By CONOR NICHOLL
Three major themes of the 2022 baseball and softball seasons included: multiple teams enjoying the best spring in school history, dominance from certain conferences (specifically the CNC) and plenty of parity in multiple classes, especially 3A softball. These storylines played out on the first day of the state baseball and softball tournaments Thursday.
Here are eight highlights from the competition across Kansas:
1-Girard and Columbus baseball teams with best seasons ever
Girard and Columbus are located 24 miles apart in the CNC league on KS-7. The teams were placed together in the same 3A softball sub-state. They were in separate baseball sub-states. Each baseball squad has enjoyed the best season in school annals after they shared the CNC title. They are another good example of not grouping league schools together (and causing further rematches) in pre-arranged sub-states that occur in 3A and 2-1A.
On Thursday afternoon, Girard improved to 21-3 and defeated Thomas More Prep-Marian/La Crosse, 8-2, in the 3A quarterfinals. A few hours later, Columbus bumped to 21-2 with a 5-4 win against Sabetha. TMP and Sabetha have historically enjoyed strong success in baseball. That included 2018 when Sabetha defeated TMP for the 3A state title.
Columbus is at state for the first time in school annals. Girard won a state game for the first time and has set a school record for wins. Girard will play Wichita Collegiate (21-1), while Columbus faces Bishop Ward (22-2). Girard was a combined 23-17 in the last two seasons. The Trojans have beaten every team on its schedule with splits against Colgan, Frontenac and Columbus on April 28. Girard won at least a share of the CNC for the first time since 2002 when it went 20-3. That season had the school record for wins before this spring. Girard was 0-3 all-time in state games, per GHS archives.
Current Girard coach Chris Dunlap was on the 2002 team.
Columbus scored a run in the sixth to take a 4-3 lead. Sabetha scored a run in the top of the seventh, while Columbus tallied a run in the bottom of the seventh. Kolt Ungeheuer scored the game-winning run on a passed ball. Ungeheuer is also the No. 1-ranked high jumper in 3A. He delivered a pair of doubles, while Brett Hamilton and Seth Stover tripled. Stover, Columbus’ high-rising prospect, worked a complete game with five strikeouts, a walk and one earned run allowed.
For Girard, Trevor Amershek worked into the seventh inning and struck out 10 and permitted just six total baserunners. Girard took advantage of eight walks.
2-Frontenac softball qualifies for another final four; Prairie View softball most wins in school annals.
Also in the CNC, Frontenac, paced by senior standout Heather Arnett, has a chance to win its third state title under longtime coach Cassie Rhuems.
Class 3A was highly parity-laden. That continued with the No. 8, No. 5, No. 7 and No. 6 seeds all advancing. None of the top-four seeds won. No. 8 Santa Fe Trail beat Hoisington, 4-1. No. 6 Rossville rolled over Council Grove, 12-0. No. 7 Prairie View beat Scott City, 10-1.
Frontenac held off Kingman, 7-3. Prairie View, a southeast Kansas team in the Pioneer League, has at least tied the best finish in school history. PV’s all-time best showing is fourth in 2017. PV improved to 20-4, which surpassed last season’s 19-5 record for the most wins in school annals.
Braxton Stainbrook delivered two hits, including a triple, and two walks for Prairie View. Emma Chambers delivered a complete game with first-pitch strikes to 18 batters. She allowed just two baserunners.
Frontenac delivered 13 hits and opened with four runs in the top of the first inning. Avery Johnson struck out six in a complete game. Annie Lee, Abi Beaman and Hattie Pyle all finished with three hits for Frontenac. Kelby Burke and Kaitlyn Hayslip picked up two RBI along with Pyle.
Arnett went 1 of 4 with a run scored. Arnett is the state’s all-time leader in career stolen bases. Pyle doubled and homered.
3-Crest baseball with school history
Last season, Colony-Crest qualified for state baseball for the first time, was undefeated and lost in the state quarterfinals. This year, Crest is the only undefeated baseball squad. Crest defeated longtime power Pittsburg-Colgan, 5-3. Colgan had a much harder strength of schedule, but Crest proved they are for real. Crest has the smallest enrollment of any of the 2-1A state qualifiers and plays Eight-Man, Division II football.
Crest will face Little River (19-5). Mission Valley (21-1) gets Valley Falls (20-3) in the other 2-1A semifinal. Trevor Church pitched a complete game and struck out seven. Holden Barker went 2 of 2 with a run scored and a RBI, and delivered a triple.
4-Wamego softball beats Rock Creek for the third time
Wamego softball is the defending 4A state champion. Wamego had swept Rock Creek in a conference doubleheader during the regular season. The teams are just 13 miles apart. In the 1/8 game in Salina, Wamego beat Rock Creek, 8-3. Maya Gallagher homered, and Peyton Hardenburger earned another victory. Trista Hoobler delivered three hits. Hardenburger worked a complete game, allowed eight base runners and struck out 11. Hardenburger allowed two earned runs, the first earned runs she has permitted in her career.
Wamego (22-1) will face Bishop Miege (18-3), while Clearwater (22-1) gets Eudora (21-2). Wamego beat Bishop Miege in the 4A quarterfinals last year en route to its first-ever state softball championship.
Defending champions Topeka High (6A), and Bishop Carroll (5A) also remain alive. Class 5A softball opens play Friday morning after it was pushed back by weather. BC has the state’s longest current winning streak at 45 games.
5-Success for Mission Valley with two one-hit shutouts
Mission Valley baseball and softball are both in the final four. Mission Valley softball was the third-place team last season and was the prohibitive 2-1A favorite this spring.
For baseball, Mission Valley rolled over Remington, 10-0, and improved to 21-1. In softball, Mission Valley beat Spearville, 9-0. Mission Valley softball bumped to 21-2.
MV softball took advantage of 12 walks. Kyplee Jacobson, Mission Valley’s standout catcher, reached base five times. Mission Valley standout pitcher Morgan Tomlinson struck out 16 with one hit and one walk permitted.
Mission Valley baseball received a five-inning complete game from Carter Phillips. He struck out nine with one hit and two walks. Joel Deters delivered a double.
6-Undefeated teams win in 2-1A
In addition to Crest baseball, 2-1A softball has its two undefeated teams remaining. Ell-Saline beat two-time defending state titlist Pittsburg-Colgan, 5-2. E-S improved to 24-0. Troy beat Belle Plaine, 7-0. Troy, at state for the first time in school annals, is 22-0.
Ell-Saline has enjoyed the second-best season in school history behind the state runner-up showing in 2015.
Troy elite ace Paityn Engemann had 14 strikeouts in a two-hit complete game. Troy showed its impressive depth. Seven of the nine starters had a hit. No. 9 batter Emma McConnaughey drove in three runs, including a homer. Paige Hinds and Avery Euler both doubled.
Colgan and Ell-Saline each had three hits apiece. The game was 2-2 entering the bottom of the third when E-S tallied three runs. E-S leadoff hitter Sadie Bradley finished 2 of 2 with two runs scored and a walk. Brin Hecker doubled and drove in three runs.
Raleigh Kramer, E-S’ ace and Southwestern College commit, had her normal strong out with seven innings, no earned runs allowed, two strikeouts and a walk.
7-Big comeback in 5A baseball
The game of the day might have come early in 5A baseball. No. 8 seed St. Thomas Aquinas beat top-seeded Topeka Seaman, 10-9, with a major comeback. Aquinas trailed 8-0.
SIK’s Bethany Bowman had multiple postgame interviews of this contest on SIK platforms.
8-Excellent pitching performances; three Frontier League teams left in 4A baseball
In 6A softball, Washburn Rural’s Emmerson Cope worked a five-inning no-hitter in a 10-0 win against Blue Valley. WR and Centennial League rival Topeka High are the 6A favorites and are on a collision course to meet in Friday’s final. Rural swept defending champion THS in the regular season. Rural is 22-1, Topeka High is 20-3 after a 6-0 win against Olathe North. Topeka/Olathe North was a rematch of the 2020 state championship. THS ace Nija Canady, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year and Stanford signing, struck out 14 and permitted one hit. Adisyn Caryl, an Illinois commit, doubled and homered.
Wichita Northwest defeated Shawnee Mission North, 1-0, in a 6A quarterfinal and improved to 18-5. NW has likely enjoyed the best year in school annals. The Grizzlies had lost in the state quarterfinals in ’16 and ’19. Caiya Stucky worked 6.2 innings and struck out six.
Erik Tapia delivered 13 strikeouts in Bishop Ward’s 9-0 win against Halstead in 3A baseball.
In 4A baseball, Paola’s pitching staff worked a one-hitter in a 5-0 win. McPherson (21-2) takes on Ottawa (16-6). Tonganoxie (19-3) will face Paola (15-7). Ottawa, Tongie and Paola are all in the Frontier League. Tonganoxie beat Paola, 5-1, on April 12.
Other Notes: Mission Valley advanced to the 2-1A baseball semifinals in a 10-0 win over Whitewater-Remington. Carter Phillips pitched 5 innings, 9k with 1 hit. Phillips finished his senior season with an impressive 89 strikeouts.
Nine different players got a hit for 3A Rossville softball in their 12-0 victory over Council Grove today. Six different players had an RBI, four players had multi-hit games.
Bishop Carroll is moving onto the 5A state semifinals with a 2-0 win over Shawnee Heights baseball. Sr. James Brennan and soph. Van Haneberg combined to throw a shutout. Brennan: 6.0 IP, 3 hits, 0 runs, 4 Ks. Haneberg threw one inning of relief and recorded the last three outs.
4A Clearwater gets the win on a walk-off double by sophomore Elizabeth Tjaden.
Down 6-5 to Clay Center in the bottom of the seventh, she doubled on the first pitch of the at bat, scoring two runs.
Defending 5A state baseball champions Blue Valley Southwest advances to the semis with a 10-0 run rule win over De Soto. Central Arkansas commit Charlie Christensen goes 5.0 IP, allowing just 2 hits, 2 walks, no runs while striking out 7.
2A baseball Little River 7, Elkhart 5 – Final. Braden Young with the win for Little River. Ty Herzog was clutch with three hits in the game for LR. Kaden Schafer with a triple and two RBI in the win. Little River vs. Colony Crest in 2-1A semi.
Collegiate moves on to semis. Brett Black had nine strikeouts and allowed just four hits in win over Goodland through 5.1 IP to advance to 3A state ⚾️semi. Hayden Malaise will be available tomorrow (started game today but threw just 30 pitches in 1.2 IP).