v 2016 State Baseball Tournament Preview & Predictions - Sports in Kansas

2016 State Baseball Tournament Preview & Predictions

Topeka Seaman has made 13 consecutive trips to state.
By: Sean Boston for Sports in Kansas
May 24, 2016

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6A

(1) Blue Valley Tigers (20-2)

Coach: Tony Scardino

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 4 (5A: ‘92, 6A: ‘08, ‘10, ‘14)

The Tigers advanced to the 6A state tournament after beating Blue Valley North in the regional championship game, 3-0. Blue Valley will make the trip back to Lawrence after missing out last season, a season after the Tigers won the 6A title as the No. 6 seed. Blue Valley has five players that have committed to play division one baseball on their roster.

(2) Olathe South Falcons (18-4)

Coach: Josh Perkins

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 2 (6-5A: ‘86. 6A: ‘94)

The Falcons are making a trip back to Lawrence for the third time in the past four years. Olathe South took down Blue Valley NW 2-0 in the regional championship to earn the spot in the state tournament.

(3) Shawnee Mission East Lancers (18-4)

Coach: Jerrod Ryherd

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 2 (6-5A: ‘94. 6A: ‘95)

The Lancers are headed back to Lawrence for the second straight year and have been one of the top teams in 6A all season long. They’re led by one of the top prospects in the state, LHP Joey Wentz. Wentz, the Virginia signee has been unstoppable on the mound for the Lancers. Wentz has an 8-0 record, while striking out 95 in 45 ⅓ innings pitched, and has not allowed an earned run this season. He is expected to be a top 15 pick in this years MLB Draft. SM East has four players that have signed or committed to division one colleges.

(4) Lawrence Free State Firebirds (18-4)

Coach: Mike Hill

Last trip: 2015*

State championships: 2 (6A: ‘06, ‘15)

The Firebirds will make the cross-town trip to Hoglund Ballpark for the second straight year and will hope for the same results as last May. Free State’s Hunter Gudde made an unreal catch in the outfield to seal the Firebirds win in the regional championship game over Lawrence High.

(5) Derby Panthers (17-5)

Coach: Todd Olmstead

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (6A: ‘01)

The Panthers are headed back to Lawrence for the third time in the past four years. Derby beat Dodge City, 5-2 to advance to the 6A tournament. The Panthers will open up play with the defending 6A champions, Lawrence Free State. Derby has came on hot as of late and will look to keep it’s momentum going.

(6) Wichita West Pioneers (16-6)

Coach: Jeff Hoover

Last trip: 1992

State championships: 3 (AA-A: ‘59, ‘67. 5-4-3A: ‘69)

The Pioneers will make the trip to Lawrence after a 16-inning thrilling victory over Garden City, 1-0 in the regional championship. Wichita West will however be without it’s No. 1 pitcher, Colby Pechin and head coach Jeff Hoover, who have both been suspended a game by the KSHSAA. The Pioneers have had back-to-back winning seasons after losing 122-straight games.

(7) Washburn Rural Junior Blues (14-8)

Coach: Jay Mastin

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 1 (B: ‘50)

The Junior Blues returns to the 6A state tournament after knocking off Manhattan, 6-2 in the regional championship. Washburn Rural will make the trip back to Lawrence after missing out in 2015 when the Junior Blues lost a heartbreaker to Junction City. Washburn Rural will be led by junior RHP Zachary Ebert with a perfect 5-0 record on the mound.

(8) Junction City Bluejays (13-9)

Coach: Drew Biery

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 0

The Bluejays will be making their third straight trip to Lawrence thanks to a 6-2 win over host Haysville-Campus in the regional championship. Junction City will look to move past the first-round after losing in the round of eight their past two trips. Junction City will rely on senior Christien Ozores who leads the Bluejays hitting over .400.

5A

(1) Maize South Mavericks (20-2)

Coach: Chad Christensen

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 0

The Mavericks locked down the No. 1 overall seed for the 5A state tournament in Wichita. Maize South will try to continue it’s program-best season as they’ll take on cross town rival Maize High in the first round. Maize South’s junior and K-State commit Jordan Maxson leads the Mavericks offense, batting .442.

(2) Shawnee Heights Thunderbirds (19-2)

Coach: Ryan Schmidt

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (5A: ‘11)

The Thunderbirds are headed back to Wichita for the fourth straight year under coach Ryan Schmidt. Shawnee Heights has became one of the most dominant programs in the Topeka area and won the state championship in 2011. Shawnee Heights edged Lansing, 2-1 in the regional championship to punch their ticket to Wichita.

(3) Salina South Cougars (18-4)

Coach: Kris Meis

Last trip: 2009

State championships: 1 (5A: ‘93)

Salina South will make it’s first appearance in the state tournament since 2009. The Cougars fended off Kapaun Mt. Carmel, 2-1 in the regional championship game. Salina South is led by junior Cruz Aranda, batting .524 with 15 RBI.

(4) St. Thomas Aquinas Saints (18-4)

Coach: Lorne Parks

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 2 (5A: ‘07, ‘14)

The Saints will make the drive down to Wichita State’s Eck Stadium for the 5A state tournament after winning the title on that very own turf, two years ago. Aquinas has been one of the top teams in 5A for the entirety of the season. The Saints strong pitching staff is led by senior RHP Riley Pint, the Louisiana State signee and projected top-5 pick in June’s Major League Baseball draft. They also feature pitcher Blake Lillis, who has signed with Arkansas, and infielder James Cosentino, who has signed with Kansas. Aquinas has four players on its roster that have signed or committed to division one programs in Kansas. 

(5) Topeka Seaman Vikings (18-4)

Coach: Steve Bushnell

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 7 (5A: ‘00, ‘04, ‘06, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10, ‘13)

The Vikings are one of the most all-time historic baseball programs in the state of Kansas. Seaman has won 13 straight regional championships including a 2-1 win over Leavenworth to claim a spot back in Wichita. Seaman will rely heavily on senior RHP and KU signee, Ryan Zeferjahn to continue his dominance on the mound. Zeferjahn led the Topeka area in many pitching categories along with a strong hitting performance.

(6) Wichita Heights Falcons (17-5)

Coach: Jeff Topping

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Falcons will make the short commute to Eck Stadium for the first time since 2014 when they went into the tournament as the No. 1 seed, upset by Seaman. Heights has gotten dominant pitching performances from junior Aaron Bechtel and junior Korey Bice. Heights is led offensively by senior Blake Duerksen hitting in the lead-off spot.

(7) Mill Valley Jaguars (17-5)

Coach: Jeff Strickland

Last trip: 2013

State championships: 0

The Jaguars will try and win their third state title of this school year if they can win the 5A baseball tournament on Friday. Mill Valley has already won the state football and basketball titles this school year. The Jaguars pitching staff has two big Division 1 LHP’s, Lucas Krull (Arkansas) and Tyler Grauer (Indiana State) on the mound for them, as well as a strong senior-laden infield.

(8) Maize Eagles (16-6)

Coach: Rocky Helm

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 3 (6A: ‘03,‘05, ‘11)

The Eagles are headed back to a state tournament for the first time since 2014, when Maize High was in class 6A. The Eagles have bounced back and forth between 6A and 5A and will look to win the bragging rights of Maize when they take on Maize South in the first round game at Eck Stadium. Maize upset Liberal and took down Ark City to advance to the state tournament.

4A-I

(1) Eudora Cardinals (18-4)

Coach: Wilson Kilmer

Last trip: 2006

State championships: 0

The Cardinals grabbed the No. 1 seed in the 4A-I state tournament for the first time in program history. Eudora didn’t allow a single run in their regional games, blanking Baldwin and Ottawa in their path to Salina. The Cardinals will join their softball team Salina for the first time in school history both teams made the state tournament.

(2) Rose Hill Rockets (17-5)

Coach: Scott Carr

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (B: ‘47)

The Rockets have been a force to reckon with the past three years as they’ve went to state each of those years. Rose Hill will look to make it past the semifinals like they’ve done the past two years. The Rockets took home the third place plaque in 2014, while the third place game in 2015 was cancelled due to weather. Rose Hill will have their hands full with No. 7 Bishop Miege in the first round on Thursday in Salina.

(3) Buhler Crusaders (17-5)

Coach: John Neill

Last trip: First appearance

State championships: 0

The Crusaders edged McPherson, 11-9 in one of the toughest regionals in 4A-II with McPherson, Hays and Ulysses. Buhler will be making it’s first-ever trip to the state tournament will be the No. 3 seed and will take on No. 6 Clay Center in Salina. Crusader senior and future Washburn Ichabod RHP/SS Jace Williams leads the team with his defense and offense, and is one of the top multi-sport athletes in the state.

(4) Paola Panthers (17-5)

Coach: Curtis Murdock

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Panthers are back in the state tournament for the first time in two years. Paola beat Louisburg 4-3 before beating Fort Scott 6-0 in the regional championship game. The Panthers are led by senior RHP Mason McDow, the Neosho County signee and OF/LHP Blain Olmeier, the Pitt State signee.

(5) Chanute Comets (14-5)

Coach: Zack Murry

Last trip: 2006

State championships: 0

The Comets got an outstanding performance from senior LHP Kyler Manbeck in the regional championship against Independence. Manbeck six innings in the 6-1 Chanute win, allowing just one hit in the game. Chanute will play Paola in the first round in Salina, one of the tougher No. 4 vs. No. 5 games in the state. The last time Chanute made state, head coach Zack Murry was a player for the Comets, as he went on to get drafted by the Colorado Rockies.

(6) Clay Center Tigers (11-6)

Coach: Andy Bent

Last trip: 1997

State championships: 0

The Tigers played a shortened schedule this season due to the weather in north central Kansas, but cruised through regional play, outscoring their two opponents 20-2 in two games. They beat top seeded Atchison 10-1 in the regional championship to make the trip to Salina. Senior Bailen Brumford leads the Tiger offense, batting .418 with 19 RBI.

(7) Bishop Miege Stags (13-9)

Coach: Dan Meara

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (5A: ‘96)

The Stags may have a 13-9 record, but plays in one of the tougher schedules in class 4A-I. Bishop Miege was the No. 8 seed going into last year’s state tournament and nearly upset No. Topeka-Hayden. Bishop Miege cruised past Basehor-Linwood in the regional championship, 11-1. The Stags feature infielder Carter Putz, a sophomore, who has committed to play baseball at Notre Dame. Miege also won state this fall in football and basketball in March in 4A-I. They will be going for the sweep of 4A-I.

(8) Andover Central Jaguars (12-7)

Coach: Grant Bacon

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Jaguars pulled off a huge upset in their 4A-I regional title game, knocking off traditional power Andale-Garden Plain, 4-3. Andover Central scored three runs in the final two innings to complete the upset. Andover Central drew the No. 8 seed and will open with top-seeded Eudora, the Jags will look to keep their magic going.

4A-II

(1) Baxter Springs Lions (20-2)

Coach: Chris Mercer

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 7 (4-3-2-1A: ‘85. 4A: '91, '92 3A: ‘02, ‘03, ‘06, ‘07)

The Lions have been one of the top teams in 4A-II all season long and will look to keep their strong tradition going as they’ll be the No. 1 seed overall on Thursday. Baxter Springs cruised to the regional title outscoring Columbus and Frontenac 18-5 in the two games. Baxter Springs has won four straight games after losing to Frontenac in mid-May. Baxter features two of the best pitchers in 4A-II in Jarret Dotson and Kaid Karnes, both juniors. Dotson, a righty, is 18-1 in his career and tops out at 89 MPH, while Karnes goes mid 80's from the left side.

(2) Pratt Greenbacks (19-3)

Coach: Patt Stivers

Last trip: 2013

State championships: 0

The Greenbacks got through their regional with ease, winning 11-1 and 13-3 to pave their way to Emporia. Pratt will face No. 7 Bishop Ward in the first round on Thursday and will look to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time since 2011. Pratt has three players batting over .400, including freshman Travis Theis hitting a team-high .448.

(3) St. George-Rock Creek Mustangs (16-4)

Coach: Shane Sieben

Last trip: 2015*

State championships: 1 (4A-II: ‘15)

The defending 4A-II state champs will be back in the 4A-II state tournament this year, but in a new location. The Mustangs won the 2015 title in Topeka and will now try to do it in Emporia on Friday. The Mustangs will be the No. 3 seed in this year’s tournament, after owning the No. 1 seed in 2015. St. George-Rock Creek is entering the state tournament after edging Concordia 4-3 in the regional championship game in Chapman.

(4) Russell/Victoria Broncos (17-5)

Coach: Shane Traughber

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Broncos are back in the state tournament after missing out in 2015. Russell/Victoria took third place in their last trip to state in 2014, beating Baxter Springs 15-1. The Broncos edged Nickerson 5-4 in the regional championship to punch their ticket to Emporia.

(5) Goodland Cowboys (15-5)

Coach: Devlin Mull

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Cowboys completely turned around their program this season after four straight losing seasons to get to the 4A-II state tournament. Goodland began the season 10-0 before dropping a doubleheader to 3A powerhouse Lakin. The Cowboys are led by senior Luke Avila with a .380 average and 26 RBI.

(6) Topeka-Hayden Wildcats (14-8)

Coach: Bill Arnold

Last trip: 2015*

State championships: 6 (4A: ‘96, ‘97, ‘01, ‘09, ‘13. 4A-I: ‘15)

The defending state champions in 4A-I dropped down a classification to 4A-II and will look to do what they did a year ago in Salina, this time in Emporia. The Wildcats have had a strong tradition as of late and will try to keep that up this weekend. Hayden is led by senior Connor Schumacher’s .437 average, one of three Wildcat players batting over .400.

(7) Bishop Ward Cyclones (9-13)

Coach: Dennis Hurla

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 13 (AA-A: ‘58, ‘60. 6-5A: ‘83. 4A: ‘98, ‘99, ‘03, ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, ‘10, ‘14)

Only two schools have won more state championships in baseball than Ward. The Cyclones won six consecutive titles from ‘03-’08 and have been a powerhouse in 4A throughout the years. Ward will try to get past the quarterfinals after losing in 2015 to Larned in the same situation. Although Ward has a losing record, you can never count out the Cyclones. Ward plays several schools twice their size in the Kansas City Metro area on both the Missouri and Kansas side.

(8) Wichita Collegiate Spartans (9-13)

Coach: Joe Gehrer

Last trip: 2005

State championships: 4 (3-2-1A: ‘94, ‘95. 3A: ‘00, ‘01)

The Spartans beat fellow Wichita school, Wichita Trinity Academy in the regional championship, 10-7. Collegiate, a usual power in 4A-II has struggled a little bit this year, but quality defense and strong hitting has them back in the state tournament. They’ll have their hands full with No. 1 Baxter Springs in the opening round, but Collegiate is up to the task.

3A

(1) Nemaha Central Thunder (20-1)

Coach: Terry Stueve

Last trip: First appearance

State championships: 0

The Thunder come into the 3A state tournament as the No. 1 overall seed and riding a 15-game win streak. Nemaha Central, making it’s first appearance in the school’s fourth year of existence will look to make the best of it as they’ll play Royal Valley to open up the tournament on Thursday. The top three pitchers for the Thunder have an overall record of 15-0 and a 2.25 ERA with 121 strikeouts.

(2) Remington Broncos (17-2)

Coach: James Hilts

Last trip: First appearance

State championships: 0

The second-year program will make it’s first trip to the state tournament and will be a tough out in the tournament. The Broncos only two losses came to fellow 3A state tourney member, Cheney and a walk-off loss to Moundridge. The starting pitching staff for Remington all carry under a 3.52 ERA and have been tough for any team to hit off of. Remington beat Sedgwick to earn their first state tourney appearance, 4-3.

(3) Larned Indians (18-3)

Coach: Chad Erway

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 0

The Indians made the switch from 4A-II down to 3A this year and will look to continue their success in the new class. Larned qualified for the 4A-II state tournament last year and finished third in the state. The Indians are 51-14 in their past three seasons, including three straight Central KS League titles. Senior Landon Erway leads the Indians offense and has picked up back-to-back All-State honors.

(4) Wellsville Eagles (18-3)

Coach: Bryan Kindle

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (3A: ‘14)

The Eagles have been one of the most known baseball teams across the state the past few years, as they’ll make the trip to the 3A state tournament for the seventh straight season. Wellsville won the state title in 2014 followed by a second place finish in 2015 and will try to keep the winning tradition alive on Thursday and Friday. The Eagles pitching staff is led by a two-headed wrecking crew with senior RHP’s Tony Dougan (5-1, 2.00 ERA) and Lucas Dwyer (4-0, .548 ERA).

(5) Council Grove Braves (16-5)

Coach: Joe Buchanan

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Braves are making their third trip to the state tournament in the past six years and will try to finish better than fourth, which they did in 2014. Council Grove won it’s sixth straight Flint Hills League title this season and has an impressive 122-15 record during that stretch. The Braves are led by senior LHP Daniel Bachura, who has an 8-1 overall record and hasn’t allowed an earned run in his last four outings (25 ⅔ IP).

(6) Cheney Cardinals (16-7)

Coach: Shawn Bennett

Last trip: First appearance

State championships: 0

The Cardinals, in their first-year of the program will make the trip to Manhattan for the 3A state tournament. Cheney has been a strong team all season long and came alive to shock 3A powerhouse Wichita Independent in the regional finals in El Dorado, 2-1. The Cardinals pitching and stellar defense have gotten them to where they are, most notibly a sensational catch by right fielder Lakin Petz to secure the win over Independent.

(7) Galena Bulldogs (16-7)

Coach: Ken Cook

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 2 (4-3-2-1A: ‘79. 3A: ‘10)

The Bulldogs are making their first trip to the state tournament since 2014 when they lost in the quarterfinals to Council Grove. Galena plays in one of the tougher conferences in the state, the CNC which has teams like Baxter Springs, Pitt-SMC Colgan and defending 3A champion, Riverton in the conference. Galena will face second-year program Remington on Thursday. The Bulldogs are led offensively by junior PJ Sarwinski, hitting .493 with 25 RBI and 24 stolen bases.

(8) Royal Valley Panthers (13-8)

Coach: Scott Ternes

Last trip: First appearance

State championships: 0

The Panthers will be making their first-ever state tournament appearance on Thursday when they play top-seeded Nemaha Central. Royal Valley won all three games in their regional, including a 1-0 thrilling victory over 3A powerhouse Silver Lake. The Panthers are 8-1 in their last nine games and have won six straight games going into the tourney.

2-1A

(1) Sedan Blue Devils (20-2)

Coach: Rick Chrisman

Last trip: 2013

State championships: 2 (2-1A: ‘73, ‘11)

The Blue Devils are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2013 when they took second place. Sedan has won 19 straight games and will try to continue that momentum as the No. 1 seed in the tourney. Sedan basketball team also made it to the state tournament in March and was the No. 1 seed, but was upset in the first round. The Blue Devils will try to stick to the winning side on Thursday and Friday. Alex Perez, the 2-1A player of the year at Udall two seasons ago, was at Lakin last year, is now a senior on the Sedan team.

(2) Troy Trojans (19-2)

Coach: Roger Purdy

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 0

The Trojans have won 19 straight games after falling to Nemaha Central to begin the season. They’ve outscored their opponents 218-48 and have a team batting average of .441, led by junior Will Smith with a .603 average and 41 RBI. Cuttar Huss is also a force in the lineup and one of the top multiple sport athletes at the 2A level. 

(3) Pittsburg- St. Mary’s Colgan Panthers (19-4)

Coach: Mike Watt

Last trip: 2015*

State championships: 19 (B: ‘64, ‘67. 2-1A: ‘71, ‘76, ‘97, ‘98, ‘99, ‘01, ‘04, ‘05, ‘06, ‘07, ‘08, ‘09, ‘10,‘14, ‘15. 3-2-1A: ‘93 3A: 2013)

The all-time leading state title leader in baseball will have a chance to win title No. 20 on Friday in Great Bend. The Panthers have won the past three state titles in 2-1A and will be the No. 3 seed in this year’s tourney. The Panthers rolled through their regional, going 2-0 and outscoring opponents 26-1. Colgan's four losses this season came to 4A-II #1 Baxter Springs (2), Carl Junction (Mo.), and 4A-II power Bishop Ward. Colgan features one of the better catchers in Kansas in Ryan Cedeno and features Chase Van Becelaere, Andrew Stewart and Tyler Brynds on the mound. 

(4) Ellis Railroaders (17-4)

Coach: Ryan Augustine

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 0

The Railroaders derailed their opponents in the regional, earning the first round bye before run-ruling Sylvan Grove 15-0 and beating Ell-Saline 4-1 in the regional title game. Ellis is led by junior Easton Smith with a .524 average and 53 RBI.

(5) Medicine Lodge Indians (14-7)

Coach: Chuck Dirks

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 1 (2-1A: ‘12)

The second place finishers in 2-1A from a year ago will be back in the field of eight and will try to win that title game this year. The Indians beat No. 1 Oxford in the regional championship, 5-1 to advance to Great Bend.

(6) Valley Falls Dragons (14-9)

Coach: Cameron Hall

Last trip: 2013

State championships: 0

The Dragons outscored Lyndon and Wabaunsee 17-2 in their two regional contests. Valley Falls will try to make the most of their first state appearance since 2013 and will be led by junior Tucker Sheretts and senior Zac Allen.

(7) Elkhart Wildcats (12-9)

Coach: David Aranda

Last trip: 2014

State championships: 1 (2-1A: ‘02)

The Wildcats went into their regional as the No. 3 seed and won three straight games including the regional championship game over No. 1 Spearville, 5-3. Elkhart is making their first trip back to state since 2014 when they lost in the quarterfinals to second place Little River. The Wildcats rely on their offense which has nearly a .350 team batting average.

(8) Sacred Heart Knights (7-14)

Coach: Jeremy Petty

Last trip: 2015

State championships: 3 (3-2-1A: ‘92. 2-1A: ‘00, ‘03)

The Knights earned their second straight trip to the 2-1A state tournament after blanking Inman, 5-0 in the regional championship. Sacred Heart finished third in 2015 after upsetting top-seeded and unbeaten Troy in the first round. The Knights will hope for the same result on Thursday as they’ll be the No. 8 seed taking on No. 1 Sedan.

* -notes defending state champion

Predictions

Sean Boston w/ Sports in Kansas:

6A -- SME over Blue Valley

5A -- Maize South over Mill Valley

4A-I -- Rose Hill over Eudora

4A-II -- Baxter Springs over St. George-Rock Creek

3A -- Wellsville over Larned

2-1A -- Pitt-SMC over Sedan

Chet Kuplen w/ Sports in Kansas:

6A -- SME over Blue Valley

5A -- Seaman over Shawnee Heights

4A-I -- Miege over Eudora

4A-II -- Baxter Springs over Hayden 

3A -- Galena over Wellsville

2-1A -- Pitt-SMC over Sedan