Coach Ed Marcum slowly walked around the field at Bittinger Stadium, taking photos and gazing at the scoreboard as many times as he could, just soaking in the moment.
The scoreboard’s numbers featured the finish of the most dominant run in IHSAA softball tournament history, a 10-0 New Palestine victory over Yorktown. It clinched the first three-peat in softball State Finals history and also gave New Palestine its state record-tying sixth state title overall.
“It never gets old, that’s for sure,” Marcum said. “To have the opportunity to be here is one thing, but now to win six, and do it with my daughters, who I had an opportunity to coach and for them to want to come back and hang with Dad, it’s just a pleasure. It’s an honor for our community and for New Palestine High School.”
New Palestine (29-3) won all seven games in the state tournament by at least 10 runs, outscoring teams 86-5.
“It’s honestly just awesome,” Jones said of hoisting the trophy for the third straight year. “I can’t fathom it. I was thinking ‘wow, this really happened.'”
The Dragons’ six seniors again played a huge role. Jaylin Calvert set the table, drawing three walks and scoring a 3A State Finals record-tying three runs. She also had an RBI single to plate the first run in the seven-run sixth. Emma Tucher was 3-for-4 with a run – including two hits and two RBI in the sixth.
Mental Attitude Award recipient Emily O’Connor was 2-for-3 with three RBI, hitting a double and a triple. She is the fifth softball player in NPHS history to receive the IHSAA’s highest individual honor, joining Alyssa Marcum, Sara Evans, Elisha Barker and Ashley Prange. She is also the seventh NPHS athlete to receive the Mental Attitude Award.
“They’re true student-athletes,” Marcum said. “I expect a lot from them not only on the diamond, but off the diamond. It’s because of that, it opens everything up for our Mental Attitude Award winner. I’m so excited for Emily. She’s had a great career. This senior class, I’m really going to miss them. They’ve done a great job for us, obviously, with three straight state titles. Not many teams get to end with a win, and to do it three years in a row is just incredible.”
Seniors Macy Miller and Tatum Biddle also had a hit and an RBI. Sarah Greene scored a run.
The Dragons took a 2-0 lead three batters into the game, but the contest hung in the balance until the sixth, when they exploded for seven runs on seven hits, extending the lead to 9-0. NP plated another run in the seventh.
The Dragons looked ready to roll to the three-peat early, as Jaylin Calvert drew a four-pitch leadoff walk. Michaela Jones followed with a single to left. O’Connor then blasted a pitch off the warning track in the right-centerfield gap for a double, plating both runners and giving NP a lead before recording an out.
Three straight strikeouts ended the frame, and a pitcher’s duel settled in.
Dragon sophomore Sam Booe pitched a gem, taking a no-hitter into the sixth inning and throwing a two-hit shutout.
“Knowing i was going to be starting in a state championship game. I wanted to go out and dominate,” Booe said. “I told the team, I want to get this one for you guys. We play for each other.”
NP left the bases loaded in the second inning after a leadoff single by Tucher and two walks, and left runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth, but Yorktown starter Kaylyn Coahran was able to get out of each threat. In the fifth, the tide began to turn, as the Raegan Hiatt had a two-out hit in-between three hard-hit balls to centerfield, all of which were caught.
Even with the game remaining 2-0 as the innings rolled on, the Dragons expected to come through.
“Some of the girls on the team feel pressure. It wasn’t pressure, but we know our talent,” O’Connor said. “We know what we can do out here. It feels good to execute it and get those runs across the board. As we say, pressure is a privilege. We’re honored to be out here.”
“We’re always just so confident and confident in each other. We always know someone will get it done,” Jones added. “I always have no doubt we’re going to score more and more.”
In the sixth, the Dragons exploded and kept scoring. Tucher led off with a bunt single. Kendal Calvert followed with a single to leftfield, giving the Dragons two on with none out.
“We come to the top of the order, first and second and nobody out,” Marcum said. “Kendal’s hit was just huge. We were able to stay with it and keep things rolling.”
Jaylin Calvert followed with a sharp single to center, plating Tucher with the first run of the inning. Jones then crushed a pitch to left, which was caught right at the top of the wall. Kendal Calvert came home on the play. It was the second straight year Jones had blasted a pitch to the fence in the state title game and narrowly missed a homer.
“I was watching, thinking ‘there’s no way that’s not out of here,'” Jones said. “It was awesome. Just knowing my teammates were on so I was able to score them.”
O’Connor then hit a ball into right that fell for an RBI triple. Miller had an RBI single to make it a 6-0 game. After a lineout, Hiatt followed with her second hit of the game to plate another run. Tucher, who started the inning, followed with a two-run single to center to cap the rally. The seven hits in an inning tied a 3A State Finals record set by the 2009 and 2017 Dragon teams.
NP added a run in the seventh when Jaylin Calvert walked and scored on Biddle’s two-out single.
Meanwhile, Booe was mowing through the Tigers. She recorded a strikeout to lead off the game and retired the first 14 batters she faced – including recording two of her six strikeouts in a seven-pitch third inning. Yorktown’s first baserunner came on a two-out walk in the fifth, but Booe sandwiched it with two punchouts. The Tigers had a one-out single in the sixth, but Booe retired the top two hitters in the Tiger order on flyouts to Jaylin Calvert in center. In the seventh, she induced a popup and a flyout to center before a two-out single kept the Tigers alive. A soft flyball to short right found Tucher’s glove, touching off the celebration.
Booe, who started the year as the Dragons’ No. 2 pitcher but took over the top role after an injury to junior Kaylea Bullock, finished 18-0. She joins Katie Armour, Evans, Elisha Barker and Mackenzie Jones as state title game-winning pitchers for the Dragons.
The two hits allowed were second-fewest in a seven-inning 3A title game, tying a record set by three other pitchers, including Armour in 2004. Evans threw a one-hitter in the 2009 title game in five innings.
“She did amazing. I’m so proud of her for stepping up, since Kaylea got hurt. She’s done an amazing job,” Jones said.
“She’s adjusted very well. In the beginning of the season, it didn’t look like she was going to be our starter,” O’Connor said. “She’s watched all of us love the game so much and we’ve watched her love the game so much. We inspire each other.”
In addition to setting a mark for hits in an inning, the Dragons also set a 3A State Finals record by drawing eight walks. The Dragons 10 runs batted in also tie a 3A State Finals record, set by the 2017 Dragons. Marcum became the first head coach in IHSAA history to win six state titles.