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Baseball/Softball in Kansas: Looking around the state

Holton has hit 19 home runs this season (courtesy photo)
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
Apr 25, 2021

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By CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen

Last week, SIK looked at a breakout/standout softball team from each class. This week, SIK focuses on the baseball side and checks in on at least breakout/standout team in each classification. As well, SIK has its usual rundown of top teams and performers. We start this week, though, in Olathe:

Class 6A: Olathe West battles back after death of assistant coach in offseason

Three East teams have one loss: Gardner-Edgerton (13-1), Olathe West (12-1), and Blue Valley (11-1). On the West, Wichita West stands at 12-1. West defeated Life Prep, 7-0, on March 19. It also split versus Kapaun on April 21 with a 3-1 loss and a 2-1 win. West is expected to play Bishop Carroll on Tuesday in a huge City League matchup. While the history is one-sided in Carroll’s favor, West did split with Carroll in 2018.

Last September, Olathe West assistant baseball coach Derek Leppert passed away from COVID-19 side effects, according to a Twitter post from West principal Jay Novacek. Olathe West baseball’s Twitter still has Coach Leppert’s tribute at the top of its page. That reads “Thanks Lepp” and “#WinTheDayforLepp.”

Olathe West renamed the baseball field in Leppert’s honor. OW head baseball coach Rick Sabath and Leppert were good friends and had coached together for five years at Blue Valley Southwest. Three years ago, the pair founded the OW baseball program, per media reports from the K.C. area.

Sabath is a longtime coach, notably known for a stint as Fort Hays State University’s baseball coach. Two years ago, Olathe West was 8-13 with seven one-run losses.

After each victory, OW posts “#WinTheDayForLepp” and “#Family.” On Saturday, Olathe West beat Washburn Rural, 5-3, in a game played at University of Kansas. Jonathan Davis had a big double in the seventh inning for the Owls.

Key players have included: pitcher Andrew Evans, center fielder Will Krzykowski, second baseman Jonathan Davis, first baseman Bryan Bartels, catcher Alex Birge, third baseman Ryan Sauter, designated hitter Mitch Warren, right fielder Cameron Carter, shortstop Jaidon Bowers, left fielder Cade Smith and pitcher Cooper Finks.

Evans has committed to Kansas State, Birge to Wichita State, Sauter to Emporia State, Brennan Connell with Fort Hays and Bartels at Barton County CC.

Class 2-1A: Colony-Crest enjoying big spring with undefeated record; Trevor Church with two no-hitters; Bucklin/South Central on 10-game winning streak

Last fall, Crest completed a huge three-season turnaround with coach Nick McAnulty from 0-9 to 6-4 to 10-1. In baseball, Crest was 3-17 in ’18 and 6-9 in ’19 before the pandemic cancelled last spring. The Lancers are 12-0 this year.

The Lancers lead the Humboldt regional. Lebo/Waverly is second at 10-2, and Southern Lyon County is 8-2. Other undefeated teams are Ellis (8-0), Mission Valley (10-0) and Central-Burden (10-0). Elkhart, the defending champion from 2019, stands at 8-2. Elkhart and Bucklin/Coldwater-South Central (11-3) pace the Medicine Lodge regional. The Ellis regional featured experienced teams with the host Railroaders, along with Inman (12-2) and Little River (7-3), per KSHSAA standings.

Crest carries a .379 average, 71 steals and a 1.72 earned-run average. Seniors Stratton McGhee, Tyson Hermreck and Kobey Miller were key players in football. They have .375, .323 and .321 averages, respectively. However, the team’s top-five hitters (min. four at-bats) are all sophomores: Stetson Setter, Avery Blaufuss, Jack White, Trevor Church and Holden Barker. In particular, Barker enjoyed a big football season.

Setter carries a .436 average, Blaufuss at .435, White at .435, Church at .395 and Barker with .394. Setter has hit two homers, and McGhee four. Blaufuss has shown strong plate discipline with 16 walks against just two walks. Barker and Hermreck have 13 and 11 steals, respectively.

Church is 3-0 with two no-hitters and has not allowed an earned run in 17 innings. He has 28 strikeouts against 11 walks. Setter is 3-0 with a 2.47 ERA. Overall, Crest has 98 strikeouts against 42 walks in 61 innings. The 5-foot-10, 130-pound Church threw a no-hitter in a 15-0 win versus St. Paul on March 29 and a 10-0 victory against Oswego on April 19.

Crest, which plays in the Three Rivers League, has doubleheader sweeps against St. Paul, Uniontown, Southeast-Cherokee, Arma-Northeast, Oswego and Yates Center. Uniontown yielded the closest games with 10-7 and 17-10 victories on April 1. Cherokee-Southeast is 9-4.

Bucklin/South Central has won 10 in a row after a 1-3 start. The Red Aces opened the season with a split against Wichita Homeschool, a non-KSHSAA team, and then was competitive in a pair of 3-1 losses to Elkhart. Overall, the Red Aces have outscored teams, 119-43. The staff showed nice arms at an offseason combine facilitated by Sports In Kansas.

Overall, the Red Aces carry a .332 average and a 1.87 ERA. Just two seniors, Bryce Ashlock and Josh Stout, play. Junior Nathan Imel leads with a .441 average and two triples. Ashlock carries a .439 average. Stout is hitting .404 with a team-high 21 RBIs.

Junior Nate Bowman has thrown 30.1 innings, junior Scott Price is at 27.2 innings and Ashlock has 23 innings. Bowman has a 58/12 strikeout to walk ratio. Price has 45 strikeouts against nine walks. Ashlock has struck out 29 in 23 innings. The Red Aces have 141 strikeouts in 90 innings this season. This is the second-played season in program history. The team went 12-9 in ’19 before the pandemic.

Class 3A: Southeast of Saline putting up big offensive numbers

Class 3A has no undefeated teams left. Scott City is 9-1 and leads the Holcomb regional. Columbus stands at 7-2 and leads the strong Columbus regional that includes Baxter Springs (9-3), Frontenac (8-3), Girard (9-4) and Caney Valley (6-4). All but one of the eight teams are .500 or better.

Hesston and Southeast of Saline pace the Council Grove regional with 10-1 and 9-1 marks. At Anderson County, AC is 9-1 and Fredonia/Elk Valley stands at 7-1. At Kingman, Kingman/Norwich and Wichita Collegiate are both 10-2. In Oskaloosa, Santa Fe Trail (8-2) and Bishop Ward (7-2) pace. At traditional power Rock Creek, Nemaha Central and RC are 9-1, Silver Lake is 11-3, Riley County is 9-3, Sabetha stands at 8-5, Marysville and Rossville are both 7-5.

Southeast of Saline is consistently strong with longtime coach Mike Garretson. Before 2020, the Trojans had seasons of 14-6, 18-5, 20-2, 17-6, 14-9, 13-6, 17-6 and 14-5. SES carries a .436 team batting average, fifth-best in Kansas, per MaxPreps. The only teams that are higher are Bishop Carroll (.464), Moundridge (.444), Pleasanton (.444) and Mission Valley (.440).

SES split with Sacred Heart with a 12-3 win and an 11-10 loss on April 13. Then, the Trojans earned a pair of 13-3 wins versus Beloit. The teams have split the last 14 meetings. That marks the second-most runs SES has tallied against Beloit in that time.

Junior Evan Nickelson is hitting .656 in 32 at-bats, currently eighth-best in Kansas.

Sophomore Luke Allen is at .556 in 18 at-bats, and sophomore Luke Gebhardt stands at .538 in 13 at-bats. Senior Eli Harris carries a .500 average in 34 at-bats. Among other key players, seniors Jaxson Gebhardt (.444) and Bryant Banks (.324) have enjoyed nice seasons. Jaxson has both of his teams’ homers. SES has a 65/19 strikeout to walk rate in 55.2 innings.

Nickelson, sophomore Landen Allen and Harris have all logged between 11 and 14 innings.

Class 4A: Tonganoxie off to strong start; ends losing streak against Bonner Springs; first sweep against Jeff West since ‘09

Classes 4A, 5A and 6A are divided into East and West. Paola paces the East side with an 11-1 mark, while Atchison is 6-2 and Wamego stands at 10-4. Class 4A West’s top-nine teams have either two or three losses. Two teams have double-digit wins: Buhler (10-2) and Circle (11-3). However, Circle dropped two games to Buhler on April 22 and dropped to 11-5.

A surprise team is Tonganoxie at 7-3. The Chieftains have had some around .500 and under .500 seasons in recent history. In ’19, Tonganoxie finished 11-10. In ’17 and ‘18, Tonganoxie was 4-17 and 6-17.

Tonganoxie is highly junior and senior heavy. The seniors include Tyler Whiting, James Eaton, Trace Trieb, Tucker Isaacs, and Aiden McIntosh. The juniors are Gehrig Goldbeck, Cody Kessinger, Sam Kleidosty, Zane Novotney, and Mason Khanthoboury.

Tonganoxie opened with a sweep against Jefferson West, 9-3 and 10-0. Then, the Chieftains lost to K.C. Piper, 10-0. The Chieftains were 6-18 in the last 24 matchups against Jefferson West and it marked the first sweep against JW since April 7, 2009.

Tonganoxie also has a 21-9 win versus Pittsburg. Two years ago, the Chieftains fell, 12-1, to Pittsburg.

Tonganoxie fell, 8-7, to Blue Valley North and has a 5-4 loss to Paola on April 13. Since then, the Chieftains have wins against Louisburg (7-5), Basehor-Linwood (12-5), Bonner Springs (12-2), and Spring Hill (8-7).

Tonganoxie had lost five in a row to Bonner Springs dating back to 2015. The Chieftains were 2-6 in the last eight meetings versus Spring Hill.

Class 5A: Bishop Carroll leads in offense, has quality wins versus Maize and Derby

In 5A, Blue Valley Southwest, which has only permitted eight runs all year, is 8-0. Topeka Seaman stands at 9-2, followed by De Soto (11-4) and St. Thomas Aquinas (7-3). On the West side, Bishop Carroll leads Kansas in batting average and stands at 10-1. Andover Central is 7-1. Carroll has tallied 14.4 runs per game, by far the most in 5A. No other 5A squad even averages double digits per game.

Carroll has recently rolled through the City League with sweeps against Wichita North, Wichita South and Wichita East by a combined score of 104-2. However, Carroll’s lone loss was a 13-1 defeat to non-KSHSAA Life Prep.

Carroll is 27-2 versus West, 26-0 against South, 25-0 versus North, 25-1 against Southeast and 25-1 against East since 2008.

Early on, BC has quality wins versus Maize (10-9) in the March 26 season opener, and a 5-3 victory versus Derby on April 3. Carroll has won five in a row versus Maize.

Overall, Derby is 9-2 this season, and Maize stands 7-3.

Carroll carries a .464 average and 2.98 earned-run average. Senior Jackson Stonestreet is batting .714, while senior Ethan Stucky stands at .607. Senior Oscar Gallardo is at .476. Senior Jorey Faber is the team’s pitcher with a 4-0 record and 2.33 ERA in 18 innings.

Other top performers and Notes:

Cheney baseball is 6-2. The Cardinals are hitting .406 as a team with a 1.75 earned-run average. Junior Harrison Voth has enjoyed a big season with a .444 average, along with four extra base hits and 12 RBI. Junior Trenton Reitmayer is hitting. 500, and senior Logan Bartlett carries a .500 average. On the mound, Voth is 2-0 with a 0.35 ERA in 20 innings, along with a no-hitter. Voth has a 33/7 strikeout to walk rate.

Mission Valley softball’s Morgan Tomlinson is 6-0 with 73 strikeouts in 46.2 innings pitched. She carries a .444 average with 17 RBI, seven doubles and two homers. The sophomore has helped MV to an 11-1 record.

Dodge City softball is 9-1. Raemie Lopp, who has signed with Dodge City Community College softball, was an all-state as a freshman and sophomore. She hit .539 as a sophomore. This season, Lopp has an 8-1 record with 70 strikeouts in 47.2 innings pitched. Lopp carries a .514 average with seven extra base-hits, including two homers.

Spring Hill softball, featured last week on SIK, is 12-0. Maggie McNally, a junior, has 54 strikeouts in 27 innings with a 0.78 ERA. She carries a .371 average with three doubles and a homer.

Ottawa’s Alex Powell has helped the Cyclones to an 8-2 softball season. She has six homers and driven in 17 runs. Powell carries a .406 average and is 5-0 in the circle.

Haven’s Amie Yoder and Maguire Estill continue to have huge years for the 11-1 Wildcats. Yoder has a .719 average with 21 RBIs. Estill is hitting .605 with a 4-0 record and 1.35 ERA.

Douglass’ Myra Megli is hitting .821 after 34 plate appearances. She has nine extra-base hits, 17 RBI and 21 runs scored.

Holton softball is showing its power this season with six different players that have hit a home run (19 total as a team). Sadie Walker (5) and Brooke Flewelling (4), Timer Wilson (4) and Grace Utz (3) lead the way. Also homering is Olivia Summers twice and Gracie Gallagher once. 

CNC Softball is Loaded Once Again: Columbus may be the surprise this year and has a very solid pitcher in Saporito to lead them to a 11-1 mark. The 3A CNC sub-state is about as good as it gets with multiple teams that have either won a recent state title or competed in a state title game. Frontenac, led by all-state everythign Heather Arnett, is in the regional who won the last 3A state title in 2019 and a 4A-II title in 2016. Also in the mix is Girard who won the 2017 4A-II state title and took third in 2018. Galena also in the regional and took runner up in 3A 2018. Riverton may be a little off their usual marks this year but they are still a Riverton program that has won four state titles in the last 10-to-15 years including state titles in 2016 and 2017 in 3A. Oh yeah, we didn't even mention Colgan, led by Kaitlyn Crossland, Ashley and Allie Marietta, who have won two state titles since 2010 including one in 2-1A in 2019. The good thing is the Panthers are still in 2-1A otherwise this would be a regional full of state champions. Baxter Springs is a team we didn't talk about but is very much in the conversation with a 9-4 record, including a split with Columbus. They feature power hitter Allie Fry. This regional is anyones. The CNC sent two players on to Division I softball last season in Gracie Sullivan (Wichita State - Columbus) and Camryn Compton (Wichita State - Riverton). Compton now starting for the Shockers. The league currently has at least three players that have Division I offers including Rylee McNemar (Galena) who has committed to Auburn. We could see that list grow to a hand full by the time summer comes around. 

6A East Baseball Teams: Gardner Edgerton baseball is off to a solid 13-1 start averaging over eight runs a game whill allowing just three. Olathe West, also in their league, is scoring nearly eight runs a game and allowing just under three, with a 12-1 record. Blue Valley is off to a 11-1 mark this season, scoring around seven runs a contest and allowing two. Nearby rival Blue Valley WEst is off to a 10-3 mark this season. Olathe South (8-3), Olathe Northwest (7-3) and Olathe West (12-1) are all off to solid seasons.

6A West Baseball Teams: Wichita West is 12-1 on the year scoring nearly 12 runs a contest and allowing under two per game. Derby is also a team to look out for in Wichita with a 9-1 mark this season. Dodge City has put together a solid season out west with a 10-3 mark as has Garden City at 6-2. Also keep an eye on Manhattan who just saw their head coach go over 400 career wins as they are off to a solid start this season and scoring 10 runs a game. Nearby Junction City is sitting at 8-4. 

5A East Baseball: Seems to be pretty solid with a lot of contender including BV Southwest (8-0), Seaman (9-2), De Soto (11-4), Aquinas (7-3), SPring Hill (9-4) and Shawnee Heights (8-4). Kendall Diggs is one of the best players in the country for Aquinas and the Saints are a serious contender along with their league rival BV Southwest who knocked them off earlier this season. Southwest is allowing just one run per game this year and their pitching staff, as usual, has done an outstanding job. 

5A West Baseball: Bishop Carroll highlighted above is off to a 10-1 mark this season and scoring 14 runs per game while allowing under three per contest. Also kepe an eye on Andover Central, Maize South, Maize, Kapaun, Eisenhower. Hays is quietly off to a 8-2 mark under Tennessee baseball committ Dylan Dreiling. A lot of solid baseball going on in 5A on both parts of the state. 

4A East Baseball: Paola seems to be the team turning a lot of heads at this point with their 11-1 record while scoring over nine runs a game and allowing just under four. After them its pretty side open but Miege certainly could  be a factor at 6-5 due to their competition they play in the EKL. Other teams to look out for are Wamego, Tonganoxie, Iola, Chanute and Ottawa. 

4A West Baseball: Buhler seems to be the team on paper a lot are talking about. Dont overlook McPherson this season either (split with Buhler) as Dylan Rinker has put together quite the senior season in football and baseball. Buhler has showed its power this season and has some very good pitching, some back from two years ago. Towanda Circle is also a very solid team at 11-3, plus Clay Center, Augusta, Mulvane, Cleawrwater and Pratt have put together very solid starts so far in 2021.

3A Baseball - Theres no east/west with 3A and below but there are certainly a lot of good teams to highlight. Holcomb, Scott City and Lakin are off to solid marks so far this season out West, all in the Colby Regional. Southeast Kansas teams to look at - there are a lot of them and usually who comes out of this regional is a serious contender - the question is who? Baxter, Frontenac, Girard, Columbus, and Galena are all teams that could make some noise. They are also in the same league as state power Colgan who plays in 2-1A. Hesston is putting together a solid mark in the CKL this season and off to a 10-1 mark. Also in their regional is SE Saline. Anderson County headlines their own regional but also has Fredonia off to a solid season so far. The TMP regional could have many contenders but on paper Minneapolis, led by Spencer Davidson, and TMP look to be the teams to beat. The Kingman Regional features a lot of teams that could all win it including Collegiate, Kingman, CHeney, DOuglass and Halstead. Trinity Academy is also quietely around the .500 mark. Santa Fe Trail headlines the Oskaloosa regional along with BIshop Ward. Jefferson West is also in the regional and off to a 7-5 mark. The Rock Creek regional, a lot like we highlighted the Southeast Kansas teams, is very similar to that regional in which anyone can win it. Whoever moves on also has a legit shot to win it all. Who will that be? Nemaha Central, Rock Creek, SIlver Lake, RIley County, Sabetha, Marysville and Rossville are all serious/serious contenders. One of the absolute toughest sub-states if not the toughest in the state.

2-1A Baseball: The Northeast-Arma Regional may look wide open on paper but St. Mary's Colgan, a state power for years, is the favorite in the sub-state despite a 5-6 record. They get tested unlike any other 2-1A in the state, being a part of the loaded CNC league plus their out of state schedule. Also factor in Southeast Cherokee at a 9-4 mark but SMC is the heavy favorite to not only win the sub-state but to likely win the state title. Ellis is off to a 8-0 mark in their regional but also features Inman (12-2) and Little River (7-3), all schools who have some very solid athletes in multiple sports going through right now. Colony Crest highlited above may be the suprise in 2-1A this year as the program is fairly new. THey are 12-0 in the Humboldt regional that alos features Lebo/Waverly (10-2) and So. Lyon County (8-2). Also factor in Humboldt and Jayhawk Linn. This could be anybodys as some of the schedules of these teams have not yet been tested. Lyndon Regional features Mission Valley who is unbeaten (10-0) and Lyndon just above the .500 mark. KC Christian also in the regional. Sedgwick headlines the Marion regional with their 11-1 mark led by Nolan Crumrine and Lance Hoffsommer. Moundridge is also in the regional with a 5-4 mark. Elkhart and Bucklin/Coldwater South Central highlight the Medicine Lodge Regional. Bucklin may have better pitching depth than most 2-1A programs as we got to see that first hand at our SIK combine, highlighted by Nate Bowman. Scott Price is also having a big year. Udall regional features unbeaten Burden Central as well as Howard West Elk and Sedan. All teams that could be contenders. Valley Falls regional features both Valley Falls (12-1) led by multi-sport athlete Avery Gatzemeyer and Maur Hill who is off to a 11-1 mark. Also keep an eye on Riverside who is off to a 8-4 mark. 


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