By CONOR NICHOLL
Eskridge-Mission Valley and Burlingame are located just 22 miles apart on KS-99 and KS-31 highways. The teams met up in the 2021 regular season. Mission Valley won both games, 12-9 and 7-4.
MV and Burlingame were placed in different 2-1A softball regionals. Both teams finished with historic seasons. Mission Valley went 24-2 and earned third place. Burlingame completed a state runner-up showing. Both squads lost to Pittsburg St. Marys Colgan, the two-time defending state champion, at state.
Mission Valley and Burlingame each returned a bevy of star players that has helped the schools enjoy success in a variety of sports. MV girls’ basketball reached state for the first time since 1981. Burlingame girls’ basketball was third in 1A-I, the best season ever.
For softball this spring, Mission Valley returned standout junior pitcher/hitter Morgan Tomlinson and senior Jaycie Calvaruzo. Burlingame brought back ace Alexandra Crook and standouts Daelyn Winters and Gracie Simmons, among others.
Plus, Wabaunsee is in geographical proximity to Mission Valley and Burlingame. Wabaunsee has enjoyed consistent softball success with a 58-23 record the last four seasons, including a state runner-up and state championship in 2-1A. Wabaunsee senior Kara Hafenstine has been a nationally ranked player. The infielder carried a .537 average last season.
Before the 2022 season started, Burlingame coach Creighton Winters knew the Bearcats had plenty of talent. He also hedged on calling his squad the state favorite, knowing what Burlingame could see in the regional. Winters had talked to Mission Valley’s assistant in late winter. The coach told Winters MV had 30 girls in the program.
“We have got a pitcher 15 miles down the road here that can basically win a game by herself,” Winters told SIK in mid-March. “And that’s the Tomlinson girl at Mission Valley. She’s very, very good and Mission Valley has strong softball every year.”
Additionally, Oskaloosa and St. Marys dropped to 2-1A for 2022. Oskaloosa was 40-8 the last two softball seasons, including a regular season split with Burlingame last spring. St. Marys plays in the challenging Mid-East League and was 55-33 in the last four springs.
Normally, Mission Valley had went to the northeast corner for softball regionals. Last winter, MV had to play Atchison County, McLouth and Troy in regionals. MV and Burlingame are historically not in the same regional.
Winters believed that could change this spring between the geography and the classification changes.
“I think Mission Valley is coming back to the central kind of area,” Winters said. “So there is a chance that we could get stuck in the same regional, which would (stink). That would be two first team all-state pitchers (Tomlinson and Crook) in the same regional. That would be a loaded, loaded little regional. Now we will see. We might get stuck going southeast. (MV) might get stuck going to the north central area, you never know.”
“But sometimes the way the ball bounces when they don’t seed out 3A down through 1A,” Winters added.
Last week, KSHSAA announced the softball and baseball regionals sites. While 4-6A are based on seeding and record, 3A and 2-1A have pre-determined sites and teams. It’s the same process in volleyball, basketball and baseball.
The pre-determined sites continue to play a major factor in multiple sports’ postseasons, especially in 3A basketball and volleyball where the balance of power is normally focused in condensed geographic areas. Plus, sub-state based on geography often yield multiple rematches in the regular season and postseason. Many 1A basketball teams play each other four times a year.
This occurred again in the Nickerson 3A boys sub-state this winter where the top-five teams won at least 12 games. One-loss Hesston beat undefeated Cheney in the final by eight points. Hesston won the state championship with all wins at state by at least nine points.
Last spring, Wamego won the first state softball title in school history. In 4A, league foes Wamego and Clay Center are less than an hour apart. They play each other in the regular season. However, seeding put them in different regionals. They met again in the state semifinals, as opposed to regionals. Wamego won, 2-1, at state.
This spring, Winters’ first prediction came true. The sub-state sites will likely play a major role in the 2-1A softball postseason.
The St. Marys regional features Burlingame, Mission Valley, St. Marys and Wabaunsee. Burlingame and Mission Valley are widely considered top-5 programs this spring, even No. 1 and No. 2 by some. Wabaunsee is another upper echelon program, likely top-eight. Hafenstine, an Ottawa University commit, is considered one of the state’s best infielders, all classes.
As of Monday, Burlingame is 8-0, Mission Valley 7-0, Wabaunsee 2-1, while Lyndon and St. Marys are both 2-2. The eight teams in the St. Marys regional are a collective 25-17. The eight squads in the Riverside regional in the northeast corner are a combined 15-19.
On April 5, Mission Valley gave Wabaunsee its lone loss with a 5-0 defeat. Overall, MV, paced by a huge season from Tomlinson, has collectively outscored teams, 76-4. On Thursday, Mission Valley receives a big test with 3A Council Grove (7-0).
In Tomlinson’s first 19 innings, she struck out 41 batters, allowed one unearned run and permitted six hits.
CG has key seniors Mija Carlson and Elle Dragone, a NCAA Division II Harding (Ark.) signee and ranked No. 199 nationally by Extra Inning Softball. This matchup has generally been close. Mission Valley won last season’s games 15-0 and 6-0, though the squads have split the last six meetings.
Outside of a 3-2 win against West Franklin on March 29, Burlingame has won every game by at least eight runs. Burlingame and Mission Valley will face in an April 21 regular season doubleheader. Mission Valley has won six straight in the series.
Mission Valley baseball remains undefeated; Elkhart/Bucklin-SC key in 2-1A Southwest; 3A Baxter Springs softball regional loaded
In addition to Mission Valley’s perfect softball season, MV baseball is also off to an 8-0 start. The Vikings have doubleheader wins against Chase County, West Franklin, Wabaunsee and Osage City. Preston Bolte, Cade Willard, Victor Vargas and Carter Phillips have been among the key players. Nick Price struck out 16 batters and allowed just one hit in his first 6.1 innings. Last season, MV finished 21-2.
In baseball, Mission Valley is part of the Alma-Wabaunsee regional. MV has established itself as substantial favorite. MV has Chase County (3-3), Onaga (3-3), Lyndon (2-4) and Wabaunsee (2-4) as the other leading contenders in the sub-state.
Slightly east of Mission Valley, the Richmond-Central Heights baseball regional has three undefeated teams with Southern Lyon County (7-0), Jayhawk-Linn (6-0) and Colony-Crest (4-0). In southwest Kansas, the Elkhart regional has a pair of top teams with Bucklin/South Central (5-1) and Elkhart (5-1). Those teams split a March 28 doubleheader. Bucklin won 4-0, while Elkhart won the second game 6-5.
Bucklin has enjoyed a huge season from Nathan Imel (.652 on-base percentage) and Nathan Bowman (.609 OBP). Bowman, a Barton County Community College signee, has worked 17 innings with 35 strikeouts against nine walks and just four hits allowed.
Traditionally, the southeast 3A softball regional is loaded. That’s the case again this season. Columbus (7-0), Frontenac (5-0), and Caney Valley (3-0) are undefeated. As well, Girard is off to a 6-0 start after a sweep against Coffeyville. Emmaline Senecaut hit her second homer, while Lea McGown has three, and Bailey Troike one.
On April 4, Girard swept Colgan, 5-0 and 10-4.
Other top performers, highlighted by Shawnee Mission North softball turnaround
Junior Jessica Brown continues to have a big early season for Shawnee Mission North, one of the bigger storylines through the first several weeks of play. SMN has seven seniors. Brown went 3 of 4 with a triple, double, homer and five RBI.
On Saturday, SMN had 7-2 and 12-1 victories versus Shawnee Mission Northwest. Kelsey Hoeskstra allowed two runs on two hits with 15 strikeouts against a walk. She had two doubles, two runs scored and a homer. Rilee Bell had an inside the park homer. Bell has committed to Benedictine softball. Earlier this season, Kelsey Hoekstra had a 13-strikeout performance. Shortstop Siera Hoekstra, who has committed to Wichita State, carries a .714 average with 10 steals. SMN, with two seniors last season, went 10-11. North was 10-10 in 2019, 12-10 in 2018 and 11-11 in 20 2017.
Wamego softball, featured multiple times on SIK, continues to enjoy a big season. Wamego is 8-0, including key doubleheader sweeps against Rock Creek and Clay Center. Junior Maya Gallagher, a Division I Holy Cross commit, has a .444 average with 40 strikeouts in the circle. Campbell carries a .556 average. Both have four homers.
Olathe West has enjoyed another fine year under coach Rick Sabath, who is the only baseball coach in program history. Alec Cal Stewart has a .545 average with eight walks, eight steals and 11 runs scored.
Pittsburg baseball was featured on SIK last week. Junior Jackson Turnbull, a second team all-state selection last year, has enjoyed a nice season with a .526 average and five doubles.
Moundridge’s Ty Rains has a .714 average with eight runs scored and a double.
Osage City’s Garret Fager has a .615 average with three triples and two homers. He has a 1.27 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 11 innings.
Iola junior shortstop Jarrett Herrmann has helped his team to an undefeated start. He has a .636 average with five steals.
Baldwin’s Zoey LaTessa, a Friends University commit, recently hit for the cycle in a 13-7 and 14-9 doubleheader sweep against Anderson County.
Rossville earned a sweep against Riley County with homers from Kinsey Perine and Ryan Leathers.
Wellsville softball’s Jayden Hull has signed with Kansas City Kansas Community College. Hull has helped Wellsville to a 3-1 start. She opened the season 8 of 10 (.800 average) with a 0.00 ERA in 16.1 innings.
Olathe North’s Stella True has a .538 average and eight runs scored.
Olathe South’s Taryn Hull has a three-run homer and a two-run double with five RBIs and two walk.
Lawrence Free State defeated Olathe West, 16-1. Jasmine Brixius went 3 of 4, while Megan Kohl finished 3 of 3. Kinsey Clopton delivered seven RBI. Kay Lee Richardson, Elsa Carrillo and Clopton all homered, per Sunflower League Twitter.
Most teams have played four to six games at this point. Derby and Newton softball are both 8-2. Last Thursday, Derby beat Andover Central, 8-0, and defeated Kapaun Mt. Carmel, 13-6. Senior Morgan Haupt picked up both wins in the circle for Derby. Haupt was a second team all-state selection last spring.
Undefeated Teams in Softball (records per KSHSAA):
Shawnee Mission North (4-0); Gardner-Edgerton (3-0), Olathe Northwest (3-0), Blue Valley West (3-0)
Topeka High (6-0), Washburn Rural (4-0), Wichita Heights (4-0), Hutchinson (2-0)
Spring Hill (6-0), Blue Valley Southwest (4-0), Basehor-Linwood (4-0), Topeka Seaman (2-0)
Bishop Carroll (5-0), Goddard (4-0), Salina Central (2-0), Kapaun Mt. Carmel (2-0), Salina South (2-0);
Wamego (8-0); Eudora (7-0-1); Holton (6-0), Bishop Miege (2-0)
Baxter Springs regional: Columbus (7-0), Frontenac (5-0), Caney Valley (3-0), Girard (3-0)
Cimarron regional: Cimarron/Ingalls (6-0), Scott City (4-0)
Council Grove regional: Council Grove (7-0), Southeast of Saline (6-0)
Hoisington/Central Plains regional: Hoisington/CP (4-0)
Humboldt regional: Wichita Trinity (2-0); also Humboldt (7-1)
Kingman regional: Cheney (5-0), Haven (4-0)
Sabetha regional: Silver Lake (4-0), Rossville (2-0)
Republic County regional: Ell-Saline (4-0)
Burden-Central regional: West Elk (5-0), Oxford (2-0)
Cherokee-SE regional: Arma-Northeast (6-0)
Lebo regional: Yates Center (4-0), Jayhawk Linn (2-0)
Marion regional: Moundridge (4-0)
Spearville regional: Coldwater-South Central (8-0), Medicine Lodge (2-0)
St. Marys regional: Burlingame (8-0), Mission Valley (7-0)
Riverside regional: Troy (5-0), McLouth (4-0)
Kansas Baseball Coaches Association rankings as of April 3:
Lawrence Free State (7-1), Blue Valley West (7-0), Lawrence (5-3), Olathe East (3-5), Olathe West (5-0), Shawnee Mission Northwest (4-4), Derby (6-2), Blue Valley North (6-2), Gardner-Edgerton (6-1), Olathe South (6-3)
Blue Valley Southwest (3-2), Topeka Seaman (6-1), St. Thomas Aquinas (3-2), Andover Central (2-2), Mill Valley (7-1), St. James Academy (2-3), Maize South (5-1), Bishop Carroll (3-3), Maize (4-0), Hays High (4-1)
Bishop Miege (3-2), McPherson (7-1), Paola, Buhler (5-1), St. George Rock Creek (4-1), Towanda-Circle (5-0), Ottawa (4-1), Augusta (4-3), Mulvane (1-3), Clay Center (2-2),
Bishop Ward (4-1), Silver Lake (2-0), Wichita Collegiate (4-0), Anderson County (5-1), Sabetha (4-2), Hesston (3-1), Frontenac (5-0), Cheney (3-1), Minneapolis (2-4), Rossville (5-1)
Sedgwick (7-1), Pittsburg-Colgan (0-6), Valley Falls (2-2), Ellis (3-1), Colony-Crest (4-0), Maur Hill (3-3), Elkhart (5-1), Mission Valley (7-0), Inman (3-4), Bucklin (5-1),