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Baseball in Kansas: A look at state teams

Crest Lancers headed to state for first time ever.
By: Conor Nicholl for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen
May 26, 2021

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BY CONOR NICHOLL for Sports in Kansas w/ Chet Kuplen 

SIK looks at every baseball team that qualified for the 2021 state tournament

Baseball could have all new champions from 2019. That year, Haysville-Campus won 6A, Topeka-Seaman took 5A, Nickerson earned 4A, Sabetha won 3A and Elkhart earned 2-1A. Of those squads, only Seaman qualified for state this year.

Class 6A

Held at Fort Scott – LaRoche Baseball Complex

1.Blue Valley (20-2) – Blue Valley paced 6A with just 2.19 runs allowed a contest. This should be a close 6A race with nearly all Kansas City area schools qualifying. Haysville-Campus is the defending champion, though is not in the field. Blue Valley has 12 shutouts this season. Both of the losses have come by one run. BV lost, 10-9, to Liberty (Mo.) on April 22, and 11-10 versus Mill Valley on May 3. Blue Valley has played seven non-Kansas schools. Blue Valley has a six-win improvement off a 14-8 season from two years ago. BV won the state title in ’17 and ’18. BV has four elite returning players with Jack Tinberg, Carson Liggett, Tate Gillen and Chase Jans. Tinberg has committed to Louisville. Jans is on the Royals Scout Team and has signed with Kansas.

8. Lawrence Free State (13-9) – Free State scored 5.32 runs per game, though allowed 4.64. Free State was the state runner-up to Campus two years ago, though returned zero starters. Per MaxPreps, Free State went 8-1 in non-league games and 2-0 in neutral contests – which bodes well for state. Seven seniors have seen consistent playing time, including Ben Stallard. Sophomore Brady Kern and juniors Calvin Urish and Maddox Burkitt have also been key players. Burkitt and senior Michael Uhler have been among key pitchers. Veteran coach Mike Hill is in his 25th season with Free State. FS was 21-4 two years ago.

4. Olathe West (18-4) – Olathe West tallied 6.91 runs a contest, third-best in 6A East. OW, featured earlier this spring, has enjoyed a nice turnaround after an 8-13 season two years ago. Rick Sabath is the lone coach in the school’s four-year history and has many years of experience, including a long stint as Fort Hays State University’s head coach. OW assistant coach Derek Leppert, a great friend of Sabath, passed away last fall from COVID-19 symptoms. OW has dedicated its season to “Lepp” and named the field in his honor. Pitcher Andrew Evans has committed to Kansas State, catcher Alex Birge has committed to Wichita State, third baseman Ryan Sauter to Emporia State, Brennan Connell to Fort Hays and first baseman Bryan Bartels to Barton County CC. Birge was also a standout quarterback.

5. Manhattan (18-4) – Manhattan and Derby tied for the best records in 6A West. Manhattan averaged 8.7 runs a game and permitted 3.6. Manhattan split with Hays High at Hays’ Western Plains Diamond Classic tournament from May 7-8. Manhattan has enjoyed a five-win improvement from a 13-7 season two years ago. Left-handed pitcher Cade Perkins and pitcher/utility Dayne Aschenbrenner are experienced seniors. Perkins is headed to Cloud County Community College. Aschenbrenner was a multi-year starter at quarterback. Manhattan beat Topeka, 11-7, in the regional final.

2. Gardner-Edgerton (20-2) – Blue Valley and G-E tied for the best overall record in 6A. G-E scored 7.45 runs a contest and permitted 2.95. G-E lost to Olathe West, 3-2, on April 12, and 5-3 to Olathe Northwest on May 11. The Trailblazers have a 19-9 win versus De Soto on April 16. G-E has enjoyed a nice turnaround after a 14-7 season two years ago. In the 8-0 regional win against Shawnee Mission North, Zach Sanford struck out eight in a complete game. Carson Schrack, Hayden Dyer, Brady LeCluyse, Austin Buie, Tyler Butash and Matt McMilian are among the key players.

7. Washburn Rural (17-5) – Rural opened 2-4, including a pair of losses to Hays High and one versus Topeka Seaman and Manhattan. The wins came against Topeka Hayden. All of those games came versus teams that have qualified for the state tournament. However, Rural has won 12 in a row, often in dominant fashion, against the Centennial League and in regionals. That includes a 7-4 victory versus Manhattan on May 12. In regionals, Rural came back to beat Dodge City, 3-2, in a game delayed a day by rain. Brady Patterson has been a strong defensive catcher. Carson Rosen struck out eight in four innings in the regional final, per Topeka Capital-Journal.

3. Derby (18-4) – Derby has three losses to Kansas teams against Bishop Carroll, Andover Central and Maize. The Panthers went to Kansas City on April 24 and went 1-1. Derby is also the lone team to defeat AC with a 7-2 win on April 9. Derby advanced to state in ’19, and has plenty of experience, including Neosho County CC commits Reid Liston and Kade Snodgrass, and Butler CC commit Coleson Syring. Derby has longtime coach Todd Olmstead. The Panthers have a .291 average and 1.53 earned-run average. Snodgrass leads with a .385 average, while junior Luke Westerman has a .375 average. Junior Mercer Thatcher has a .364 average. Liston is at .345, and Syring stands at .340. Derby has used a bevy of arms as six have thrown between 13 and 27 innings. The leaders are: senior Grant Ash, junior Saban Seager, sophomore Mitchell Johnson, senior Carson Olmstead, Thatcher and senior Jace Jenkins. Ash has signed with Butler CC baseball. Olmstead and Jace Horn have signed with Southwestern College.

6. Blue Valley West (17-5) – BV has played five non-Kansas schools. They have a quality 9-2 win versus Maize South on May 7. In its five losses, West has scored just eight runs. However, West is 10-0 when it tallies at least eight runs. BVW has a five-win improvement after a 12-9 mark two years ago. Coach Joe Allison is in his third year as head coach. Before then, he served as the head coach at Leavenworth for 10 years. This is his second state appearance, first with BVW. Assistant Matt Shipley has served on staff for 14 years.

Class 5A

Held at Wichita State University – Eck Stadium

1.Andover Central (21-1) – AC has a strong group of seniors, and they have made a significant impact from an 8-10 season two years ago. Four players have signed to play college baseball: Easton Elliot with Johnson County CC, Matthew Buffington with Kansas City-Kansas CC, Jack Bell with Coffeyville CC, and Alex Ronk with Labette CC. AC and Bishop Carroll are the lone teams with more than 19 wins. Andover Central has scored 7.09 runs a game, though has permitted just 2.32 runs a contest, best in 16-team Class 5A West.

8. St. James Academy (9-13) – St. James has captured two state titles with Class 4A crowns in ’11 and ’12. Coach Brian Bucklin has coached SJA for 13 years. He is 134-80 with the Thunder.

4. Topeka Seaman (19-3) – Hays High against Seaman might be the premier first-round game for all classes. Seaman is the defending 5A state champion. Seaman has averaged 9.95 runs per contest and permitted just 2.27. Seaman split with Manhattan in the season’s second and third game. They lost to Junction City and Washburn Rural in back-to-back games on April 19. Seaman has won nine state titles, including ’18 and ’19. Coach Steve Bushnell has stepped aside after 18 state appearances and nine state titles.

5. Hays High (17-3) – Junior Dylan Dreiling, a Tennessee commit, is on the short list for Kansas’ best baseball player. The left-hander is the Indians’ ace pitcher and outfielder. HHS split with Manhattan and won the Western Plains Diamond Classic when Dreiling was tournament MVP. Hays High has plenty of veterans, including Garrett Wellbrock, Remington Cox and Dalyn Schwarz. The Indians have averaged 8.5 runs a game and allowed just 4.1 a contest. Hays High has four final fours since 1982: third in ’89, second in ’90, third in ’96 and second in 2000. Longtime coach Frank Leo retired after the 2018 season with 576 victories and 18 WAC titles. Veteran assistant coach Dustin Dreher took over the program in ’20 but was not able to coach because of COVID. Hays High has lost in the first round of state five times since ’00, most recently in ’17. HHS is 37-5 in the last two years (’19, ’21). At regionals, Hays High beat Andover, 5-4, when Wellbrock scored the game-winning run. Dreiling earned the win in relief. Then, HHS defeated Valley Center, 4-0, in the regional final behind six scoreless innings from Dreiling. He is 8-0 with four complete games. Dreiling has permitted just four total runs all year.

2. Bishop Carroll (21-1) – Bishop Carroll paced 5A in scoring by a huge margin when it delivered 11.59 runs per game. BC was the only 5A team to average double figures. The Golden Eagles have permitted just 2.5 runs per game. Carroll has not lost a KSHSAA team this season with the lone loss a 13-1 defeat to April 3. Jorey Faber has signed with Neosho CC. Bishop Carroll has won state titles in ’12 and ’05. Bishop Carroll has a .415 batting average with a 2.01 earned-run average. Senior Oscar Gallardo has a .508 average, and senior Drake Unrein has a .500 average. Senior Jackson Stonestreet carries a .449 mark, and senior Ethan Stucky has a .446 average. Unrein has signed with Coffeyville CC.

7. Maize South (16-6) – Maize South has 7.5 runs a contest and permitted 4.3 a game. Maize South went 20-5 and won the Class 4A state championship in 2017. Coach Chad Christensen has served as the lone coach in school history. Maize South has reached state in six of 11 years of its tenure. Maize South is 167-79 in school year, and 158-67 after its first year. The Mavericks have 10 seniors: Jake Johnson, Cy Turner, Kaden McBratney, Keegan McFarland, Keaton Dunlavy, Josh Queen, Colin Shields, Harper Kennedy, Aaron Geisler and Beau Grant. Kennedy has signed with Newman baseball. His twin, Riley, is headed to Neosho CC softball. Dunlavy has signed with Sterling College baseball, and Grant has signed with Kansas Wesleyan baseball. McBratney has inked with State Fair (Mo.) Community College. Jake Johnson and Shields, a multi-year all-state quarterback, has signed with Fort Hays football.

3. Blue Valley Southwest (19-3) – The Blue Valley Southwest/De Soto quarterfinal game is a May 3 rematch. BVSW defeated De Soto, 4-0, on May 3. Southwest has scored 7.32 runs a contest and permitted just 1.95 a game, which easily leads 5A in run prevention. BVSW won its lone state title in 2015 with a 16-8 record. Rick Sabath was the coach then before he started the program at Olathe West. Luke Schmedding has signed with Benedictine College baseball, and 6-foot-5 Ben Kudrna is another key player. Kudrna, who has a LSU scholarship, is a possible MLB Draft pick with a fastball up to 97 miles per hour. BVSW’s 19 wins are a program record. It marked the first time the T-Wolves are 5A East’s No. 1 seed and the first time hosted regional. Coach Tyler Kincaid leads BVSW.

6. De Soto (17-5) – De Soto’s Jackson Miller has enjoyed a great school year. One of the state’s fastest players, Miller was De Soto’s all-state quarterback. He has reached state in four sports: football, basketball, baseball and track. De Soto’s last four losses, sprinkled throughout the year, have all come against state qualifiers: Topeka Seaman, Gardner-Edgerton (twice) and Blue Valley Southwest. De Soto has an extremely senior-laden roster with double-digit seniors. Key pitcher to watch is Brayden Tower who threw seven innings in the regional championship with 12 strikeouts, two walks, two hits and allowed zero runs. 

Class 4A

Held at Dean Evans Stadium – Salina

1.Paola (20-2) – Nickerson is the reigning 2019 state champion, though did not qualify for the state tournament.

Like many state tournament qualifiers, Paola has significantly improved with a 9-10. Paola has seniors Garret Williams and Fletcher Aude and junior Caden Marcum as returning key players. The Panthers won the Frontier League title. The Panthers have averaged 10 runs a game, second-best in 4A behind Iola’s 10.65. Paola has never won a state baseball tournament.

8. Eudora (9-13) – Eudora, Bishop Miege and Clay Center both qualified its 4A baseball and softball teams to state. Eudora has been outscored this year with 6.2 runs a contest and permitted 6.9 runs a game. Eudora has never won a state baseball tournament.

4. Bishop Miege (15-7) – The Stags have 8.3 runs a game and permitted 5.3 runs a contest. Miege has a plus-10 win improvement from a 5-16 season in ’19. Miege has nine key seniors, including Griffin Edds, Max Heller and Joseph Lopez, all whom can pitch. Victor Christal, Nate Stanley, and Luke Shull have also thrown. The left-handed Shull and the 6-foot-4 Edds have signed with Washburn University. He has touched 84 miles an hour fastball and thrown a changeup in 66-71 range. The Stags earned a state title in ’95, its lone baseball crown.

5. Towanda-Circle (15-7) – Max Maholland has signed with Division II University of Missouri-St. Louis. Circle has scored 6.8 runs a contest and permitted 5.9 runs a game. Circle is 3-1 in one-run games. On April 22, the T-Birds split with Buhler with a 6-5 victory and a 11-5 loss. For regionals, Circle beat Buhler, 8-6, and defeated Ulysses, 15-5. Circle went 1-1 against non-KSHSAA affiliated Life Prep – LP is the lone team to beat 5A Bishop Carroll this spring.

2. Clay Center (19-3) – Clay Center has 9.3 runs a contest and permitted 3.95 runs a game. CC has four key seniors: Tanner DeMars, Brady Glaves, Josh Ferguson and Keegan McDonald. Clay Center was 13-5 two years ago. In regionals, Ferguson  earned the win and McDonald hit a grand slam.

7. Topeka Hayden (10-12) – Coach Bill Arnold has enjoyed success in football and baseball with Topeka Hayden. The Wildcats have played their usual schedule against 5/6A Centennial League schools. Hayden has 5.6 runs per game and permitted 7.5 runs a contest.

3. Mulvane (15-7) – Mulvane has made state 12 times since the program was formed in 1982, according to Wildcat sports information. Mulvane also qualified for state in ’19. Mason Ellis, who is starting to draw Division I football attention, worked five innings in a 3-0 regional semifinal win versus Abilene. Mulvane then defeated top-seeded McPherson, 7-6, in the regional finale. Parker Richardson, Ellis, Julien Myers and Hunter Seier are the key pitchers. Richardson leads with a .508 average and Creekmore is at .477.

6. Clearwater (14-8) – Seniors Jake Wellington, Ethan Luckner, Brock Toothaker, Austin Carlson and Jackson Bishop, junior Cole Keesling, sophomore Ty Cash and Dylan Rich are among the key players.

 

Class 3A

Held at Manhattan’s Kansas State University

1.Anderson County (20-3) – Anderson County split with powerhouse Iola on April 13 and took a pair of losses to Louisburg on April 29. Since then, AC has won seven consecutive games. Anderson County is 14-0 when it has tallied double figures. AC has won seven straight and outscored teams, 251-94. Overall, Anderson County has a .350 average with a 2.43 earned-run average and 102 stolen bases. Junior Dalton Kellerman has a .551 average, while senior Bo Dilliner has a .421 mark. Senior Tyler Denny has a .382 mark and senior Ashton Miller has a .377 average. Derek Rockers has been lights out on the mound with nearly 90 Ks in just under 45 innings pitched. They won their first ever league title this season.

8. Hugoton (15-8) – Hugoton was the third seed in a close regional behind GWAC rivals behind Scott City (15-5) and Holcomb (14-6). Hugoton has won five in a row, including three straight one-run games: 2-1 in extra innings versus Goodland, 8-7 against Cimarron and 4-3 in extra innings versus Scott City. Hugoton split with SC on May 8 with a 2-0 victory and a 12-1 loss. Hugoton opened 0-4 and 1-6 and is 14-2 since. Jayce Korf has had an oustanding year on the mound for Hugoton. 

4. Frontenac (17-5) – The Class 3A Columbus regional had six teams at 11-9 or better and all eight squads had at least 10 victories. Baxter Springs was the top seed, though lost to No. 8 seed Galena in the regional quarterfinal, 3-0. Frontenac held off Girard (1-0) and Galena (7-6) and Columbus (5-4) with three straight one-win victories. Frontenac has one all-time title, in 2012. Bill Sullivan has 285 victories in 24 years, including a 20-1 record two years ago. Alex Williams has been a standout sophomore for the Raiders along with senior Brett Cleland. The Raiders ace this season is Collin McCartney who is a standout multiple sport athlete. Jeremy Raio has been a solid force in the outfield as has Logan Myers at short stop for the Raiders. Lane Franklin, a standout football player, also stepped up big in the regional as has Mario Menghini and Lane Sullivan. CNC baseball has 20 titles since 2001 from five different teams (Colgan, Baxter, Galena, Riverton, Frontenac)

5. Hesston (17-5) – Hesston pulled off the regional upset against Southeast of Saline, a 21-1 squad entering the championship. The Swathers beat Council Grove (5-2), defeated Eureka (4-3) and then beat Southeast of Saline (4-3).Hesston has been a surprise this year in the CKL and has been paced by senior Brady Cox who has hit over .500 this year. Whie Rhodes has also been outstanding on the mound this season. 

2. Wichita Collegiate (19-4) – Collegiate has four championships, all from ’94 to ’01. The Spartans have won seven in a row and has outscored teams, 206-88. Collegiate has a .322 average with a 3.55 earned-run average. Sophomore Brady Hunt leads with a .432 average, and junior Drew Charbonneau has a .417 average. Junior Evan Eichenauer has a .409 mark, and junior Ashtun Villagomez has a. 388 average. Sophomore Brett Black has a 5-2 record with a 1.88 earned-run average with 41 innings with a 43/14 strikeout to walk ratio. Sophomore Hayden Malaise has a 7-0 record with a 1.85 ERA with 47 strikeouts and 13 walks allowed.

7. Minneapolis (15-6) – Minneapolis has made back-to-back state tournament trips with Spencer Davidson, a Fort Hays baseball signing. Davidson has pitched 46.2 innings and struck out 83 against 10 walks with a 0.75 earned-run average. He carries a .588 average with 40 hits, 13 extra-base hits, a 1.512 on-base percentage, 34 RBI, 30 runs scored and 15 stolen bases. Davidson threw a no-hitter to open the year against Sacred Heart when he struck out 17 against two walks. Davidson, among the state’s best players, won the Dave Rupert Memorial Scholarship. Trent Moeckel and Daniel Watson are also key seniors.

3. St. George-Rock Creek (18-5) – Seventh-year coach Shane Sieben has won a title with a 22-2 mark in Class 4A, Division II in 2015, and RC has reached seven straight state tournaments. In ’19, Rock Creek took runner-up to Sabetha. In regionals, host RC beat Sabetha, 7-4, in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, RC beat Silver Lake, 5-3. For the championship, RC beat Nemaha Central, 6-2. Sabetha won 13 games, Silver Lake 16 and NC 19. RC has a bevy of elite players, including Brooks Whaley, Mason Sturdy, Dawson Zenger, Caden Vinduska and Tanner Christensen. Whaley was a first team all-state player in ’19, and Sturdy has signed with Emporia State.

6. K.C. Bishop Ward (14-5) – Bishop Ward is one of Kansas’ traditionally premier programs, have won 11 state titles, none since ’14. Ward beat Rock Creek in the ’18 state tournament. Key players have included Sergio Fierro, Connor Taylor and Juan Marron.

Class 2-1A

Held at Great Bend

1.Ellis (19-0) – Ellis has enjoyed a rich history of baseball, though has not won a state baseball title. This marks the second time in five years Ellis enters state with a perfect record. In ’17, Ellis was perfect and lost to Bluestem in the championship game. Coach Brent Cain has led an experienced, talented team that qualified out of a challenging regional that had Inman and Little River. As of May 20, Tegan Cain, a Barton County CC signing, has pitched 47 innings with 98 strikeouts and just 14 hits allowed. Tegan has a .585 average with 38 hits, 13 doubles, two homers and 39 RBI. In the regional final, Ellis beat Inman, 5-1. Cain worked all seven innings, struck out 11 and permitted three hits with one earned run. Tyson Jimenez went 3 of 4 with two triples and a double. Senior Konnor Pfeifer is also a strong player.

8. Maranatha Christian Academy (10-8) – MCA pulled an upset in regional with a 3-0 win versus Mission Valley and an 11-0 victory against Lyndon. Mission Valley won 19 games.

4. Valley Falls (19-2) – VF has won five in row. Valley Falls split with Maur Hill on April 8 with a 7-3 loss and 2-1 win. In the regional final, VF beat Maur Hill, 5-1. Avery Gatzemeyer is one of the top multiple sport athletes in the classification and is a standout in baseball and basketball. He is the ace pitcher of the Dragons. 

5. Pittsburg-Colgan (13-8) – Colgan coach Mike Watt was named Kansas best baseball coach by MaxPreps with his 16 state titles as head coach, all coming since his first in 1993. Colgan has 19 all-time baseball championships, with the last coming in 2016. Lucas McKain, a Fort Scott CC signee, has been one of the best in 2-1A this year for the Panthers and Kannon Keller adds a lot of power in the lineup. The Panthers have several talented arms. 

2. Sedgwick (22-1) – Sedgwick has won 11 in a row and outscored teams, 296-47. Senior Nolan Crumrine has had a huge two-way season at the plate and on the mound. Lance Hoffsommer is also a standout for the Cardinals and one of the best multiple sport athletes in 2-1A. Charles Austin Harjo has been juge for the Cardinals as has Henry Burns this season with Harjo over .500 and Burns over .400. It's Doug Mabry's third trip to the state tournament. 

7. Belle Plaine (13-10) – Belle Plaine is at state baseball for the first time in school history.

3. Colony-Crest (22-1) – Crest, featured earlier this year on SIK for its impressive turnaround, has made state baseball for the first time in its third year of existence. Crest hits .372 as a team and are led in hits by sophomore Stetson Setter. Trevor Church and Holden Barker are second and third in hits and the impressive thing is all three mentioned are sophomores. Tyson Hermreck and Stratton McGee are also having big time years for the Lancers  as is Avery Blauffis and Jack White. 

6. Spearville (12-9) – Spearville, featured last week on SIK, won state baseball in 2018. The Lancers have a .370 average. Senior Mason Dean leads with a .594 average, and junior Josh Cox has a .463 average.


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