By CONOR NICHOLL
Patterson intrinsic with McLouth softball; does this year yield long-awaited title?
Possibly no current Kansas high school softball coach is more well-known and intertwined with one program than McLouth’s Ballard Patterson. He has been at McLouth since 1992, including 15-plus as head softball coach. In 2019, McLouth renamed the softball complex “Patterson Field,” a highly rare achievement for any coach, especially a current one.
Patterson has sent more than 40 players to college programs, including his daughters. Kendall still holds multiple state high school softball records, including single season batting average (.810) and career batting average (.743). Kimi is currently on Washburn’s roster and has started more than 100 games for the Lady Blues. He is also the namesake for the well-known Patterson Sports Academy, which has travel softball teams for all ages.
This spring, Patterson put McLouth in strong position for a long-awaited first-ever state softball championship.
Entering the 2019 2-1A regional, Patterson stood at 277-46, per SIK research and multiple media reports. COVID cancelled 2020. 2019 marked the last high school season for Kimi. Patterson did not coach in ’20, ’21 and ’22 before he returned to the program this spring. Patterson was fighting cancer from ’20-22 and had to step away in those seasons. Aubrey Harsh coached those years. Patterson is back now and loving coaching.
In the last two seasons, McLouth went 9-9 and 17-4 with a 1-0 loss to rival Troy in the regional championship last May. This season, the Bulldogs are 19-0 and pace the Riverside regional after a key doubleheader sweep of Troy on Monday. McLouth won 6-2 and 15-0. On Thursday, McLouth finished a 20-0 regular season with a 17-0 win against Baldwin.
Since early season, SIK has noted the wide-open nature of 2-1A this spring, especially after the early season-ending injury to Mission Valley ace Morgan Tomlinson. MV beat Troy in the state championship game last spring.
McLouth has outscored teams, 270-8. That includes a 4-0 win against defending 4A champion Eudora on April 18. Troy hadn’t lost entering Monday’s doubleheader. Eudora has lost just five times this season.
McLouth and Troy headline the same regional and will likely meet up later this month with a state berth on the line. Similar to previous seasons, the balance of power in 2-1A and 3A rests in a few select sub-states. Class 4A, 5A and 6A are seeded based on record.
Class 2-1A features surprise St. Marys (13-5), Bucklin (13-5), Ell-Saline (13-3), TMP (13-5 against a challenging schedule that includes four losses to 5A Hays High and 3A Holcomb), surging Ellis (11-5), Central Heights (15-1), Arma-Northeast (18-0) and one-loss Oxford and Bluestem.
Oxford and Bluestem are both in the West Elk regional. Statistical-wise, McLouth has the best wins and the biggest margin of victory among the contenders. Senior Corissa Bandel has committed to NEO softball in Oklahoma.
Last year, she threw perfect games against Atchison, Horton and Osawatomie. Known for her speed and strength, Bandel is a slap hitter who was sixth in the 100 hurdles and third in the 100 dash at state track last spring
Dani Lee has tremendous power. She has impressed at Power 5 softball showcases, including at Georgia. Bandel and Lee have combined for all 19 wins in the circle. They have allowed just four earned runs. Anna Patz and Jill Holwick are key players, too.
Plus, McLouth’s softball girls have excelled in the weight room. McLouth won the 1A powerlifting titles. Among notable softball players, Holwick won an individual state title and set a state record in the clean. Bandel was state runner-up and set a state record in the clean. Patz took sixth.
Per KSHSAA archives, McLouth has never won a team sanctioned championship in any sport in at least the last 40 years (powerlifting is not sanctioned). The last athletic individual title came when Courtney Edmonds won the 800 in 2001 and 02.
Softball has perennially been the top program at McLouth. The Bulldogs have enjoyed many great seasons. In 2008, McLouth went 22-1 and took third. The Bulldogs lost in the 3A semifinals to a great Thomas More Prep-Marian team that featured Maddie Holub, who later was MIAA Player and Pitcher of the Year at Fort Hays. That team tallied 235 runs in 20 regular season contests.
McLouth believed the 2011 squad could win state, especially after it beat Silver Lake in the regional. McLouth took a heartbreaking extra inning loss to Larned in the state quarterfinals.
In ’15, McLouth had its last state appearance and finished third when Chase County had its dynastic run. McLouth went a combined 28-9 in ’18-19, according to KSHSAA. The Bulldogs’ run of mercy-rule victories is long a trend under Patterson. Of his first 220 wins at McLouth, 175 came by mercy rule, per a 2017 Tonganoxie Mirror story.
This season has been similarly dominant. McLouth is one of the five remaining undefeated teams in Kansas high school softball, behind 6A’s Olathe Northwest (16-0) and Derby (16-0), 3A’s Haven (16-0), along with 2-1A’s Arma-Northeast (18-0) and McLouth.
Notable performances/conference champions:
The top seed in 5A East has clarity after Monday. Basehor-Linwood, which has multiple Division I signings, swept previously undefeated KC Piper, 3-2 and 11-1. Piper split with Topeka Seaman on Tuesday. B-L stands at 16-2, Piper at 13-3.
As SIK has noted several times this season, the 3A Cheney softball regional is completely loaded. Haven (16-0), Cheney (15-1), Trinity Academy (16-2) and Kingman (13-3) headline the regional. All four teams have defeated everyone on its schedule. Cheney split with Trinity Academy.
Trinity split with Cheney, Kingman and Chaparral. Kingman has three splits and is the only team to beat 4A Pratt. On May 2, Trinity, which has easily set a school record for wins, beat Sacred Heart, 15-0 and 15-0. Trinity freshman standout Liberty Lewis struck out all nine batters she faced in the three-inning mercy-rule victory versus Sacred Heart.
In a critical Monday doubleheader, McPherson beat Mulvane, 10-9 in extra innings and 10-1. McPherson currently has the No. 2 seed in 4A West at 14-2, and Mulvane the third seed at 13-3.
The first game went nine innings, and McPherson scored a run in the bottom of the ninth to win. Mulvane ace Jalin Lavers worked the full game for the Wildcats. In the second contest, McPherson exploded for five runs in the second inning. The wins propelled McPherson to an undefeated AVCTL Division III title. Alex Romero had a walk-off base hit. Addison Chapman and Addie Herrera worked in the circle for McPherson.
Pratt softball has won 12 straight games, including a 7-0 and 6-5 extra inning wins against Hesston last Friday. Pratt leads 4A West.
Washburn Rural, paced by Emmerson Cope, a Nebraska commit, won the Centennial League. Rural is 15-3 and in fourth place in 6A West behind Derby (16-0), Manhattan (14-2) and Garden City (13-2).
Hays High won the Western Athletic Conference softball title. The Indians are 12-3 after a sweep of Liberal on May 2. Sophomore Riley Dreher, an all-state pick last season, has enjoyed a big year with a .592 average, eight doubles and a homer. Dez Schmidt carries a .500 average with 10 extra base hits. Elle Dreiling has a .444 mark.
Aubree Thomas continues her great two-way season with a .431 average and eight extra base hits. In her first 58 innings, she has 78 strikeouts and a 2.29 ERA.
The 3A Columbus softball regional is also loaded with Columbus (17-1), defending state champion Frontenac (15-2), Girard (9-5) and Baxter Springs (10-6). On Thursday, Frontenac and Columbus play for the CNC title.
Ell-Saline softball defeated Sterling on a walk-off grand slam from junior Gabey Norris. E-S has won six in a row and stands at 13-3. The 2-1A Ellis regional is also stacked with E-S, TMP and surging Ellis (11-5). Ellis opened 3-5, though has won eight in a row.
The Railers finish with four home games, two against Pratt-Skyline on May 9 and two against Beloit on May 11. Kaydawn Haag, a state wrestling champion and committed to Fort Hays softball, tied the single season home run record (seven) and has the school mark for career homers. Hannah Schiel hit a grand slam and has 41 RBI this year.
St. Thomas Aquinas baseball is currently tied for second in 5A East with Seaman (14-3). De Soto is first at 15-3. Aquinas is 4-0 in extra inning games. The Saints beat Blue Valley North, 6-2, on April 11. Then, Aquinas won three straight games in extra innings: 2-1 against Gardner-Edgerton on April 21, 9-5 versus Lee’s Summit North on April 22 and 4-3 versus Blue Valley Northwest on April 25.
Colony-Crest baseball is 14-0. Jensen Barker has a .643 average. Rogan Weir is hitting .545. Trevor Church stands at .488. Stetson Setter has four homers. Weir has 14 steals. Avery Blaufuss has a 0.55 earned-run average, and Setter has a 0.60 ERA. Crest is four games ahead of the field in the Kansas City Christian regional.
Top home run baseball leaders: Nemaha Central’s Brayden Uphaus (six), Olathe South’s Nick English (five), Goodland’s Mason Hernandez (five), Wichita Collegiate’s Brady Hunt (four), Troy’s Reagan Hartman (four), Onaga’s Jackson Kolterman (four), Troy’s Preston Christenson (four).
Valley Falls’ Zac Evans has put together another big season with .547 average, 10 doubles and four homers. He is 4-0 with a 2.80 ERA on the mound. Valley Falls is 14-4. The Onaga regional has Onaga (13-3), Valley Falls and Troy (12-6).
Elkhart took its first loss of the season with a 4-2 defeat to 6A Liberal. EHS remains the likely 2-1A state favorite at 15-1.
The 3A Chaparral baseball regional features Trinity Academy (18-0), Haven (15-1), Collegiate (14-4) and Kingman (12-4). The Girard regional is headlined by Frontenac (16-0) and Columbus (15-2). Frontenac and Columbus also play Thursday.