2017 KSHSAA State Baseball Tournament Preview

Oskaloosa making its first ever appearance in the 3A state tournament.
By: Sports in Kansas - Sean Boston
May 23, 2017

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6A

Hoglund Ballpark, Lawrence

11 a.m. -- Manhattan vs. Hutchinson

No. 1 Manhattan (17-5) -- The Indians are heading back to the state tourney for the first time since 2014, when Manhattan defeated Wichita Northwest for a third place finish. Manhattan got through regional play with ease. The Indians scored 10 runs in each game and outscored Gardner-Edgerton and Lawrence 20-2 in the two games. Manhattan enters the state tournament having won six of their last seven games and have locked up the No. 1 seed in Lawrence. The wait is over for the three seniors on the Indian squad after losing in the regional championship game the last two seasons.

No. 8 Hutchinson (9-13) -- The Salthawks had won a total of 10 games over the past three seasons, but the tide has changed for the Hutchinson baseball program under first-year head coach Jim Preston. Preston has the Salthawks going the right direction, having won seven games in the regular season and then shocking their way through the Dodge City regional. Hutchinson defeated Junction City in the semifinals before defeating the host Red Demons in nine innings to advance to Lawrence. Trenton Turner helped pave the path for the Salthawks, pitching 6 ⅔ innings allowing one run against Dodge City. The Salthawks are on a role right now, after starting the season 4-4, Hutch went on an eight-game losing streak, but the momentum is shifting.

1:15 p.m. -- Olathe East vs. Blue Valley NW

No. 4 Olathe East (15-7) -- The Hawks are back in the state tournament for the first time in 10 years. Olathe East edged Blue Valley West, 5-4 in the regional semifinal before beating Shawnee Mission West to advance to state. The Hawks finished in the middle of the extremely tough Sunflower League this year with a a 5-6 record, but that has helped them prepare for the postseason. Olathe East trailed 4-0 in the regional championship game in the third inning and had to battle back with timely hits and good relief pitching to get the job done. Devon Lujan crushed a big home run in the fourth to pull the Hawks within one, followed by a RBI single from Joey Olson to tie the game at 5 in the fourth. Olathe East would cruise after that, outscoring SMW 9-1 from then on.

No. 5 Blue Valley NW (14-8) -- The Huskies are headed back to their first state tournament since 2007. Blue Valley NW defeated Olathe South and top seed Shawnee Mission NW in the regional championship game. Central Missouri signee Johnny Sprinkle is the ace of the Huskies deep pitching staff and was dominant in the regional semifinal win over Olathe South, going the distance with seven strikeouts. The pitching has helped carry the Huskies thus far and once the offense starts clicking then we could see BVNW making a run in Lawrence.

3:30 p.m. -- Derby vs. Blue Valley

No. 2 Derby (13-6) -- The Panthers will be making their third consecutive trip to Lawrence for the 6A state tournament and will look to make it past the quarterfinals for the first time in that three-year span. The last two trips have been short lived, but this Derby team may be able to use it’s experience in Lawrence as a boost. Braden Ash pitched a gem against Wichita East to punch the ticket in the regional championship. Ash went the distance allowing no runs and also helped his cause with a 2-run double in the 6-0 win over East. Ash, Tanner Igo and Tanner Olmstead will try to make their third trip to state a trip to remember.

No. 7 Blue Valley (13-9) -- The Tigers are heading back to the state tournament for the second time in the last four seasons. Blue Valley won the 6A crown in 2014 and finished in third place last season after the third place game was cancelled due to weather. The Tigers knocked off Blue Valley North and then defending state champions, Shawnee Mission East 1-0 to advance back to Lawrence. Michael Lane came up big in the win over the Lancers with a solo shot to left field, his second home run of the day and just his second all season. SME loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Blue Valley got out of it to advance on.

5:45 p.m. -- Olathe NW vs. Wichita West

No. 3 Olathe NW (15-7) -- The Ravens are back in the 6A state tournament for the first time in four years. Olathe NW was knocked out in the quarterfinals of that tourney by eventual state champ, Blue Valley West. The Ravens took down Olathe North and then Lawrence Free State, 4-1 in eight innings to punch a ticket to Lawrence. Olathe NW’s Brady Walker pitched a masterpiece in the win over Free State, going the distance and allowing just the one run. The Ravens have an extremely deep pitching staff and will try to use that throughout the state tourney.

No. 6 Wichita West (12-8) -- The Pioneers are making the trip to Lawrence for the second consecutive year after a nearly 30-year drought prior to last year. West lost to eventual champion Shawnee Mission East in the quarterfinal last year and will look to use the experience from a year ago to help them this weekend. The Pioneers are led by Butler CC signee Colby Pechin and Highland CC signee Jose Salas. West cruised past Wichita North and then won the regional championship over Garden City for the second consecutive year.

5A

Eck Stadium, Wichita

11 a.m. -- Wichita Heights vs. Salina South

No. 2 Wichita Heights (19-3) -- The Falcons are headed back to their second straight 5A state tournament and this time with ease going through their regional. Heights defeated Topeka West and Andover 10-2 in each game to advance to Eck Stadium. Aaron Bechtel is having himself another great year on the mound for the Falcons, but so is Alec Kealey and Jordan Ellison, both with sub a 1.75 ERA. Paul Mode leads the Falcons offense with an average over .400, which was tops in the Wichita City League. The Falcons will try to get to the championship game this year after settling for third place last year after losing to eventual runner-up Shawnee Heights.

No. 7 Salina South (16-6) -- The Cougars are also heading to their second consecutive 5A state tourney after defeating Emporia and Valley Center to punch their ticket. Salina South trailed early on in the regional championship against upset-minded Valley Center, but the Cougars in the end were just too much. This is the same quarterfinal matchup as last season, with Heights winning 4-3 in 8 innings, so we could see another great game in the making on Thursday morning in Wichita. The Cougars’ offense is paced by sophomore Mason Lundgrin (.469 avg, 20 RBI), while the leader of the pitching staff is Cade Peters (5-3 record, 1.87 ERA).

1:15 p.m. -- Maize vs. Shawnee Heights

No. 3 Maize (19-3) -- The Eagles are a familiar face in the state baseball tournament under longtime coach Rocky Helm. Maize will enter Thursday’s quarterfinal as the No. 3 seed and riding a nine-game winning streak. The Eagles have dominated their opponents in that stretch, outscoring them 80-11. The Eagles have six players batting over .350 on the year and are batting .339 as a team. Maize’s pitching staff has also been dominant this year and have posted a 1.72 team ERA. Jake Doerflinger (7-0 record, 0.53 ERA) and John Short (7-1 record, 0.91 ERA) are two of the top pitchers in the state and prove it with their impressive numbers in a very tough league.

No. 6 Shawnee Heights (17-5) -- The Thunderbirds are another team with rich tradition in the 5A state tourney. Shawnee Heights finished as the runner-up in the tourney a year ago after losing to Aquinas in the championship game. The T-Birds defeated KC Schlagle, 15-0 and Leavenworth 3-0 to grab a spot in the final eight teams left in 5A. Heights has won nine out of their last 11 games and have only lost twice to rival, Seaman. Peyton Carson paved the path to Wichita for the T-Birds with a complete game, three-hit performance on the mound and striking out 11 Leavenworth batters.

3:30 p.m. -- Bishop Carroll vs. Blue Valley SW

No. 1 Bishop Carroll (21-1) -- The Golden Eagles will be making their fourth trip to the state tournament in the last five years, the only year they didn’t go was last year. Carroll has also been either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in each of those four tournaments, but have yet to win a state title with that high of a seeding. In fact, in 2012 the Golden Eagles hosted the trophy, but did so in a surprise as the No. 5 seed. Carroll’s only loss this year was to 5A state qualifier Maize, back on April 13 and since then the Golden Eagles have went on a 15-game winning streak. Adam Theis (.450 avg, 28 RBI), Brayden Whitchurch (.441 avg, 23 RBI) and Justin Tangney (,391 avg, 11 RBI) are each part of this strong Carroll senior core. We’ll see if the No. 1 seed is fair to the Golden Eagles this year.

No. 8 Blue Valley SW (12-10) -- After missing out on a chance to repeat as 5A state champions a year ago, the Timberwolves will be making the trek back down to Wichita. Blue Valley SW had lost four straight games going into regional play, but that didn’t matter as the Timberwolves took down Mill Valley and Pittsburg to advance to the round of eight. The Timberwolves didn’t play just 14 innings to punch their ticket, they had to play a total of 22, as both regional games went into extra innings. Tanner Howe anchors the T-Wolves pitching staff with a 7-1 record and 2.07 ERA, so look for him to throw in game one against Carroll.

5:45 p.m. -- Topeka Seaman vs. St. Thomas Aquinas

No. 4 Seaman (18-4) -- The Vikings got through the Lansing regional with a 10-0 win over Highland Park and a 7-3 victory over host Lansing in the regional final. Seaman is back in state for the 14th straight year, that’s pretty dang impressive. The Vikings were scoreless with Lansing going into the fifth inning of the regional championship game, but were able to find a way to get the job done and continue the legacy put into place by Seaman through the years. Tanyon Schafer and Nick Steiner both had big days for the Vikings in the regional title game, so look for them to keep it going with a matchup against Aquinas.

No. 5 Aquinas (18-4) -- The defending 5A state champions are making the trip back to Wichita to try and repeat. Aquinas opened with Seaman last year in the 4 vs. 5 matchup with the Saints winning 3-1 behind a stellar performance from Riley Pint. The Saints have won two out of the last three state titles and will try to add on this weekend. Aquinas punched their ticket to state with routes of KC Harmon and De Soto in their own regional. The Saints found themselves down 5-3 to De Soto, but were able to score nine unanswered runs to seal the job. Drury University signee Bayler Hinz picked up the victory for the Saints on the mound with a complete game performance against De Soto.

4A-I

Dean Evans Stadium, Salina

11 a.m. -- Maize South vs. Hays

No. 1 Maize South (17-5) -- The Mavericks are making their second consecutive appearance in the state tournament, but this time in Salina. Maize South qualified for the 5A state tourney last year held in Wichita, but moved down a classification. The Mavericks defeated Wellington and Andale-Garden Plain in the Wellington regional to advance to Salina. The duo of Jack Wagner (.527 avg, 21 RBI, 5 HR) and K-State signee Jordan Maxson (.516 avg, 29 RBI, 3 HR) anchor the Mavericks offense that hits .349 as a team. Hayden Bontrager (6-1 record, 1.63 ERA, 1 save) is the top threat on the mound, as well as Air Force signee Bryce Sell.

No. 8 Hays (10-12) -- The Indians may have a losing record, but they turned some heads after passing through an extremely tough Buhler regional. Hays defeated No. 2 McPherson in the semifinals and then defending state champs and top-seeded Buhler, 9-7 to advance to Salina. The Indians went into the regional losers of six consecutive games, but have turned the tide and will hope to carry the underdog momentum into the state tournament.

1:15 p.m. -- Topeka-Hayden vs. Independence

No. 4 Topeka-Hayden (14-8) -- The Wildcats will be taking a different route this year to the state tournament after a third place finish in class 4A-II last season in Emporia, Hayden will now head to Salina. Hayden cruised through their own regional this past week after beating Baldwin and then blanking Abilene 8-0 to punch their ticket. Brandon Van Becelaere (.453 avg, 16 RBI), Wyatt Schumaker (.446 avg, 22 RBI) and Brent Peavler (.424 avg, 23 RBI) head the Saints offense. AJ Shaw (4-1 record, 2.31 ERA) heads the pitching staff for Hayden.

No. 5 Independence (11-8) -- The Bulldogs, led by head coach Marcus Lanning, are headed to the state tournament behind hot hitting from Colan Snodgrass. Snodgrass crushed two home runs in the regional to help propel his team into the state tourney. The Bulldogs beat Labette County and then upset top seeded Chanute in the regional final to punch their ticket to Salina. They are at state for the first time since 1997. They have impressive victories over four-time defending champion in 2-1A power Colgan and 5A Pittsburg, who lost to BVSW in extra innings regional final. 

3:30 p.m. -- Augusta vs. Basehor-Linwood

No. 2 Augusta (17-5) -- The Orioles were awarded the two seed after losing the coin flip to Maize South. Augusta will be making their second trip to the state tournament in three seasons after missing out in 2016. The Orioles defeated Rose Hill in the semifinals before knocking off top-seeded Andover Central, 2-0 in the El Dorado regional championship game. Taite Saldana helped pave the way into the state tournament for the Orioles with the win on the mound over Andover Central. Saldana is also a threat at the plate too along with Nolan Riley.

No. 7 Basehor-Linwood (10-11) -- The Bobcats sneaked their way out of the Atchison regional with wins over KC Piper and top seed Atchison in the regional championship. Basehor-Linwood came into the regional as the No. 3 seed, but pulled off the two wins over the higher seeds. Jacob Markovich (.368 avg, 14 RBI) and Jacob Robinette (.338 avg, 11 RBI) lead the Bobcats in both average and RBI total on the year. This will be the first trip to the state tournament for the Bobcats since 2010.

5:45 p.m. -- Ottawa vs. Bishop Miege

No. 3 Ottawa (16-5) -- The Cyclones advanced out of their own regional this past week with wins over Louisburg and a 6-5 walk-off victory over league foe Paola to clinch a spot in the state tournament. Ottawa will be making their second trip to the state tourney in the past three seasons, with their last coming in 2015 where they lost to eventual runner up McPherson in the quarterfinals. This is a very deep Cyclone team and their nine seniors will try to make some noise in Salina. Kansas signee and all-state outfielder Blaine Ray is one of the senior leaders for the Cyclones.

No. 6 Bishop Miege (11-11) -- The Stags advanced out of their own regional with a win over top seed Bonner Springs and then holding on for a 6-5 win over Eudora to earn a trip to Salina. Bishop Miege led 6-2 in the fifth inning, but Eudora’s late comeback hopes came up just short. This will be the Stags’ third straight trip to the state tournament, but the two trips prior have both ended in the first game, so they’ll be hopeful to be playing on Friday. Kentucky signee Daniel Harper and Cowley County CC signee Adam White control the pitching staff, as well as Oklahoma commit Ethan Axman. Paul Wendling, a Indiana State commit and Notre Dame commit Carter Putz are a big part of the Miege offensive attack.

4A-II

Soden’s Grove Baseball Field, Emporia

11 a.m. -- St. George-Rock Creek vs. Clearwater

No. 1 St. George-Rock Creek (19-0) -- The Mustangs are one of three unbeaten teams in the state going to the state tournament. This will be the third straight appearance in the state tournament for the Mustangs. They won the state title in 2015, but were bounced in the quarterfinals last year. Rock Creek defeated Chapman and Clay Center easily in the Smoky Valley regional to advance back to Emporia. The team overall is batting just under .400 and are led by Cameron Minihan offensively.

No. 8 Clearwater (5-17) -- The Indians may be the biggest surprise in the state going into the state tourney weekend. Clearwater had just three wins going into the Wichita Collegiate regional, but the Indians didn’t let that bother them. They knocked off top seed Burlington in the semifinals and then Wichita Trinity Academy to punch their ticket to Emporia. The Indians will be making their first trip to the state tournament since 2015 when they lost in the quarterfinals as the No. 7 seed. Can the Indians keep their magic going, or does it die in Emporia?

1:15 p.m. -- Concordia vs. Baxter Springs

No. 4 Concordia (14-3) -- The Panthers are in the state tournament after a thrilling 1-0 victory over Russell in the Hoisington regional championship game. Concordia pitcher Cole Larsen was on fire for the Panthers, allowing just five balls put into play and striking out 17 Russell batters. This will be the third trip to state for the Panther seniors, their last coming in 2015 when they finished in second place. Concordia will have their hands full with Baxter Springs in the quarterfinals, maybe the best 4 vs. 5 matchup slated for Thursday.

No. 5 Baxter Springs (16-4) -- The Lions are a familiar face in the state tournament and are the defending 4A-II state champions. A big part of the recent success is Pittsburg State signee, Jarrett Dotson. Dotson this past week won his fourth straight regional championship on the hill and has an impressive 26-3 record through his high school career. The Lions also feature all-state pitcher Kaid Karnes, a Cowley County signee, who has been a starter the last four seasons. Baxter Springs got through the Girard regional with wins over Girard and Parsons to punch their ticket. Austin Williams and Noah Wilson were a big part of the Baxter Springs offense in the regional title game.

3:30 p.m. -- Holcomb vs. Holton

No. 2 Holcomb (16-2) -- The Longhorns are making their first trip to the baseball state tournament, but not their first trip to a state tourney for most of the Longhorns’ seniors. Holcomb has won three state titles in the last two years, one in football and two in basketball. The big threat for the Longhorns is all-state pitcher Conner VanCleave. VanCleave is the ace of the pitching staff and is also terrorizing opponents at the plate with his bat. VanCleave is leading the nation with an .833 batting average and 47 RBI for the Longhorns, while going 7-1 with a 0.37 ERA on the hill. Brayden Goddard (.462 avg, 10 RBI), Chance Rodriguez (.460 avg, 25 RBI) and Alex Ortega (.447 avg, 21 RBI) make for a very tough Longhorn lineup from top to bottom. Holcomb is averaging just over 12 runs per game, while allowing just 2 runs. The Longhorns advanced out of the Goodland regional with wins over Scott City and Colby in the championship game.

No. 7 Holton (6-16) -- The Wildcats are headed to their first ever state tournament in baseball as well. Holton had just four wins in the regular season, but were able to pick up two more in the Bishop Ward regional. The Wildcats defeated Santa Fe Trail and the host Cyclones to advance to the state tourney. This will be the first trip to state in the Wildcats’ 17th year of the program that was established in 2000.

5:45 p.m. -- Nickerson vs. Iola

No. 3 Nickerson (19-3) -- The Panthers qualified for the state tournament for the first time since 2012 after wins over Kingman and Pratt to advance to Emporia. Nickerson cruised to the regional title, outscoring the Eagles and Greenbacks 19-1 in the two games. The Nickerson pitching staff led by Tanner Schrag has been a big key to the Panthers success recently and will hope to help guide them to a state title.

No. 6 Iola (16-4) -- The Mustangs are headed back to the state tournament for the first time since 2015 after a 7-6 win over Osawatomie in the regional final. Iola, which beat LaCygne-Prairie View in the semifinal, had to hold on for a win over the host Trojans to get back to Emporia. Calvin Delich (.357 avg, 12 RBI) and Coleson Wiggin (.322 avg, 11 RBI) have been the top two hitters for the Mustangs this season. Derek Bycroft (6-1 record, 1.21 ERA) and Ben Cooper (6-1 record, 1.25 ERA) are the two that pace the Mustangs pitching rotation.

3A

Tointon Family Stadium, Manhattan

11 a.m. -- Marion/Lost Springs-Centre vs. Hays-TMP

No. 2 Marion (21-1) -- The Warriors are headed to state for the first time in three years after wins over Hillsboro and Beloit in the Southeast of Saline regional. Marion was also the No. 2 seed in their last trip back in 2014, but were upended by No. 7 seed and eventual third place finisher Silver Lake in the quarterfinals. The Warriors will head to Manhattan riding a 16-game winning streak, after their only defeat came back on April 11 to Sedgwick. Marion has an impressive team batting average of .344 and a 2.58 team ERA. Peyton Heidebrecht (.460 avg, 35 RBI) leads the Warriors offense, while Blaine Mermis (5-0 record, 1.15 ERA) heads the pitching staff.

No. 7 Hays-TMP (13-8) -- The Monarchs find themselves going back to the state tournament after an impressive regional title, beating Lakin and Hugoton to advance to Manhattan. Hays-TMP put together 27 runs on 33 hits in the two games to clinch a spot in the state tourney. Adam Gottschalk was a big part of the hot hitting for the Monarchs. Gottschalk had five hits and 10 RBI in the two games from the six hole. The Monarchs will try and keep the hot bats going as they enter Manhattan with the No. 7 seed.

1:15 p.m. -- Eskridge-Mission Valley vs. Cherokee-Southeast

No. 3 Eskridge-Mission Valley (19-2) -- The Vikings claimed their fourth regional title in seven years with wins over Richmond-Central Heights and Wellsville. Mission Valley has been dominant all season long, outscoring opponents 190-69 in their 21 games, that’s nine runs a game and allowing three per contest. Logan Brown (.551 avg, 19 RBI) and Gage Atwood (.540 avg, 17 RBI) lead the Vikings offensive firepower, but sophomore Trevor Moore (.482 avg, 27 RBI) leads the team in RBIs. Cade Clark (5-0 record, 1.70 ERA) and Clay Phillips (3-0 record, 0.48) are the two that man the pitching rotation.

No. 6 Cherokee-Southeast (13-8) -- The Lancers are state-bound for the first time in school history after a 10-9 win over No. 1 Humboldt in the regional final in extra innings. Southeast, led by head coach David Dainty, entered the regional as the No. 3 seed and had to win three games to successfully punch their ticket. Southeast took a 5-0 lead early on against Humboldt, but the Cubs had an answer and came back to tie the game in the seventh at seven apiece to force extra innings. The Lancers scored three in the top of the ninth and held on for the regional title. Cole Burdette, an all-state selection last season, Jake Burns and Hunter Jameson are all a big part to the Lancers offense. C.J. Peacock picked up the win on the mound coming in relief for Burdette over four innings in the regional title game. Southeast is part of the loaded CNC league that has 20 state titles from five different schools in baseball since 2001, so don't expect the Lancers to be an easy out. 

3:30 p.m. -- Wichita Independent vs. Galena

No. 1 Wichita Independent (22-1) -- The Panthers are back to the state tournament for their second time in the last three years and this time with a core of seniors. Independent will have nine seniors suited up in the pinstripes on Thursday and will hope to use the senior leadership as a boost. Caden Springer (.492 avg, 25 RBI) and Jeb Sauer (.407 avg, 22 RBI) lead the pack for the Panthers’ offense. Springer (8-0 record, 1.63 ERA) and Luke Boline (7-1 record, 1.20 ERA) are the top two pitchers for the Panthers on a deep pitching staff.

No. 8 Galena (12-11) -- The Bulldogs are making their third trip to Manhattan in the last four years for the state tournament. Galena punched their ticket with wins over Riverton and via the run-rule over host Caney Valley in five innings to claim the regional title. The Bulldogs have relied a lot on their pitching this season, but the bats were hot in the regional and they’ll hope to carry that into Manhattan. P.J. Sarwinski of Galena could be busy this week as he qualified in four events at the state meet and is also one of the Bulldogs top players on the baseball field, earning All-3A honors last week. Galena is part of the loaded CNC league that has 20 state titles from five different schools in baseball since 2001.

5:45 p.m. -- Silver Lake vs. Oskaloosa

No. 4 Silver Lake (16-5) -- The Eagles are headed back to the state tournament for the first time since 2014, the year that they’d finish third. Silver Lake was the No. 1 seed in the Riley Co. regional and got wins over Marysville and host Riley Co. to hoist the regional championship plaque. The Eagles are a strong offensive team with four guys hitting above the .400 mark on the year and also strong pitching from Dalton Dultmeier and Garrett Huske.

No. 5 Oskaloosa (15-6) -- The Bears punched their ticket to the 3A state tournament for the first time in school history. Oskaloosa got past Wathena-Riverside in the quarterfinals and then knocked out defending state champs, Nemaha Central in a 2-1 battle in the semifinals. The Bears then beat Maur Hill in the regional championship by a score of 9-1. Jerad Miller (.500 avg, 33 RBI) and Hunter Reed (.458 avg, 30 RBI) are among the notables on this Bears team, as well as Cooper Thurston (.388 avg, 36 RBI).

2-1A

Great Bend Sports Complex, Great Bend

11 a.m. -- Troy vs. Pittsburg-St. Mary’s Colgan

No. 2 Troy (17-0) -- The Trojans are back in the state tournament for the fourth straight year after getting through the Doniphan West regional. Troy defeated Prairie Village-KC Christian and Shawnee-Maranatha Christian Academy to advance to Great Bend. The Trojans will get a familiar opponent in Thursday’s quarterfinal game, the team that beat them in the semifinals of last year’s state tourney. Troy and Salina-Sacred Heart tied for third place a year ago after the third place game was cancelled due to weather. The Trojans are one of three unbeaten teams to have qualified for this year’s state tournament. Troy has a team batting average of .435 and seven of the nine normal starters are hitting over .400. Brody Winder (.522 avg, 11 RBI) and Reid Greaser (.511 avg, 24 RBI) lead the high powered Trojan offense.

No. 7 St. Mary’s Colgan (16-6) -- The Panthers are very familiar with the trip to Great Bend, as they’ll go for their fifth consecutive 2-1A state title this weekend. Despite losing four all-state players off last years team Colgan has reloaded and not missed a beat with the help of a lot of big years from sophomores and juniors. SMC got through the Moran-Marmaton Valley regional with ease, in fact the Panthers didn’t allow a single run. SMC defeated the host Wildcats in the semifinals, before beating Uniontown to advance to Great Bend. Of the Panthers’ six losses, four have came to teams from the state of Missouri that would be Class 5A schools in Kansas by enrollment. They also have a 4-3 loss to 4A-I state tourney qualifier, Independence. The Panthers swept Baxter (4A-II qualifier & defending champ), Galena (3A qualifier) and SE-Cherokee (3A qualiier) out of the CNC league who features 20 state titles from five different schools since 2001. Mike Watt, who has been the head man since 1986, has the most titles in Kansas history as a head baseball coach with 16, all coming from 1993 on. The Panthers are looking for a fifth consecutive state title. The Panthers all can hit but will look for big performances of the arms of Zach Hizey, Parker Wydick, and Tyler Brynds on the mound this week. 

1:15 p.m. -- Oxford vs. Leon-Bluestem

No. 3 Oxford (20-1) -- The Wildcats are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2015, when they took fourth place after losing to Salina-Sacred Heart in the third place game. Oxford got through the Sedan regional with ease. The Wildcats had the first round bye, before beating Burden-Central and Cedar Vale/Dexter to punch their ticket back to Great Bend. The Wildcats are another team that can really hit the ball and their .443 team average proves so. Grant Smith (.613 avg, 40 RBI) leads the Wildcats offensive attack, while Blake Thurmond (.587 avg, 39 RBI) helps keep the pressure going through the Oxford lineup. Dalton Silhan (5-0 record, 1.77 ERA) proves to be the No. 1 pitcher in the Wildcats’ rotation.

No. 6 Leon-Bluestem (15-4) -- The Lions punched their ticket to the state tournament after getting through the Moundridge regional. Leon-Bluestem pounded Canton-Galva, 15-0 in the semifinal before beating the host Wildcats 8-5 in the regional championship game. The Lions trailed Moundridge in the championship game, 4-1, but were able to get out of the hole with timely hits and a strong finish defensively. Leon-Bluestem was also able to capitalize on four Moundridge errors in the game. Blake Bevan drove in three runs for the Lions in the championship game, while Coy Moran went 3-for-3 with an RBI and Tritten Beavers went 2-for-4 with an RBI.

3:30 p.m. -- Ellis vs. Wabaunsee

No. 1 Ellis (18-0) -- The Railroaders are one of three unbeaten teams in the state tournament on the baseball side. Troy joins them as an unbeaten in the 2-1A field, but the Railroaders won the No. 1 seed. The Railroaders won the Spearville regional with wins over Ellinwood and Spearville. Ellis outscored those two teams 25-0 in the two games. Dalton Hensley (.643 avg, 22 RBI), Easton Smith (.608 avg, 33 RBI) and Brevin LaBarge (.521 avg, 22 RBI) are all hitting over .500 for a team that is hitting .481 as a team with a .613 on base percentage.

No. 8 Wabaunsee (15-8) -- The Chargers made a lot of history this year on the diamond. This year’s team brought the first winning season to the program since 2005 and the programs first-ever state appearance. Wabaunsee edged host Brookville-Ell Saline in the regional championship after beating Lincoln/Sylvan-Lucas in the semifinals. Riley Tubbs (.448 avg, 26 RBI) and Louis Vopata (.418 avg, 15 RBI) are both hitting above .400 for the Chargers and are two of the leaders that will try and help Wabaunsee make some more history this year and that would be to knock off the No. 1 seed.

5:45 p.m. -- Cottonwood Falls-Chase County vs. Moscow

No. 4 Chase County (20-3) -- The Bulldogs clinched their trip to state after winning their own regional. Chase County defeated Lebo/Waverly and Olahte-Heritage Christian Academy to advance on to Great Bend. The Bulldogs pitching staff is led by Arlen Sigel and Brendan Johnson, both of which have had a great year thus far for the Bulldogs.

No. 5 Moscow (18-3) -- The Wildcats are back in the state tournament after missing out last year. Moscow lost in the quarterfinals of the 2015 state tournament and will look to get past that first game come Thursday. Moscow enters Thursday on a five-game winning streak and have scored 10 or more runs in six of their last seven games. The Wildcats scored a season-high 31 runs on May 11 against Wichita County in a 31-1 victory. Jalen Shaddix and Jesse Stuckey are both hitting over .500 on the year for the Wildcats.


Sean Boston may be reached at seanmboston23@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @Sean_Boston_23.