The New Palestine baseball team scored five runs in the first inning Thursday and made it stand up, beating the Lawrence Central Bears 5-3 in the sectional semifinal.
NP will face Cathedral at noon Monday for the sectional title at NPHS. Cathedral beat Warren Central 8-2 in Thursday’s first game.
Dragon pitchers Jack Walker and Zach Neligh combined for 17 strikeouts in the game. Walker (5-2) got the win with 11 Ks over 4 2/3 innings. Neligh fanned six of the seven batters he faced to get the save.
The Dragons put the first four runners on base, with all four scoring, to take the early lead. Colby Jenkins laced a single to center. Zach Neligh followed with an infield hit. Three straight passed balls brought both home. A walk to Jack Walker was followed with Noah Mack being hit by a pitch. After a strikeout, Jacob Bain walked to load the bases. Grant Wiegand had an infield hit, which was followed by a throwing error to extend the lead to 4-0. Another error brought home Bain to plate the fifth run. NP sent 10 batters to tohe plate in the opening inning.
The Dragons put runners in scoring position in each of their final four at-bats, but the Bears’ pitchers were able to end the threats.
Walker (5-2) got the win for the Dragons, allowing four hits and two earned runs over 4 2/3 innings. He struck out 11, including fanning the side in the first. He had two strikeouts in each of the following four innings.
LC plated two runs in the third on two walks, a bunt single, a bases-loaded hit batter and a throwing error. The Bears drew closer in the third on two singles, a walk and a run-scoring wild pitch, before Walker struck out the No. 2 hitter to end the frame. He then fanned the first two batters he faced in the fifth before yielding to Neligh, who was dominant. Neligh struck out the first six batters he faced to get to the cusp of victory. He then induced a weak grounder to the mound and threw to Mack at first to end the game.
Jenkins led the Dragons’ six-hit attack, going 3-for-4 with a double and a run. Neligh was 1-for-4 with a run. Wiegand was 1-for-3 with an RBI. Bain was 1-or-3 with a run. Mack and courtesy runner Alex Kropp also scored runs.
The Dragons are now 16-12 on the season heading into the sectional championship game, a rematch of last year’s title game.