By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas
This week, Sports In Kansas takes a look at one breakout softball team from each class that has already hit milestones this season: 6A Topeka High, 5A Spring Hill, 4A Holton, 3A Russell/Victoria, 2-1A Marion. Plus, other top storylines and standouts from the last week.
Class 6A: Topeka High softball with resume-building wins against Shawnee Heights, Topeka Seaman and Washburn Rural; Rural ends Free State’s winning streak
Topeka High has established itself as Kansas’ best softball team through the season’s first three weeks. Two years ago, the Trojans finished 16-4 and lost in the 6A state quarterfinals to Derby. This spring, the Trojans have a bevy of impressive doubleheader sweeps, including versus Shawnee Heights, Topeka Seaman and Washburn Rural.
Topeka High has a bevy of star talent, including senior catcher Zoe Caryl, an Illinois softball commit, along with junior pitcher NiJaree Canady. In basketball, Canady has led Topeka High to state runner-up, undefeated Forever Four and state runner-up the last three seasons. Canady was a consensus top-5 all classes pick this winter.
In the previous 22 meetings, the Trojans were a collective 1-21 against Washburn Rural and Shawnee Heights, per MaxPreps archives. That included 0-7 versus Shawnee Heights. The only win versus either of those two teams in the last decade was a 3-2 victory against Rural on April 18, 2012.
On Tuesday, Topeka High swept Washburn Rural, 5-0 and 10-0.
Then, Rural defeated Lawrence Free State, 3-2, on Friday. Free State was 6-0 before the contest with four shutouts. FS had captured back-to-back 6A state titles in ’18-19 and features pitcher Tatum Clopton, reigning Gatorade Player of the Year and Oklahoma State commit. Two years ago, Rural beat Free State, 5-2, in the regular season. Then, FS beat Rural, 1-0, in the state championship.
This year, Rural stands at 4-2 after the FS loss and an ensuing 19-4 win versus Olathe West. Topeka High is 10-0 and Wichita Northwest is 8-0, the lone 6A undefeated squads with more than seven games played, per KSHSAA and MaxPreps statistics.
Topeka High has dominated its challenging competition. T-High opened with a 9-0 and 2-1 sweep against Shawnee Heights. Then, the Trojans rolled over Topeka West and Manhattan by a combined score of 56-3. Topeka High defeated Topeka Seaman, 6-3 and 10-1, on April 9.
Entering this year, Topeka High had swept Seaman in ’19, which ended a streak of 10 straight losses in the series.
In addition to Caryl and Canady, the Trojans have several other key players, including Adisyn Caryl, Amiah Cain, Mia Kelly, Zoie Kincade, Tatum Wilson and Elycia Joyce. In the 9-0 win versus Shawnee Heights, Canady allowed two hits and struck out 10. Adisyn Caryl, Zoe’s sister, starts at shortstop.
Zoe Caryl, Washburn Rural’s Olivia Bruno and Raigan Kramer were named to the preseason All-American Watch List. Bruno has signed with University of Kansas softball. Kramer, who plays for Topeka Seaman, has signed with University of Arkansas.
Against Topeka West on April 1, the Caryl sisters delivered five singles, four doubles, three triples, a homer and 16 RBI. Versus Seaman, Canady earned both wins, and Caryl finished with three homers.
Versus Rural, the Caryl sisters finished with seven singles, two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Canady combined for 28 strikeouts in the two Rural wins, per media statistics.
5A: Undefeated Spring Hill with few mistakes through the season’s first 10 games
In Class 5A, Spring Hill stands at 10-0 and is the lone undefeated East squad. On the West, Andover (10-0), Bishop Carroll (6-0) and Goddard-Eisenhower (6-0) are all undefeated.
Bishop Carroll junior Kendall Forbes carries a .722 average with 13 hits, 10 RBI and 15 runs scored. She has nine extra base hits. Forbes’ dad is P.J. Forbes, a St. Mary’s Colgan alum and former player on the Wichita State national champion baseball team.
Spring Hill has new coach Corey Katzer. He has coached in the Frontier League for 20 years.
Spring Hill has delivered a collective .351 batting average, 1.15 earned-run average and .990 fielding percentage. Senior Julia Hess carries a .429 average, while senior Paityn Flood hits .423. Junior Malia January carries a .419 average, and four-year senior starter Gaige Pinkerton hits .375. January has four doubles, three homers and 15 RBI. Flood has delivered a grand slam.
Spring Hill has done an excellent job of putting the ball in play. SH has just 40 strikeouts against 34 walks. Juniors Vanessa Murray and Maggie McNally are a combined 4-0 in 52 innings. Murray has signed with NAIA Ottawa softball.
Overall, Spring Hill has 109 strikeouts against just 13 walks. Spring Hill has outscored teams by a combined total of 104-10. That includes quality sweeps versus Eudora (5-3, 10-7 in nine innings) and Baldwin (2-0, 14-0) on Tuesday and Thursday last week.
Spring Hill won recent state titles in ’16 and ’17. This spring, SH opened with a 15-0 victory versus Chanute and 11-0 against Ottawa to capture the Fort Scott tournament.
Andover junior Bailey Way has enjoyed a huge start with a .769 average and seven extra-base hits in the first four games. Andover’s 8-0 win versus Maize snapped a three-game losing streak in the series that dated back to 2013.
4A: Undefeated Holton with quality wins against bigger Kansas City schools
In 4A, Holton stands at 9-0 with a total margin of 105-21. Holton has established itself as a legitimate Class 4A state contender.
That includes wins against Olathe West (11-8) and Olathe Northwest (6-5) on Friday. On Saturday, Holton defeated Shawnee Mission West, 13-0, in the Sunflower League Softball Festival.
Clay Center is 6-0 behind senior standout pitcher Clara Edwards, a South Dakota signee. Clearwater stands at 9-1. Longtime powers Andale-Garden Plain is 8-2, and Augusta is 7-2. On March 30, Garden Plain lost, 8-4, to Andover and 6-5 to Maize.
Grace Utz, a Cloud County Community College, is Holton’s lone senior for longtime coach John Dietrich. Holton had high expectations after a 20-3 season two years ago. The Wildcats have hit nine homers. Junior Sadey Walker carries a .588 average with seven doubles. Junior Staci Bond is hitting .520, and sophomore Timber Wilson carries a .517 average. Junior Gracie Gallagher is at .515. Walker and Gallagher are a combined 8-0 with a 2.33 ERA.
Holton has rarely played – and beaten – the larger Kansas City schools that are generally 6A. Before this week, Holton was 0-1 against Olathe West with a 14-4 loss in 2018. Holton had also been 0-1 versus Olathe East with a 12-1 loss in 2015, a 12-2 loss to Lawrence in ’15, a pair of losses to Shawnee Mission Northwest and an 0-3 mark versus Olathe North.
3A: Led by Powers, undefeated Russell/Victoria has already surpassed 2019 win total
Surprise Russell/Victoria is 7-0 and leads the Larned regional. R/V, with coach Larry Plante, has already exceeded 2019’s win total from a 6-13 season. Also in the Larned regional, Ellsworth is 6-1, Thomas More Prep-Marian stands at 5-1, Beloit is 8-2 and Hoisington/Central Plains is 4-2.
Russell/Victoria has five seniors in the starting lineup: Taylor Powers, Valerie Dome, Kendra Bay, Brooklynn Kuhn and Rylee Miller. Powers has enjoyed a huge start with a .682 average, along with five doubles, two triples and three homers.
Powers, a catcher/shortstop, has a 3.875 GPA and has committed to NAIA Southwestern College. Powers has also stolen 12 bases. In ’19, Powers served as the catcher and caught 17 runners trying to steal. She hit .466 with 17 stolen bases, two homers, 19 RBI and 26 runs scored. Powers has served as a captain for volleyball and softball since he was a sophomore. Powers and Bay were the lone seniors for Russell volleyball last fall. Kuhn helped Victoria enjoy a big turnaround in basketball.
Russell was scheduled to play at Thomas More Prep-Marian on Friday, but the doubleheader was rescheduled because of weather.
Dome carries a .522 average, and Bay is at .520. Kuhn, an all-state tennis player and key basketball player for Victoria, is hitting .517.
Bay, Miller and sophomore Brooklyn Nowak have all seen time in the circle and stand a collective 6-0 with a 2.86 ERA with 61 strikeouts against 12 walks. Russell is hitting .448.
Cheney is undefeated at 6-0, while Southeast of Saline stands at 6-0. The Hesston regional features SES, Haven (7-1), Smoky Valley (7-2) and Lyons (3-2). Haven split against Kingman/Norwich on April 13. The Wildcats won 7-3 and lost 10-4.
Haven’s Maguire Estill has carried a .680 average, along with 17 hits, 16 runs, 15 RBI, four doubles, two triples and two homers. Estill is 4-0 in the circle. Estill has signed with Division II Arkansas-Monticello.
Out east, Nemaha Central is 4-0 in the Marysville regional, and Silver Lake stands at 8-0 in its own regional.
2-1A: Marion ends losing streaks against Council Grove and Hutchinson Trinity
In 2-1A, Ell-Saline is 7-1, Marion stands at 7-1, Burlingame is 9-1, Yates Center is 7-1 and Jayhawk-Linn is 8-0. St. Mary’s Colgan, the defending state champion from 2019, is 7-1.
In the Sedan regional, Cedar Vale-Dexter (8-0) and Burden-Central (6-0) are both undefeated. CV-D has outscored opponents, 112-12.
Spearville is 11-1 and has won six straight. In the Riverside regional, Troy is 8-0 and McLouth is 2-0. Mission Valley is 9-1. Troy has outscored teams by a combined total of 100-28. That includes 6-5 and 7-4 doubleheader wins versus Riverside on April 9.
Marion opened the season with a 13-5 loss to Council Grove, and then won the second game of the doubleheader, 18-15. The victory snapped a 10-game losing streak against Council Grove that dated back to a 7-4 win on April 12, 2016.
Since then, the Warriors have won six in a row with doubleheader sweeps against Hutchinson Trinity (13-9, 11-1), Inman (21-1, 21-1) and Canton-Galva (19-3, 15-0).
Marion had lost four in a row and six of seven against Trinity Catholic, which took third place at 2-1A state in 2019. The Warriors have won seven consecutive versus Inman.
Overall, Marion carries a .474 team average and .590 on-base percentage. Junior Jayden May carries a .679 average with two homers.
Five hitters bat at least .500, including seniors Laura Savage, Chisholm Waner, Megan Neufeld and junior Mickelly Soyez.
Hays High’s Dylan Dreiling leads other top showings
Hays High’s Dylan Dreiling tied the school record with 18 strikeouts in one game earlier this week. He allowed one hit in a 3-0 victory against rival Great Bend. HHS stands at 4-1.
Santa Fe Trail senior Caden Garcia is 4-0 with a 0.43 earned-run average with 31 strikeouts in 16.2 innings pitched. SFT is 8-0.
Lakin’s Jaya Esquibel enjoyed a big basketball season and cleared 1,000 career points. She hits .767 with 23 hits in 36 plate appearances. Esquibel has 21 runs scored, along with 20 RBI. She has 16 extra-base hits, including 10 doubles and a homer. Lakin is 5-5.
Dylan Rinker, also McPherson’s standout quarterback, is 4-0 with a 0.74 ERA. Rinker has 21 strikeouts in 19 innings pitched. McPherson is 7-1 in Class 4A.
Bucklin’s Nate Bowman has posted a 1.73 ERA with 49 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched. Bucklin, which co-ops with Coldwater-South Central, stands at 7-3.
Lakin senior Jace Bachman carries a .647 average with 22 hits, 16 RBI, along with 20 runs scored. He has seven doubles, two homers and six stolen bases. Bachman has captured two wins on the mound. Lakin is 6-4 in Class 3A.
Inman’s Carter Brown earned Sports in Kansas 1A Defensive Player of the Year last fall. Brown has a .429 average with 17 runs scored in 10 games. Brown has four doubles, three triples, 15 hits and seven stolen bases. He has recorded two saves for an 8-2 squad.
Cheney baseball has enjoyed a big season with a cumulative .509 batting average. Cheney is 4-2.
Maize sophomore Avery Johnson has already excelled in football and basketball. A quarterback, he holds Power 5 football offers. Johnson holds a .650 average with 13 hits and 14 runs scored in seven games. Maize is currently 5-2.
Olathe South defeated Mill Valley, 10-8, per @SFLSOFTBALL. Olathe South’s Jadyn Sheffield finished 3 of 4 with two singles, a double and a RBI. Sydney Ballard finished 3 of 4 with a single, two doubles and a RBI.
Olathe North’s Hailey Conley hit a three-run homer and a two-run homer against Olathe West last week. Olathe North is 7-1. ON had four seniors sign to play college softball.
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