New Palestine High School
Nunnally's gem, timely hitting leads baseball to sectional title
By Andrew Smith | May 29, 2023 4:48 PM
Blaine Nunnally threw a complete-game shutout and the New Palestine baseball team backed it up with timely hitting Monday to beat Mt. Vernon 2-0 and clinch the Class 4A Mt. Vernon baseball sectional title.
The Dragons won their second straight sectional and 18th overall.
Against one of the top lineups in Central Indiana - a Marauder team that came into the day averaging more than eight runs per game - Nunnally was virtually unhittable. He allowed one hit - a first-inning single - and three total baserunners. Nunnally retired the last 15 batters he faced and 20 of the last 21.
The Dragons got on the board early, as Nic Deering worked a one-out walk on a 3-2 pitch. Wes Stiller followed by punching a single into rightfield with Deering running, putting runners on the corners. Nunnally followed with a sharp grounder to third. Deering came home as Stiller broke up a potential doubleplay at second, giving the Dragons a 1-0 lead.
In the top of the inning, MV had its lone threat, as Nunnally issued a one-out walk and Nick Heitman laced a first-pitch single to center. They moved to second and third on a groundout, but Nunnally's second strikeout of the inning ended the threat.
MV had one other baserunner the rest of the game - a leadoff walk in the third that came after Nunnally struck out the side in the second. Nunnally again struck out the side in the third - giving him eight strikeouts through three innings.
No Marauder reached base the rest of the game. Nunnally fanned two batters in the fourth, sandwiched two groundouts around a strikeout in the fifth and got two flyball outs in the sixth.
The Dragons had one baserunner in each the second and third innings via a dropped third strike and a walk but stranded one and had another caught stealing. In the fifth, MV changed pitchers, bringing on Cam Sullivan to relieve Heitman.
The Dragons immediately threatened in the fifth, as Ben Hirschy lined a single to right to lead off the frame. He was bunted to second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, but the hard-throwing Sullivan struck out the next two batters to keep the game 1-0.
The Dragons broke through against Sullivan in the sixth. Stiller led off by singling into the hole on the left side of the infield. Nunnally followed by beating out a perfectly-placed bunt down the first-base line. With two runners on and none out, Sullivan again fanned the next two batters. But Adam Rickey worked a walk on a 3-2 pitch on a seven-pitch at-bat. Hirschy then did the same, taking a 3-2 pitch high to force in the second run. A poput ended the threat with the bases loaded, but the Dragons added a key insurance run.
Nunnally proved he didn't need it. Facing the middle of the order, he retired the first two Marauders with groundouts on the first two pitches - one to Rickey at shortstop, one back to the mound. He then struck out the last batter to clinch the sectional championship. The Dragons piled onto each other in front of the pitcher's mound and celebrated a second straight trip to the regional.
In the sectional, the Dragons' three starting pitchers combined to allow just five hits and struck out 27 batters, while not allowing a run. The Dragons beat Muncie Central 14-0, Pendleton Heights 1-0 and Mt. Vernon 2-0 in the three games.
The Dragons (22-9) will face Cathedral, a 7-3 victor over North Central in the North Central sectional final, in Saturday's one-game regional. The time and location will be announced later this week.