too many times … We had to figure out a way to get a run in and we didn’t.”

It was a gut-punch of a loss to a team that has continued a remarkable run of postseason success despite continually graduating large senior classes.

In each of the last two seasons, the Dragons have graduated big, productive groups. In 2022, the Dragons went 24-7 before losing 11-7 to Cathedral in the regional title. With few experienced returnees in 2023, the Dragons went 23-10 before being eliminated in a semi-state semifinal game by Castle, 7-3. With the graduation of the team’s top pitcher and power hitter along with a number of other roster regulars, the Dragons had one of the state’s top teams up against the ropes before an agonizing extra-inning loss.

The Dragons have gone 72-23 over the last three seasons.

“That’s what athletics is all about. It’s better to get here and lose and not get here at all,” Lyons said. “That was my message to them … These guys feel bad, but you wouldn’t trade this experience in for anything because you get to have it.

“You could be some other teams that got beat in a sectional and don’t get to experience the two dogpiles, the team dinners, the camaraderie, all those things that go along with the run that we had. I’m selfish, I wanted to spend another week with my guys and I don’t get that opportunity.”

This year’s team will get hit hard by graduation, too. They’ll graduate 10 including starters Michael Thorpe, Henry Thorpe, Deering, Rickey, Hirschy, and Matheis, along with Jace Jaques, Landon Ballard, Sean Young and Jack Anderson.

“What every year we’re hoping for is (the seniors) bring it, leave their legacy, and then they’re gone but not forgotten and our underclassmen take notes and lessons,” Lyons added.

Mooresville 3, New Palestine 2 (11 innings)

New Palestine (25-6);002;000;000;00; — 2;5;1

Mooresville (31-3);000;002;000;01 — ;3;8;1

Michael Thorpe, Jacob Morris (9) and Jackson Kamp; Hudson DeVaughn, Hogan Denny (3), Brendin Oliver (11) and H. Denny, Ryan Robinson (3), H. Denny (11). 2B: NP – Wyatt Matheis, Adam Rickey, Kamp; M – Levi Dorn. 3B: M – Bryce Brabender. WP: Oliver (11-0). LP: Morris (5-3).