By CONOR NICHOLL
Key storylines entering Easter weekend: Ace Avery Wende and Silver Lake’s huge doubleheader sweep against two-time defending 5A runner-up Basehor-Linwood; Mission Valley regrouping after Tomlinson injury; Manhattan sweeping two-time defending 6A champion Topeka High; Wamego undefeated with a huge start from Peyton Hardenburger (18 no-hit innings); Shawnee Mission North’s Kelsey Hoekstra’s perfect game; baseball rankings; notes from around the classes
Tomlinson suffers season-ending injury for Mission Valley
Eskridge-Mission Valley captured the 2-1A state softball title last spring after a final four showing in 2022. The Vikings returned ace pitcher Morgan Tomlinson, who earned Sports In Kansas classification pitcher of the year honors. Tomlinson has committed to Hutchinson Community College softball and had a solid showing in a collegiate summer softball league.
Last spring, Tomlinson worked 145 innings with 234 strikeouts and a 19-2 record with a 0.72 earned-run average. Mission Valley returned three of its top-four hitters with senior Paige Martin (team-best .407 average), sophomore catcher Kyplee Jacobson (.385) and Tomlinson (.384). Plus, Jacobson recorded seven extra base-hits, and Tomlinson collected 12.
Mission Valley was again considered a strong state contender in a likely open classification. Last spring, MV defeated Troy, 6-4, for the state title. Troy returns only a couple starters, including Paityn Engemann, the 2-1A player of the year and Central Arkansas signing. Engemann was on SIK All-Access with Bethany Bowman this week.
On April 23, Mission Valley opened with a 5-4 eight-inning win against Osage City. This remains OC’s lone loss; the Indians are 3-1.
Tomlinson worked all eight innings with six strikeouts and no walks. She went 2 of 4 batting. In the fourth inning of the second game, Tomlinson landed wrong after a pitch and suffered a season-ending knee injury, which likely alters the landscape of MV and the classification overall. Head coach Roger Converse knew Tomlinson was immediately hurt and called the situation “really hard.”
“A really good player, but she’s a great kid, too, just on and off the field,” Converse told SIK.
Mission Valley lost the second game against Osage City and split with Council Grove on March 30. CG qualified for state last season, though took significant graduations. On Tuesday, MV moved to 3-2 with a 6-4 win against traditional power Wabaunsee. Freshman Maddie Kraus, who was expecting to fill in for Tomlinson when needed, has emerged as the No. 1 pitcher. Mission Valley is currently 3-4.
“We are going to have to figure out how to win a little bit different,” Converse said. “A lot of kids are out of position now.”
Jacobson, Martin and senior Norah Parker, a three-year starter at first base, has emerged as the key leaders without Tomlinson, who has continued to come to practices and games.
Mission Valley has called Tomlinson “Coach Mo” because of her help, especially with the pitchers. MV has no juniors and seven freshmen/sophomores who see playing time. Martin and Jacobson – both talented basketball players – hit in the top-3 in the order. Converse said the trio is “carrying the load” both “offensively and defensively.”
Jacobson has an excellent arm and skills at catcher.
“Pretty well shuts down the running game,” Converse said.
Martin, known for her skills in center field, has taken over pitching the second game of doubleheaders. She had not pitched since a JV game two years ago. Converse plans to focus on defense and small ball without Tomlinson. After five contests, sophomore Kendra McCart leads with a .400 average with Jacobson and Martin both at .389.
Kraus has pitched 15.1 innings with 21 strikeouts against 14 walks. Martin has thrown six innings. Mission Valley is part of the Wabaunsee sub-state, including Burlingame and Wabaunsee. MV fell 14-10 and 14-4 to currently unbeaten Richmond-Central Heights on Thursday and will face Burlingame next Tuesday.
“They will do what it takes to keep us in the game,” Converse said of his team leaders.
Wende, Silver Lake off to nice start; sweeps 5A stalwart Basehor-Linwood in key Thursday doubleheader; first regular season loss for B-L since 2021
Silver Lake standout junior pitcher Avery Wende helped the Eagles to a 4-0 start, including a critical doubleheader sweep against defending 5A state runner-up Basehor-Linwood on Thursday.
B-L is loaded with Division I signees, including pitcher Taylor Cruse (Ohio State) and Mila Seaton (Wichita State). Cruse is the reigning co-5A pitcher of the year and generally considered the best all-around girl athlete in Basehor-Linwood history.
Wende outdueled Cruse in a 3-2 game 1 win. Wende held Cruse to 0 of 3 hitting with a walk. Wende had a no-hitter through the first 6.1 innings. The only hit was a Seaton homer in the seventh.
SL finished with nine hits. Silver Lake won the second game 4-2. SL junior post Kenzie McDaniel, a first team all-state basketball player, also plays softball and just committed to Division I Abilene Christian basketball.
Wende, Kiera Lowery, Taylor Zordel, McKinley and Kaibryn Kruger are key players for SL. Similar to Zordel and the Krugers, freshman Kailyn Hanni impressed in basketball. Hanni is a slapper in softball and plays left field. Sophomore Kendra Cook is a solid No. 2 arm for Silver Lake.
B-L had opened with three wins, including a key 9-7 victory against Topeka Seaman. B-L had defeated Silver Lake in ’21 and ’22. The Bobcats were 24-1 last season with its lone loss to Valley Center in the state title game. B-L was 21-4 and the 5A state runner-up in 2021, too.
The losses marked the first time the Bobcats had lost on their newer turf surface.
On March 30, SL defeated Perry-Lecompton, 7-0, and 10-0. In the first game, the 5-foot-8 Wende had seven strikeouts and a walk. Wende has received significant interest from Division I schools, including Nebraska-Omaha, Central Arkansas, Northern Colorado and Nicholls State, among others.
Perry-Lecompton is 3-1 when not playing Silver Lake. Wende is currently the nation’s No. 86-ranked pitcher in the Class of 2024 per Extra Inning softball, an industry leader. Wende is on the well-known KC Peppers softball program.
Other key Kansas juniors on the squad include first baseman Riley Baber, outfielder Jayden Hanna from the KC area; Pittsburg’s Mya Russell, Spring Hill’s Mya and Marisa January; and Arma-Northeast’s Shelby Underwood.
Mya January has recently committed to Central Arkansas. Baber plays for Blue Valley Southwest. SL will host the regional that includes rival Rossville (4-0), Sabetha (3-1) and Royal Valley (4-4).
Hoekstra throws perfect game for Shawnee Mission North
Last spring, Shawnee Mission North’s Kelsey Hoekstra was a first team all-state pick. She posted 202 strikeouts in 112 innings with a 1.00 ERA. North went 20-2 and advanced to the state tournament. She hit .476 with 32 RBI. North had a plus-six win improvement from 2021. SMN went to state for the first time since 2010.
On Thursday, Hoekstra worked a perfect game in a 11-0 five-winning win against Shawnee Mission South. North posted two runs in the first, one in the second and four apiece in the fourth and fifth. She struck out 12 in five innings. North also defeated SM West, 10-0, on March 23 and 5-1 versus SME on March 28.
On March 28, she cleared 400 career strikeouts. She worked seven innings with one hit, one walk and 19 strikeouts, along with 2 of 3 batting with a home run. In the March 23 contest, she hit a triple, an over the fence homer, an inside the park homer and delivered seven shutout innings with 14 strikeouts. Hoekstra has attended camps with Kansas and Arizona State and has high level Division I interest. Her sister currently plays for Wichita State softball.
Pratt, Rossville sweep in matchups of returning state qualifying teams
In a matchup of undefeated teams, Pratt softball swept Hoisington, 6-1 and 8-1. On the baseball side, Pratt rolled over Hoisington, 17-6, and 12-5. Pratt is 7-0 with a sweep against Halstead, a 6-2 win versus Kingman and sweeps against Larned and Hoisington. Both Kingman and Hoisington reached the state tournament in 2022.
In a matchup of returning 3A state qualifying squads, Rossville defeated Santa Fe Trail, 9-1, and 12-2, on March 30. The Bulldawgs are 4-0. Rossville, which led Kansas in homers the bulk of last season, returned multiple top players.
Hailey Horton carries a .636 average in the team’s latest statistical release. Katie Speilman has a .455 average, while Kinsey Perine has a .429 average. Perine has four stolen bases. Brinley Dyche and Katie Speilman have carried Rossville in the circle. SFT has returning 3A pitcher of the year Kaelee Washington, a Kansas commit.
Last season, Rossville swept SFT, 6-4 and 8-3, in the regular season. In the state third-place game, Santa Fe Trail won 2-1 in 11 innings.
Bucklin is 5-1 and has scored 92 runs. The Red Aces split with Larned last Friday. Sydnie Jones has a .833 average with three triples and 11 RBI. Senior Halie Feikert had a .643 average with 15 RBI, two doubles, two triples and three homers.
Hays High wins key early season WAC game
The Indians have an experienced team, especially junior Aubree Thomas. HHS opened with a 13-6 win against Garden City on March 28. The Indians defeated Dodge City, 13-0, on April 4, sandwiched around two losses to Valley Center, the defending 5A state champion.
Hays High was 1-15 in the last 16 games against Garden City dating back to 2015. The Indians had lost five in a row to GC. The Buffs scored four runs in the top of the first and led 6-1 entering the bottom of the fourth. Thomas homered, drove in three runs and scored three times.
Four players had a double: Haley Rees, Lakyn Zimmerman, Avery Solida and Riley Dreher. Thomas struck out nine against three walks in a complete game. Thomas, Dreher and Dezarae Schmidt were returning first team all-league selections for the Indians.
A two-time honorable mention all-state selection, Thomas picked up her first collegiate offer, from Highland Community College, this winter.
Valley Center has eight collegiate signees, including three Division I players. Lucy Hooper, a Minnesota signing, is the reigning 5A player of the year. SIK’s Bethany Bowman has video interviews with VC players and coach Corey Jones on the web site earlier this week.
On Thursday, Hays High rolled over Dodge City, 15-0 and 16-0. The Indians stand at 4-2.
Other undefeated softball teams include:
Manhattan (6-0) – The Indians have outscored teams, 69-25, including a key sweep against Topeka High, 15-3 and 14-12 in nine innings on March 31. Topeka High features Illinois commit Adisyn Caryl. Topeka graduated two-time 6A player of the year Nija Canady, who is currently starring as Stanford’s ace. Manhattan had not beaten Topeka since 2016. The Indians are currently No. 1 in all classes per MaxPreps’ statistical rankings which accounts for strength of schedule.
Holcomb (4-0) – The Longhorns have an experienced group paced by Korryn Johnson, Rian Rodriguez and Emma Cornelsen. Johnson, Holcomb’s junior ace, has picked up multiple collegiate offers and is one of Kansas’ most well-known players. Johnson has a .643 average, while Rodriguez has a .538 mark and Cornelsen at .533. Rodriguez has hit two homers. Johnson has posted a 1.22 ERA. On March 30, Holcomb swept a quality Thomas More Prep-Marian team, 16-3 and 9-8.
Wamego (6-0) – The Red Raiders are completely loaded. Wamego won state softball two years ago and took third last season. The Red Raiders have outscored teams, 65-14. Ashten Pierson is headed to Creighton, Maya Gallagher to Holy Cross; both are Division I. Plus, sophomore Peyton Hardenburger is the reigning SIK 4A pitcher of the year. In the team’s latest release, Hardenburger has a .737 average, Pierson at .632 and Gallagher at .500. Gallagher has three homers, Pierson two and Hoobler two. Hardenberger has thrown 18 no-hit innings and struck out 45 of 58 batters.
Mulvane (8-0) – In a matchup of undefeated 6-0 teams on Thursday, Mulvane swept Rose Hill, 3-2 and 9-4. Per Mulvane athletics, senior Jalin Lavers has a .571 average. Junior Avrie Warner has a .467 mark, and junior Madison Phipps has a .458 average. Senior Peyton Baggett and Lavers both opened 3-0; Baggett posted a 1.71 ERA. Mulvane was 12-9 last season.
Baxter Springs (4-0); Derby (4-0); St. Thomas Aquinas (4-0)
The Kansas Association of Baseball Coaches has announced its updated rankings as of April 3.
In 6A, the top-five is Olathe South, Blue Valley West, Olathe East, Manhattan and Wichita Northwest.
In 5A, Blue Valley Southwest, Topeka Seaman, St. Thomas Aquinas, Maize and Bishop Carroll are the top-five.
In 4A, McPherson, Ottawa, Bishop Miege, Buhler and Clay Center headline.
Class 3A has Wichita Collegiate, Bishop Ward, Columbus, Santa Fe Trail and Southeast of Saline headline. The top-five 2-1A teams are Little River, Colony-Crest, Pittsburg-Colgan, Elkhart and Thomas More Prep-Marian.
Shawnee Mission Northwest coach Domenic Mussat picked up career win No. 100 with SMNW baseball.