New Palestine High School Softball (Varsity)

Softball blasts into state title game

By Andrew Smith | Jun 4, 2024 12:00 AM


There are few things the New Palestine softball program hasn't yet accomplished. They chalked up another Monday, winning the first 4A semistate in school history and clinching their first State Finals berth in five years, beating No. 5 Center Grove 14-2 in five innings. Earlier in the day, the Dragons advanced to the state's final four with a 6-0 shutout of Avon. In each game Monday, it took just two batters for the Dragons' bats to set the tone. In the opener against Avon, they entered with a 2-0 lead after two innings, as Sydney Oliver delivered a two-run double in the first inning Saturday before the game was suspended. When play resumed Monday in the top of the third. Paige Ernstes was hit with the first pitch. The next batter, Maddie Engle, blasted a two-run homer to dead center to quickly put the Dragons up 4-0. Courtney Study controlled the game from there, setting down 15 of the 16 batters she faced Monday, including the last nine. Allie Blum added a two-run homer in the seventh to extend the lead to 6-0. Study sealed the game with three straight flyouts. Study was nearly unhittable - allowing three hits, two walks and striking out four. Two of the hits and both walks came Saturday while a heavy rain was falling. The Dragons were opportunistic with their six hits. Engle was 2-for-2 with a two-run homer. Blum was 1-for-3 with two runs and a two-run homer. Oliver was 1-for-4 with a double, a run and two RBI. Ella Holman and Paige Ernstes were both 1-for-3. Jersi Gross walked twice and scored twice. In the championship game, the Dragons again struck quickly, with a homer two batters into the first. After Study set the Trojans down in order in the top of the inning, Gross worked a walk after falling behind 0-2. Blum hit the next pitch deep over the rightfield fence for an opposite-field two-run homer. It was her 21st homer of the season, tying Ashley Prange's school record. But the Dragons kept going. Ernstes, Oliver and Katie Hirschy followed with base hits, the latter plating a run. Engle's RBI groundout made it a 4-0 game. CG hit a solo homer to lead off the second, but Study stranded two Trojans. In the bottom of the frame, the Dragons again went to work. Holman led off with a single. Gross bunted her to second, opening up first base for Blum, who was intentionally walked. After a lineout, the Dragons piled up runs. Oliver blasted a double off the centerfield fence to plate two runs. Hirschy followed with an RBI single, chasing CG starter Riley Henson after 1 2/3 innings. Engle and Reese Rosenbaum walked to load the bases. Payton Dye followed by lacing a double to left, plating two runs and giving NP a 9-1 lead. The Dragons added on in the third. Blum hit a one-out double off the base of the fence. After a flyout, Oliver singled Blum home. A wild pitch plated Oliver to make it an 11-1 game. CG hit its second solo homer of the game in the fourth, but again, the Dragons responded. After the first two batters were retired, Blum and Ernstes drew walks. Oliver hit a sharp single to right to plate Blum. After a walk to Hirschy loaded the bases, Engle drilled a two-run single to center to give the Dragons a 14-2 lead. The Dragons' last 10 runs were scored with two outs. Study was again outstanding, allowing four hits, two runs and striking out two. She retired 10 of the last 11 batters she faced, striking out CG's leadoff hitter to end the game. The Dragons mashed 14 hits against four Trojans pitchers. All nine starters reached base and eight had hits, with the middle of the order doing much of the damage. Oliver, the Dragons' cleanup hitter, was 4-for-4 with a double, four runs and four RBI. Hirschy, who hits behind Oliver, was 3-for-3 with a run and two RBI. Engle was 1-for-2, but had a run and drove in three. Blum was 2-for-2 with a homer, two RBI, four runs and two walks. Ernstes was 1-for-3 with a run. Rosenbaum was 1-for-2 with two walks. Dye was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBI. Holman was 1-for-3 with a run. The Dragons will face Hamilton Southeastern at 8 p.m. Friday at Purdue University's Bittinger Stadium in West Lafayette for the state championship. The Dragons will be seeking their seventh state title in school history.