By CONOR NICHOLL
1.Can Pittsburg baseball break through and beat a Kansas City area team in postseason ?
Pittsburg posted a 15-6 season last year and went 15-5 this spring and earned the No. 1 seed in 5A East. The Purple Dragons won the SEK championship. Pittsburg clinched its first baseball league championship since 2019 when it shared the title with Fort Scott, per league statistician Brian Thomas. It marked the first outright championship for PHS since 2018. Overall, Pittsburg has won 15 league titles, including four of the past five seasons. Pittsburg went 15-5, 11-1 in league play – though 4-4 in non-league contests.
Pittsburg will host the 5A regional Tuesday at Jaycee Ballpark. The Purple Dragons will likely face St. Thomas Aquinas (11-9) in the championship game. Pittsburg split with Aquinas on April 18. PHS features Cooper Hayden & Jackson Turnbull both who earned all state from SIK last season in 5A. Braden Benson leads the time in average, Tyler Sutton is second plus Blaine Dunstan, & Cale Farrington are also having big years. Beau Pasteur, Ethan Rhodes, Webb Fern & Dawson Stegman have also played big roles. Pittsburg is 1-6 in its last seven meetings against Aquinas, per the MaxPreps archives. The Purple Dragons are 0-6 against St. James, 0-2 versus Bishop Miege and 0-2 versus Blue Valley North. Pittsburg has averaged 8.1 runs per game and permitted 4.7.
2. Can defending champion Blue Valley Southwest continue its success?
BVSW is the defending 5A state titlist, though won the Eastern Kansas League for the first time this spring. Southwest has multiple Division I players. SW will likely face Eastern Kansas League foe St. James Academy (12-7) or Basehor-Linwood (9-11) in the regional title game. Southwest is 6-1 against St. James in the last seven games, including an 8-6 victory on April 12. This regional will be held at Blue Valley Southwest.
3. The remarkable Topeka Seaman regional
This is very likely the best regional for all classes. The 5A Topeka Seaman regional features No. 1 Topeka Seaman (18-2), No. 16 Emporia (5-15), No. 8 Maize (13-7) and No. 9 Hays High (12-8). Last season, Hays High defeated Seaman in the state quarterfinals and finished third in 5A. There’s a bevy of star talent. Seaman has won nine state championships, including ’18 and ’19.
Hays High has its veteran senior class, including Garrett Wellbrock (Fort Hays signing) and Dylan Dreiling, a Tennessee commit and top-five player in Kansas. Dreiling is the reigning 5A Pitcher of the Year. This season, he set the Hays High single season home run record. Hays High opened 4-0 and 7-1. The Indians have taken some tough losses, including two one-run games and a 15-inning loss to Manhattan. Plus, HHS lost to non-KSHSAA Life Prep, which has delivered a great record. Maize split with a quality Goddard-Eisenhower team on May 6, and went 1-1 against four-loss Bishop Carroll this spring.
Maize has two Power 5 athletes: Avery Johnson, three-sport first team all-state pick and among the nation’s top quarterback prospects, and Jaden Gustafson, a Wichita State commit.
4. Will Eisenhower’s Tyner Horn face Great Bend again?
The fourth 5A West regional features Goddard Eisenhower (14-5) versus Arkansas City (8-12) and Great Bend (14-6) versus Kapaun-Mt. Carmel (11-9). Eisenhower swept Arkansas City in an April 29 doubleheader. On May 13, Eisenhower split with Great Bend in a pair of close games.
Great Bend won, 4-0, in extra innings, and Eisenhower beat GB, 3-2, behind a game-winning hit from Eisenhower junior Tyner Horn, a WSU commit. Horn is in strong running for 5A Pitcher of the Year and stands at 3-1 with a 0.39 earned-run average. In eight appearances, Horn has pitched 35.2 innings with 58 strikeouts and 13 walks and just two earned runs allowed.
Horn pitched seven scoreless innings in the 4-0 loss to Great Bend. In the eighth, GB tallied two runs. Great Bend has enjoyed a massive turnaround from 2020 and has doubled its win total. GB has the sixth-biggest winning percentage improvement in Kansas baseball from 2021 to ’22, according to SIK research. For Eisenhower, junior Carson Roy is the team’s leading hitter at .397. Great Bend has eight seniors.
5. 4A Eastern contenders not top seeds: Can Tonganoxie qualify from a 4A regional that includes defending state champion Bishop Miege?; Can powerhouse Paola qualify?
Bishop Miege finished 18-7 and captured the 4A state championship in 2021. Miege dominated its three state games with a 9-4 win versus Circle, 10-4 against Paola in the semifinals and 8-0 versus Clay Center in the championship game. Miege has Rohan Putz, a Kansas State commit. Paola features Caden Marcum, the reigning 4A Pitcher of the Year and Tennessee commit.
In 4A Regional No. 1, top-seeded Tonganoxie (16-3) faces Holton (4-10), while Chanute (12-8) faces Bishop Miege (11-8). In Regional No. 2, Atchison (15-4) faces Louisburg (7-13), while No. 7 seed Paola (12-7) gets Independence (9-7). Tonganoxie was a solid 14-8 squad last season.
Tonganoxie is 0-1 in the last 11 years versus Miege with just a loss on May 25, 2018. Tonganoxie has scored 6.9 runs per game, which is the lowest among the top seven seeds in 4A East. However, the Chieftains have easily led 4A East with 3.11 runs allowed a contest. Tonganoxie defeated Paola, 5-1, on April 12.
Paola, similar to Hays High, has taken losses in close, generally low-scoring games. The Panthers have two one-run losses. Paola opened the year with six straight wins and closed the regular season with four straight victories.
While 4A East offers plenty of parity, the top-four 4A West squads have separated themselves: Pratt (17-1), McPherson (18-2), Clay Center (14-4) and Buhler (15-5). Those teams rank in the top-4 in 4A West in runs allowed and are in the top-five in runs scored.
Pratt’s only loss came with a split against Haven on April 29. McPherson split with Buhler on April 7 and lost to an Oklahoma school. The Bullpups have won 10 straight contests.
Mulvane (10-8) is a possible darkhorse with two losses to Life Prep and splits against Wichita Collegiate and Clearwater. Mulvane fell twice to Buhler on May 9. The Wildcats are in the Pratt regional. They feature Hunter Seirer and Mason Ellis.
6. Can Columbus baseball qualify for the first time?
A prevailing storyline through 2022 is the great seasons from Columbus softball and baseball, both whom won at least a share of the CNC title. Columbus baseball has never qualified for state, though has taken some tough regional title losses in the last few years.
The semifinals are set with Columbus versus Baxter Springs, and Riverton against Frontenac. Columbus stands at 18-3, Baxter Springs is 8-10. Riverton is 9-12, and Frontenac stands at 17-3. All four are CNC teams who played each other during the season. Columbus has a top-10 all-classes turnaround from 2021 after a 12-9 season. The Titans split with Frontenac on May 5 with a 12-1 win and 8-0 loss. This is a loaded regional with very talented players including Collin McCartney, Alex Williams, Jeremy Raio & Logan Myers of Frontenac plus multi sport star Kolt Ungheuer & Seth Stover of Columbus, plus many pieces on both teams. Baxter Springs also has Kameron Williamson.
7.Will Lakin continue its upset performance in the Holcomb regional (played at Garden City CC)?
Cimarron/Ingalls had the single biggest jump from 2021 to ’22 when it improved from 5-12 to 16-4 and clinched the top seed in the Cimarron/Ingalls regional. However, No. 8 seed and rival Lakin upset Cimarron, 7-2, on Monday.
Lakin will face Goodland on Tuesday. Holcomb also won its regional quarterfinal. Lakin had lost, 3-2, and 17-2, to Cimarron in the regular season. Holcomb finished 7-3 against Lakin, Goodland, Scott City and Cimarron in GWAC play this season, though took two losses to Goodland.
8.Will defending champion Sedgwick qualify?
Last spring, Sedgwick won 2-1A baseball, its first state title in any sport since the ’50s. Sedgwick is 17-1 and paces the Valley Center regional. Sedgwick could face Marion (17-4, ’19 state runner-up) in the regional final. Sedgwick beat Marion, 9-0, and 7-4, on April 14.