NEW PALESTINE — It definitely wasn’t a bad loss. Frustrating. Heartbreaking. That would probably be a better way to describe it.
A loaded 4A No. 10 Shelbyville softball team fell to No. 4 New Palestine 4-3 Thursday on the road in a highly-competitive Hoosier Heritage Conference game.
Despite the loss, the Golden Bears are undoubtedly having a season to remember as the team sits at 15-2 overall with a top-ten ranking in the state.
Leading Indiana in home runs, the Golden Bears’ offense has been red hot. Mix in a tough freshman pitcher and an athletic defense and Shelbyville is for real.
Thursday’s loss will sting for some time but that is only because Shelbyville believes it can beat anyone. I would agree. The game against New Palestine was a battle and a questionable call late could have changed the outcome. We’ll never know.
But this is what we do know... Shelbyville can flat out play. The Dragons, under head coach Ed Marcum, have been nothing short of dominant, winning six state titles since 2004 (state record for head coach).
The Golden Bears weren’t scared.
Sophomore Kylee Edwards and junior Karissa Hamilton wasted little time putting Shelbyville on the scoreboard to start the game. In the top of the first inning, Edwards smacked a lead-off single, which was followed by a line-drive home run from Hamilton. The ball whistled out of the park. SHS was up 2-0 in the blink of an eye.
Shelbyville managed one run the rest of the way as New Pal chipped away at the lead. I thought Cheyenne Eads – the aforementioned tough freshman pitcher – did her part on the mound. Errors proved costly against a scrappy NP team, though. The Dragons don’t have a ton of power this season, but they put the ball in play and rarely make mistakes (zero errors in win). The two different styles of play proved to be a fantastic matchup.
We know SHS head coach Mark Hensley and the girls hate to lose, but the Golden Bears should feel good, knowing they can compete with the best of the best.
Quick recapNew Pal senior pitcher Sam Booe, who has a 1.58 ERA, finished with eight strikeouts Thursday to improve to 9-0 on the season. The Dragons are 16-0 overall and 3-0 in the HHC.
After SHS (15-2, 5-1 HHC) struck early with two runs in the first, NP plated one run in each of the third, fourth, fifth and sixth innings to earn the come-from-behind win.
With the scored tied 3-3 in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Dragons used a two-out rally – with help from the questionable call – to take control. A ball was popped up towards centerfield, which allowed Hamilton time to get to it. She made a diving catch and came up with the ball in her glove.
SHS fans thought she caught it. NP fans said she trapped it against the ground. The call went to the home team.
Booe retired SHS in order in the top of seventh, sealing the victory. Edwards nearly tied the game with a home run in the seventh, but the ball came up just short of the fence.
Trailing 3-2, Shelbyville scored its third and final run in the sixth inning. The Golden Bears had runners on first and third, which prompted Hensley to send his runner down to second base in a steal attempt. New Pal took the bait and threw down towards second base, which allowed the runner on third to sprint home and score rather easily.
For SHS, Eads allowed eight Dragon hits in six innings of work. Edwards and senior Addi Weaver each finished with a double.
Home run hittersThe Golden Bears, as a team, lead the state with 51 home runs. That number is ninth in the nation. Hamilton leads the state with 16 home runs. Senior Katie Mathies has 10 home runs, which puts her at No. 6 in the state.
Six other Golden Bears have hit a home run. Junior Kiley McIver has seven, senior Madison Campton has six, Weaver has five, Edwards has four and Eads has two. Senior Kaylie Phelps has hit one home run.
In the pitching circle
Eads entered Thursday’s game with a 7-1 record, a 3.88 ERA and 50 strikeouts. Sophomore Hailey Pogue (4-0) and junior Brooke Lipperd (3-0) have also been productive in the circle for Shelbyville.
SHS plays again Friday at Batesville followed by a home conference game against Mt. Vernon on Tuesday.
Looking ahead, the Golden Bears will travel to No. 1 Roncalli on May 11. The team will wrap up its regular season on May 20 against No. 7 Center Grove.