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Kiemeyer's 7th inning walk off hit secures Royals' crown

Rich Torres, Special to
Posted: June 7, 2024
New Palestine vs Hamilton Southeastern graphic
Photo Credit: Double Edge Media @demllc

WEST LAFAYETTE – Emily Pusti’s faith in her players never waned.

Even with her Hamilton Southeastern Royals locked in a 1-1 tie entering the bottom of the seventh against Class 4A No. 4 New Palestine at Purdue University’s Bittinger Stadium, Pusti believed something big was going to unfold.

With one out and two runners on base, HSE senior catcher Alex Kiemeyer fulfilled her coach’s prediction and secured a 2-1 victory behind a clutch walk-off single late Friday night, marking the Royals’ first softball state finals win since 2010 and third title overall.

Kiemeyer lined New Palestine ace Courtney Study’s 1-1 offering into left field, scoring senior Addy Justice (3-for-3) from second base to punctuate the end of a true pitcher’s duel during the 39th Annual Indiana High School Athletic Association softball state finals.

“I feel like my instincts just took over,” Kiemeyer said. “My first two at-bats, I struck out, and it really took all my teammates to come up to me and pour their love and support into me. They knew I could do it, and it just felt like it was a team. I wanted to do it for them. A lot of our seniors, this is their last-ever softball game, and I wanted to go out on a good note.”


2023-24 SB 4A Photo 3
Alex Kiemeyer had the walk-off double in the bottom of the seventh inning to scored the winning run (Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc).


One of 11 seniors on the HSE roster, Kiemeyer (1-for-4) had three chances prior to the seventh to break the game open, but she came up short in the bottom of the first, third and fifth, leaving a combined four runners stranded while representing the final out in each frame.

However, before Justice reached base with a one-out single in the seventh, followed by a walk drawn by senior Reese Garland, Kiemeyer had a message for Pusti.

“When she came up for her last at-bat, she looked right at me and said, ‘I’m good.’ And, I said, ‘Alright.’ I truly believed it,” Pusti said.

Kiemeyer’s hit turned belief into celebration, as HSE (25-4) capped its 11-game winning streak by hoisting the state’s most coveted prize.

“It’s really heavy. I think I need to hit the weight room again,” Kiemeyer joked while toting around the 4A state championship trophy. “I knew. I never had a doubt. I knew we were going to win that game.”

HSE sophomore ace Grace Swedarsky (18-2) made certain the Royals were in position to win by striking out 13 batters for the complete-game victory. She scattered two hits, allowed one earned run, hit one batter and walked one.

“It just wasn’t our night, and Swedarsky pitched great,” New Palestine head coach Ed Marcum said. “I felt like we were making her work in the beginning. We were fouling a lot of pitches off. She was throwing a lot of pitches, but as the game went on, we were still making bad decisions, and she was making all her pitches.”

Swedarsky ended six of her seven innings pitched with strikeouts, left four runners stranded and carried a no-hitter through the first two frames.
In the top of the third, New Palestine (25-5) grabbed a 1-0 lead off an Allie Blum one-out sacrifice fly to deep center field that brought home Jersi Gross (1-for-2), who lined her first triple of the season to kickstart the rally.

“Jersi came through with the big hit there, and Allie, that’s what we needed her to do, but we had to have more of it,” Marcum said. “We didn’t really put on the pressure because we kept striking out.”

With a .385 team batting average, the Dragons were chasing a state-record tying seventh state title and first in 4A. Halted in recent postseasons by Roncalli and their former ace pitcher, three-time Indiana Gatorade Player of the Year Keagan Rothrock, New Palestine breezed through the 2024 state tournament by outscoring its foes 72-7.

The Dragons hammered down three five-inning postseason wins to earn their 10th state finals appearance where they had finished 6-1 since 2003.

“We knew coming into this, just like everyone else in the state of Indiana, New Pal has bats,” Pusti said. “They’re a very talented team, and thankfully, we’ve got girls that are incredibly talented and that work really hard. We have girls that show up for each other, not just at the plate but on defense and whatnot, and Grace knows that deep down, so I think that’s what allows her to just go up there, and I think she found her groove pretty quick.”

Swedarsky pitched a pair of no-hitters this postseason while touching a personal-best 19 strikeouts twice. Against New Palestine, she retired eight straight between the fourth and sixth innings.

Study (17-3) kept pace with eight hits allowed over 6.1 innings, seven strikeouts, three walks and two earned runs surrendered.

The right-handed senior ended three innings with strikeouts and escaped the first five she pitched with six runners in scoring position.

A leadoff double from HSE junior Makena Burlingame (2-for-3, two doubles) in the bottom of the sixth prior to a walk drawn by senior pinch-hitter Sayla Stock led to an RBI sacrifice fly by Keira Lodes (1-for-2) to tie the game, 1-1.

Swedarsky retired the side in order in the top of the seventh, setting up HSE’s decisive go-ahead finale.

“For me, I kind of like dial in more as the game goes on. I knew we had a good chance, so it motivated me. Don’t let anybody on. Don’t let anyone score. We’re in a good position,” Swedarsky said.

“We played them last year in the regular season and we won 12-7, so I was like, they know how to hit off of me, so it was try not to let that happen again.”

Following a leadoff single by Sydney Oliver in the top of the fourth, New Palestine didn’t have another base runner until the top of the sixth when Oliver reached on a two-out fielding error.

Swedarsky left her stuck on first base with her 11th strikeout.

“We talked all this postseason, it’s one game at a time, one pitch at a time, one play at a time, one runner at a time. Everything is just one. You need one run more than the other team to win, right? So, we just do it all in ones, and they were able to put it together finally when it really, really mattered,” Pusti said.

Kiemeyer and the Royals just needed one more chance to break through.

“Alex’s first two at-bats, even though they didn’t go the way that we wanted, she battled hard, and her hands looked good,” Pusti said. “With girls on, she does some good things. She showed up.”

She left as a hero with trophy in hand.

“Going into the seventh inning with that run on the board, it just took away so much pressure, and I felt way more relaxed,” Kiemeyer said. “It was tough. We knew we could do it, but we were just falling short in the previous innings, but we all made adjustments at the plate, and it came through. It doesn’t feel real yet. I think it’s going to hit me later, but I feel really good.” 


2023-24 SB 4A Photo 1
Photo credit: Double Edge Media @demllc


Class 4A State Championship Record

Most Left on Base (Tied): 10 by Hamilton Southeastern.

Most Hits (Tied): 3 by Addy Justice, Hamilton Southeastern.

Most Doubles (Tied): 2 by Makena Burlingame, Hamilton Southeastern.

Most Triples (Tied): 1 by Jersi Gross, New Palestine.

New Palestine’s Sydney Oliver receives Mental Attitude Award

At the conclusion of the game, Sydney Oliver of New Palestine High School was announced as the recipient of the Mental Attitude Award for Class 4A Softball. 

The award is annually presented to a senior participant in the state finals who best demonstrates mental attitude, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability and is nominated by her principal and coach.  

Sydney finished in the top part of her class and was a member of the National Honor Society. She was a four-year varsity letter recipient, 2023 and 24 All-Conference, 2024 Academic All-State, and 2024 3rd Team All-State. Sydney has been involved in multiple service learning class projects, fundraisers for the Matt Hayden Foundation, and the New Pal Giving Trees helping raise over 1,400 donations for the Greenfield Hope House Homeless Shelter.

Sydney is the daughter of Tony and Kelley Oliver of New Palestine, IN and will attend the University of Indianapolis to study chemistry and continue her softball career.  

Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance presented a $1,000 scholarship to New Palestine High School in the name of Sydney Oliver.

2023-24 SB 4A Photo 2
Double Edge Media @demllc