By CONOR NICHOLL & CHET KUPLEN
Sports In Kansas looks at each state qualifying team, plus big question/storylines for each class. Action is Thursday and Friday across Kansas.
At University of Kansas
Big Question: The class is headlined by low-scoring, close games. Blue Valley West beat Manhattan, 4-3, in the state title game last year. They are the favorites this week.
1.Manhattan (18-1) – No. 1 Olathe South did not make the field, while Manhattan is ranked second. Manhattan and Blue Valley West are the only 6A teams that won more than 16 games. Manhattan by far led 6A with 12.5 runs per game. The Indians paced 6A with 2.42 runs per game. Manhattan won its two regional games by a combined score of 21-1. Manhattan is the defending state runner-up after a 4-3 loss to Blue Valley West in the state title game. Manhattan qualified for a third straight year. Manhattan is led by Jaxon Vikander, Ian Luce, Ian Bluemel, Kyler Horsman, Tyler Gagnon, and Keenan Schartz. The Indians won a state football title in the fall. Luce and Vikander are hitting over .500 this season.
8.Blue Valley North (11-11) – Blue Valley North finished 2-5 in one-run/extra inning contests. North, though, won close games at the right time. North defeated Gardner-Edgerton, 4-3, in the first regional game and defeated No. 1 Olathe South, 2-0, in the regional final. Griffin Allen has struck out 72 batters in 52.2 innings pitched. Quinn Groebl has a .397 average this season, while Hunter Groebl is hitting .381 and Carson Wasinger hitting .318
4.Topeka High/Cair Paravel (16-6) – Topeka High has averaged 9.1 runs per game and allowed six runs a contest. T/CP won its two regional games by a combined score of 25-9. Elijah Kincade had a big regional as he went four for seven with three doubles and five RBI. Nate Plankiton also has had a big year on the mound. Other players to watch for Topeka are Ty Votaw, Matthew Genrich and Isaiah Kincaide.
5. Derby (14-8) – Derby has scored 6.1 runs per game and allowed 3.9. In the regional, Derby beat Washburn Rural, 1-0, and defeated Dodge City, 10-0. Derby lost in the first round of state in 2022. Colton Ruedy carries a .347 average, while Kade Sheldon has a .483 on-base percentage. Hudson Halstead, Mitchell Johnson and Caden Riojas are the team’s top arms.
2. Blue Valley West (17-5) – Blue Valley West is ranked third. West has tallied 6.6 runs per game and allowed 3.6 runs a contest. West won its two regional games, 2-0 and 3-2. West is the defending 6A state champion. Eli Lovich, Zach Darche and Austin Young are part of a deep group of players. Young will play baseball at Baylor. Darche will play football at Penn in the Ivy League. Young had 11 strikeouts in the regional last week over seven innings.
7. Olathe North (14-8) – North has scored five runs a contest and permitted 3.9. Olathe North is 4-2 in one-run games. Olathe North, Olathe East and Olathe South all tied for the Sunflower League championship at 9-4. Plus, Free State and SM East were 8-5. The top-five teams finished within one game in the standings. North defeated Olathe East, 10-1, in the regional final. Jackson Evans and Izzac Thompson are players to keep an eye on for the Eagles.
3. Lawrence Free State (16-6) – Lawrence Free State is ranked fifth. The Firebirds have scored 4.9 runs per game and allowed 2.9. Free State has faced teams front multiple states, including Kansas, Missouri and South Dakota. Free State is 9-0 in games where the Firebirds score at least four runs. FS has won its two regional games by a combined score of 23-4. Kyle Graves has been a key pitcher for the Firebirds as Jackson Waggoner has also had a big season.
6. Shawnee Mission East (14-8) – Shawnee Mission East is ranked fourth. East has scored 4.9 runs a contest and allowed 4.2 runs a game. SME has won eight in a row. SME beat Shawnee Mission Northwest, 6-3, in the regional final. Scott Fegen is hitting .370 this season for the Lancers.
At Wichita State University
Big Question: Traditional power Topeka Seaman likely faces Eisenhower ace Tyner Horn, the state’s top arm, in the first round. A wide-open field doesn’t feature two-time defending state titlist Blue Valley Southwest. Great Bend and Eisenhower have deep pitching staffs and could be darkhorse contenders.
1.Bishop Carroll (21-1) – Bishop Carroll is ranked third. BC won two games than any other squad in 5A, though had trouble finding competitive games in the City League. Carroll by far led 5A in scoring offense with 10.7 runs a contest. The Golden Eagles edged Newton, 3-2, in the regional final. Carroll is the defending 5A runner-up. Nathan Tajchman has a .472 average, while Braxton Martin and Reed Haneberg have posted a .393 mark. Freshman Cal Purvis has enjoyed a big season with three homers. Tate Blasi has also been a multiple sport star for Carroll the last few seasons. Van Haneberg has also had a big year. Peyton Newell has struck out 48 batters in 41.1 innings pitched with a 1.35 ERA.
8. Great Bend (13-9) – Great Bend split a pair of one-run games to rival Hays High on April 11. In the regional, the Panthers defeated Hays High (3-1) and Andover (4-3). Great Bend has done well with run prevention with 6.3 runs a game and 4.8 runs allowed a contest. Sophomore Carson Umphres has enjoyed a huge season with a .458 average, .443 on-base percentage and 2.30 earned-run average. He has consistently ranked among the state’s leaders in innings pitched with 52.1.
4. Topeka Seaman (18-4) – Topeka Seaman is ranked fourth. Seaman averaged 8.3 runs per game and allowed 2.9. Seaman has qualified for state in every played year since 2003. The Vikings have nine state titles, most recently in 2018 and ’19. Plus, Seaman has five runner-up showings, the last in ’15. Bryson Vawter and David Dobbs are players to watch for Seaman. Scout Jellison has struck out 40 batters in 28.2 innings pitched with a 2.69 ERA. Kiernan Meredith has 34 strikeouts in 24 innings pitched with a 2.92 ERA.
5. Goddard-Eisenhower (17-4) – Eisenhower is ranked seventh in 5A. Eisenhower beat Valley Center, 8-1, and held off longtime power Maize, 8-4. Tyner Horn is perhaps Kansas’ best pitcher and is headed to Wichita State. Eisenhower lost to Valley Center in the first round of state last season. Carson Roy is also a top player. Coach Mike Warren led Barton County baseball for more than 30 years and is one of the state’s all-time great baseball coaches. Roy has a .422 average, while Will Rogers is batting .418 and Tyner Horn carries a .385 mark. Rogers has hit five homers, and Roy leads with eight steals. Adams has posted a 1.24 ERA, and Blasi has a 2.02 mark. Horn is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA in 31.1 innings with 55 strikeouts against nine walks. In his career, Horn has a 0.29 ERA and 118 strikeouts in 72 innings.
2. De Soto (19-3) – De Soto is ranked second in 5A. The Wildcats beat two-time defending state champion Blue Valley Southwest in the regional. De Soto lost, 10-0, to BVSW in the first round of state last year. Jack Millman has been a standout player for the Wildcats this season striking out 46 batters in 31 innings pitched.
7. Spring Hill (13-5) – Spring Hill easily paced 5A with two runs a contest. Keaton Neal and Donovan Johnson have been the top-two arms. Johnson had an outstanding performance in the regional championship over Pittsburg to secure the trip to state, he’s struck out 52 batters in 40.1 innings pitched.
3. St. Thomas Aquinas (19-3) – St. Thomas Aquinas is ranked first in 5A. Aquinas finished third in 5A in 2022. Ashton Larson, batting .382, is the state’s No. 1-ranked player and is headed to LSU. Blake O’Brien has committed to KU. O’Brien has a 1.32 ERA in 42.1 innings striking out 75 batters.. Eddie Henchek, an Emporia State commit, is also a standout pitcher for the Saints. Cru Henfield is another player to keep an eye on.
6. Goddard (16-6) – Goddard beat Andover Central, 2-1, in the regional final. Sandler Bowyer has a .377 average. Mason Healy has posted a .484 on-base percentage. Coltin Watkins is among Kansas’ best arms with a 1.38 earned-run average and 55.2 innings pitched.
At Salina – Dean Evans Stadium
Big Question: Clay Center and Rock Creek’s losses only came against each other. Defending 4A champion McPherson is loaded with experience. Those are the significant favorites, though Larned/La Crosse has pitched extremely well down the stretch.
1.Clay Center (21-1) – Clay Center is ranked first in 4A. Clay Center won its two regional games by a combined score of 18-2. Clay Center beat Augusta, 4-0, in the regional finale. Clay Center and Rock Creek have its only losses. Rock Creek won 2-0, and Clay Center picked up a 7-4 victory in an April 28 doubleheader. CC has by far led 4A with 13.4 runs per game and 1.8 runs allowed a contest. Cole Pladson is on the Royals’ Scout Team and has 46 RBI, he was 3/6 with two homers and 6 RBI in the regional. Clay Center is at state for a third straight yer. Left-hander Mark Hoffman struck out nine and allowed one hit in the regional final. Hoffman has enjoyed a huge season with an ERA under 1.00. Carter Long has double-digit doubles and is hitting .539.
8.Chanute (14-8) – Chanute is at 6.5 runs per game and five runs allowed a contest. Lars Koester earned all-state honors as a sophomore last season and has had another big year. Chanute got through a region that not a lot of people favored them to, beating Hayden and Ottawa. Rhett Smith has been huge on the mound with 52 strikeouts in 41.1 IP.
4. Fort Scott (16-6) – Fort Scott has 7.5 runs per game and 3.5 runs allowed a contest. Josh Regan has developed a consistent program in FS who was one of the top teams in the SEK league once again this season. Rocco Loffredo of Fort Scott has had a huge year as a junior and recorded 11 strikeouts in seven innings in regional play, hes had 48 strikeouts in 36.2 IP. Cody Wilson is hitting .470 for the Tigers while Eli Kellogg is hitting .456. Lennox Vann has also had a big year for the Tigers.
5. Abilene (15-7) – Abilene beat Circle, 4-3, in eight innings in the regional championship. Freshman Heath Hoekman has delivered a big season. Stockton Timbrook and Heath Hoekman have had solid statistical years for the program who is in the state tournament for the second consecutive year. Kyson Becker has struck out 47 batters in 37.2 IP, while Timbrook has 44 K’s in 22.2 IP.
2. Rock Creek (21-1) – Rock Creek is ranked second in 4A. Rock Creek has won two titles, in 2015 and ’21, with veteran coach Shane Sieben. RC is at state for the eighth time in nine years. Daegen Vinduska has posted a 0.40 ERA in 35 innings. Vinduska has a .412 average. Ryker Zoeller had nine strikeouts over five innings in the regional. Ethan Burgess is also a multiple sport standout for RC.
7. Paola (14-8) – Paola took third in 4A in 2022. Paola is at state for a third straight year. The Panthers beat Louisburg, 2-0, in the regional semifinal. Then, Paola scored 10 runs in the first inning to beat Atchison, 16-5. Kolby Wheeler, Xander Meinig and Eli Gerken have been among the top players. J.D. Troutman is also a solid sophomore who had a big freshman season last year. Keaton Matlick has struck out 69 hitters in 41 innings.
3. McPherson (18-4) – McPherson is ranked fourth in 4A and is the defending state champion. McPherson beat Buhler, 6-2, in the regional final. Last season, McPherson beat El Dorado, Ottawa and Tonganoxie and permitted six total runs in three games. Hunter Alvord is the reigning 4A player of the year and will play at Cowley CC. Jaret Myers is a top pitcher with a 1.62 ERA. Heath Gerstner is the reigning SIK all-classes coach of the year. McPherson was 23-2 and won its first-ever state baseball title last year. Alvord carries a .556 average, along with six homers and 29 stolen bases. Jaytin Gumm has a .645 on-base percentage and 43 runs scored, along with a .500 average.
6. Larned/LaCrosse (14-7) – Larned/La Crosse beat Chapman, 2-0, in the regional semifinals and defeated the Indians, 1-0, in the regional final. Larned ace Brady Hope has had a remarkable miracle comeback from an arm injury suffered in football last fall. Hope didn’t know if he was going to pitch, much less ever play again. Hope pitched a complete game in a regular season victory against then-undefeated Russell/Victoria. He threw a shutout in the regional. Larned’s Chad Erway is the longtime baseball coach for spring and summer. La Crosse’s Caden Morgan was the top pitcher for La Crosse/TMP last year. Larned has one senior.
At Kansas State University
Big Question: Wichita Collegiate beat Columbus for the title last season. The duo is again the 3A favorites this year.
1.Humboldt (22-1) – Humboldt, led by head coach Mike Miller, edged Southeast of Saline, 5-4, and won the Burlington regional. The Cubs are 42-3 the last two seasons, tied for the most wins of any Kansas baseball team in that stretch. Kyler Isbell has a .556 average, while Jacob Harrington has a .462 mark. Colden Cook has a .400 mark. Isbell has a 2.21 earned-run average. Trey Sommer is also a very solid multiple sport athlete for the Cubs who has been a standout every season, hitting .357 while striking out 34 batters in 22.2 IP. Sam Hull is hitting .549 this season while Logan Page has a .432 average and has struck out 36 batters in 21 IP. Blake Ellis is also having a big season for the Cubs.
8. Hoisington/Central Plains (15-7) – Hoisington defeated top-seeded Hesston, 13-5, in the regional final. Chase Steinert has a .507 average, while Tony Moore is at .471, and Lane French carries a .397 mark. Leyton Haxton and MJ Aylward are also having big years.
4. Wichita Collegiate (19-4) – Top-ranked Wichita Trinity did not make the field. Defending champion Wichita Collegiate is ranked No. 2 and is the highest ranked team in the field. Collegiate allowed six total runs at state in 2022, including a 7-1 first round win against Goodland. Brett Black is headed to Friends baseball. Hayden Malaise is the returning 3A player of the year. Collegiate has won seven straight. Brady Hunt has a .529 batting average. Black has four homers, and Wetta 11 steals. Malaise has posted a 1.45 earned-run average, Black at 1.58, and Ramsey at 1.76.
5. Sabetha (19-4) – Christian McAfee delivered a .448 average, while Mitchel Kramer has a .368 average, and Harper Schmelzle is at .364. McAfee has struck out 31 hitters in 30.2 IP. Marcus Bauman has hit .356 this season and has struck out 10 batters in 13 innings pitched. Other key players are Aidan Lang, Matthew Garber, and Chase Frey.
2. Columbus (20-2) – Defending runner-up Columbus is ranked seventh in 3A. Last year, Columbus went to state for the first-ever time and finished second to Collegiate. Seth Stover is the reigning 3A pitcher of the year and going to Emporia State. Kolt Ungeheuer is possibly the state’s best all-around athlete in the class and is a superb high jumper, winning a state title last season. He has committed to Fort Scott baseball. Catcher Landin Midgett is the team leader and is headed to Coffeyville baseball. Kayden Cox has also had an all-state caliber season and Cade Saporito has stepped into a big year as has Jaspen Tanner, Cole Minor, Brett Hamilton and Jake Vilela. Columbus is 42-5 the last two seasons.
7.Bishop Ward (17-6) – Bishop Ward defeated Jeff West, 6-2, in the regional final and beat Maur Hill-MA, 7-3, in the semifinal. Ward has 13 state championships, the last coming in 2014. Ward, a traditional power in baseball in Kansas over the years, is making their third straight trip to the state tournament. Key players to watch for Ward are Chris Mancinas, Dustin Rector, Damon Esparz and Conner Taylor.
3. Santa Fe Trail (19-2) – SFT beat Osage City, 5-1, to win the regional. Kyle Strother has a .507 mark, while Trenton Sleichter has a .444 mark. Theron Berckefeldt has a .413 mark. Brodie Gleason has a 0.95 ERA, while Chad Robert has a 1.10 ERA. Kyle Strother has a 1.14 ERA. Other key players are Brodie Gleason, Drake Graham and Luke Edwards
6. Goodland (18-4) – Goodland has qualified for state in back-to-back years. The Cowboys have won seven in a row. Manny Gonzalez has a .391 average and .538 on-base percentage. Kyan Ensign has a .377 average and .525 on-base percentage. Mason Hernandez has five homers, and Gonzalez 19 steals. Cole Linton has posted a 4-0 record 1.01 ERA in 41.2 innings. Senior Octavo Gonzalez has five saves.
At Great Bend Sports Complex
Big Question: The winner of Little River/Colgan has a strong path for the final, while Elkhart is likely the top team in the bottom half.
1.Little River (20-1) – Little River is ranked No. 1 in 2-1A. The Little River/Colgan first round game is possibly the best opener for any class. LR is the defending state runner-up. Logan Renken, Braden Young and Dalton Mantz are among the top players along with Grant Stephens, Spencer Strecker, Corbin Herbst, CJ Herzog, Carter Stansbury, Lakin Wage and David Crandall.
8. Pittsburg Colgan (12-11) – Pittsburg Colgan is fifth in 2-1A. Colgan took a slight upset 5-3 loss to Colony-Crest in the first round last year. Colgan has reached state 32 times and plays a regional schedule. Colgan coach Mike Watt has 16 state titles. Cooper Simmons, batting over .400, is one of the top catchers in the state and is just a junior, earning all-state honors his freshman and sophomore years. Gus Keller and Kysen Bennett provide solid arm choices for the Panthers. Carter Jacquinot has also had a solid senior season for the Panthers who have just two seniors on the team as has junior John Potusek.
4. Onaga (18-3) – Onaga beat Valley Falls, 8-5, in the regional final. Colby Simkins is hitting .597 this season to lead the team while Zac Risher is at .483 and Jackson Kolterman at .412. FIsher is 9-0 on the mound while Simkins is 7-2. Just the third year of the program and first trip to the state tournament after losing in the regional final the last two years. Nice work by head coach Adam Kufahl.
5. Medicine Lodge (19-4) – Medicine Lodge beat West Elk, 7-4, in the regional final. Cauy Scripsick is a leading hitter. Cauy Scripsick, Jack Schreiner, Kyle Gerdes, Carter Cunningham and Keveon Ruiz have had big years for ML.
2. Elkhart (20-1) – Elkhart is ranked No. 3 in 2-1A. The Wildcats are consistently a strong state contender and went undefeated with a 2019 state crown. Pitcher Kage Ralstin, along with Cesar Gomez and Austin Rich, are among the top players. Elkhart’s lone loss is against 6A Liberal. 15th trip to the state tournament for Elkhart with state titles in 2002 and 2019.
7. Kansas City Christian (15-8) – K.C. Christian beat Colony-Crest, 3-2, in the regional final. Crest was a final four team last season. Ben Raschke has a .432 average, while Daniel Haivala has a .419 mark, and Brayden Burrow has a .415 mark. Raschke has a 0.57 ERA.
3. Marion (19-2) – Marion is ranked fourth in 2-1A. The Warriors have won 15 straight games. Jack Lanning has a .532 average and .633 on-base percentage. Lander Smith has a .420 average and .568 on-base percentage. Hayden Mendoza, Cooper Bailey and Mitch Norris are the top arms.
6. Sedgwick (18-5) – Sedgwick won 2-1A state baseball in 2021 with a 25-1 record. Sedgwick has won 15 straight games. Sterling Lies has a .442 average and 19 steals. Jackson Scarlett has posted a .543 on-base percentage. Corey Crumrine has posted a 1.19 earned-run average and Lies has a 1.84 ERA.