NEW PALESTINE — After four consecutive sectional championships and two state titles (2008-09), early tournaments exits were not what New Palestine softball coach Ed Marcum had become accustomed to. But with a bump up to Class 4A in 2012, abbreviated tourney runs became the new and frustrating normal, as Marcum and the Dragons suffered through a four-year sectional title drought.
But it dominating fashion Wednesday, they finally put an end to that skid.
Back in Class 3A, the host No. 1 Dragons recaptured their past glory and took home the Sectional 26 crown by defeating Bishop Chatard 11-1 in six innings.
“This,” Marcum said while celebrating the championship with his team, “was long overdue. This one feels really good.”
Junior pitcher Elisha Barker earned the victory. The Trojans got to her in the first inning, but that one run would be all she allowed in a complete game.
New Palestine’s Issy Hoyt, a Purdue recruit, cracked a pair of three-run home runs. She finished 2-for-3 with seven RBIs.
Hoyt’s first blast came in the first inning and staked the Dragons (24-2) to a 3-1 lead. She delivered the second in a four-run fourth inning that gave New Palestine an 8-1 lead and all but sealed the fate of the Trojans (13-13).
“They’re definitely No. 1 in the state for a reason,” Bishop Chatard coach Kerry Lynch said after the game. “They hit incredibly well. I definitely see them moving forward and contending for a state title.”
And that is precisely Marcum’s goal. While many coaches will preach the one pitch, one inning, one game at a time mantra, Marcum said he and his girls know — and have known for a while — what this team is capable of.
“When we meet in early September, we immediately start talking about a state championship,” said Marcum whose Dragons were co-Hoosier Heritage Conference champions this year. “Our program is in a position where that’s a goal year in and year out.”
In order to fulfill that goal, Marcum and the Dragons will have to get past No. 5 Lebanon on Tuesday night. A tall order, but one Hoyt is confident they can fill.
“Right now, (winning the sectional) is the best feeling in the world,” Hoyt said. “So I can’t wait to the regional, then semistate, then state, because I can’t imagine how those are going to feel.”
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