New Palestine High School Softball (Varsity)

Softball State Finals preview

By Andrew Smith | Jun 6, 2024 3:39 PM


The New Palestine softball team is set to play in Friday's IHSAA State Finals, with the Dragons seeking their seventh state title. New Palestine (25-4) vs. Hamilton Southeastern (24-4) Friday, June 7, 2024 at Bittinger Stadium, West Lafayette (directions: Time: 8 p.m. Tickets: $15, ONLINE ONLY Audio: (free) Video: ($15) SETTING THE SCENE The Dragons softball team is making its ninth State Finals appearance and first since 2019, when the Dragons won three consecutive Class 3A titles. The Dragons are making their first Class 4A State Finals appearance. The Dragons are seeking to tie Center Grove as the program with the most IHSAA softball state championships with seven. Head coach Ed Marcum has led the Dragons to all six state titles, a state record for a head coach. The Dragons are 6-1 all-time in state championship games, with the lone loss coming in the 2003 State Finals. They won titles in 2004, 2008, 2009, 2017, 2018 and 2019. New Palestine and HSE were scheduled to play April 11, but it was rained out. Head coach Ed Marcum is the seventh-winningest softball coach in IHSAA history. He won his 500th career game May 4 at Jennings County. DRAGONS NOTES The Dragons have hit their stride in the state tournament, outscoring their opponents 72-7 in six tournament games to get to the State Finals. Three times, they have ended games in five innings due to the mercy rule, including in both the regional and semistate championship games. Senior Allie Blum leads the state with 21 home runs. She tied the school record set by Ashley Prange in 2017 with a two-run blast in the first inning of Monday’s semistate championship game against Center Grove. Blum has homered four times in the last three games, as she also hit a two-run shot in the semistate semifinal against Avon. She homered twice in her first two at-bats - one of which was her second inside-the-park homer of the season - against Cathedral in the regional. Blum also leads the state in runs scored (61). Blum is sixth (52) and Paige Ernstes eighth (51) in the state in runs batted in. Ernstes hit a grand slam in the regional against Cathedral to add to her total. Three Dragons have been named All-State. Blum was chosen First Team All-State and a participant in the SCAI North-South All-Star Game. She is also one of five finalists for Miss Softball. Ernstes is Second Team All-State and Sydney Oliver Third Team All-State. Blum, Oliver and Ella Holman were chosen Academic All-State by the SCAI. The Dragons’ bats were rolling in the semistate. In the semifinal against Avon, Oliver delivered a two-run double in the first to lead off the game. After rain forced the game’s suspension to Monday, Maddie Engle hit a two-run homer two batters in. Blum added a two-run homer in the seventh. Courtney Study retired 15 of the 16 batters she faced Monday to nail down a three-hit shutout. In the semistate championship game, it was again a homer two batters in that set the tone, as Blum began the game with a two-run shot. The Dragons scored multiple runs in every inning, with their last 10 runs coming with two outs. Oliver went 4-for-4 with four runs and four RBI. Katie Hirschy was 3-for-3 with a run and two RBI, while Blum was 2-for-2 with four runs and two RBI. Engle drove in three runs. Study is 16-2 with a 1.99 ERA. In the state tournament, she is 5-0 with a 0.90 ERA, allowing four earned runs and 24 hits in 31 innings. SCOUTING THE ROYALS HSE has won two softball state tltles, winning the 4A crowns in 2007 and 2010. This is the Royals’ first State Finals appearance since 2014, when they were runners-up to Bloomington South. HSE has outscored its tourney foes 28-3, advancing with a 2-0 victory over Carroll (Allen) in the semistate semifinal, then a 4-1 win over Penn in Monday’s semistate championship game. The Royals are led by sophomore pitcher Grace Swedarsky, who has a 0.50 ERA in the six state tournament games. She has allowed just 13 hits and thrown two no-hitters in the tourney - in a 2-0 win over Zionsville in the sectional semifinal and the semistate semifinal victory over Carroll. She is striking out an average of 13.3 batters per game in the tournament. HSE has two familiar faces on its coaching staff - Megan Jackson and Erin (Jackson) Dawson are both New Palestine graduates and were part of the Dragons’ 2004 state championship. TOURNEY NOTES NPHS assistant coach Alyssa (Marcum) Dillard was the IHSAA’s Mental Attitude Award recipient in 2008. NP also had Mental Attitude Award receipients in 2009 (Sara Evans), 2017 (Elisha Barker), 2018 (Ashley Prange) and 2019 (Emily O’Connor). In addition to the six softball state titles, New Palestine has won four other team state championships - 2014 (4A),2018 and 2019 (5A) in football and 2004 (3A) in baseball.