By CONOR NICHOLL
Engemann closing in on Kansas softball single season home run record
Troy senior Paityn Engemann led the Trojans to a Class 2-1A state runner-up finish to Mission Valley last spring. Troy enjoyed the best record in school annals with a 23-1 finish. The Trojans took significant graduation losses, though were still a strong state favorite in 2023.
Engemann is the reigning classification pitcher of the year and has signed with Division I Central Arkansas. Last year, she pitched a perfect game and struck out every batter in the contest.
This season, Engemann could further etch her name into the all-time record book – and break Kansas’ all-time single season home run record. Engemann carries a .660 average with 15 homers, 52 RBI, 35 hits and 15 walks.
“She is just killing it right now,” Troy coach Kyle McConnaughey told SIK on Thursday afternoon.
Remarkably, she has not struck out. Engemann hit three homers in a matchup against Oskaloosa. Class 2-1A has three undefeated teams: Arma-Northeast (18-0), Troy (16-0), and McLouth (15-0).
The single season mark is 18, set by Olathe Northwest’s Reagan Hathaway in 2015, per the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame. The career mark is 38 by Bishop Carroll’s Brittany Finney from ’12-15. Finney was a national player of the year and mainly played in college at Ole Miss.
“She kind of just goes off,” McConnaughey said.
Engemann and all of Kansas had 2020 cancelled because of COVID. She hit three homers as a sophomore. Last season, she posted a .540 average with seven homers and 40 RBI. In the circle, she was 13-1 with a 0.73 ERA.
“She is probably doing better with the bat than she has pitching this year, where last year, she was probably a better pitcher than she was a hitter,” McConnaughey said. “But taken on that lead role, she has really blossomed this year with the bat in her hand.”
Engemann is generally aware of the state record of 18 homers. McConnaughey and Engemann frequently talk. McConnaughey believes she could hit 21 homers this spring.
“I look for some big things to happen to her toward the end of the season,” McConnaughey said.
On the baseball side, Troy earned a share of the Twin Valley League title with a sweep of Blue Valley on Thursday. Troy hit four homers: Austin Grable, Reagan Hartman, Alex Dishon and Logan Blevins.
Troy softball starts three seniors, three sophomores, three freshmen. The Trojans have eight new position players from ’22.
“A total mixture,” McConnaughey said.
Troy has its big doubleheader rivalry against McLouth on Monday. Both are in the Riverside regional. Two years ago, the games were cancelled because of rainout. Last season, the teams were supposed to meet when Troy was undefeated, and McLouth had three losses.
“It’s one we’ve had circled probably the last three years,” he said.
The games were again rained out. The squads matched up in the regional, and Troy won with a walk-off. McLouth brought almost everyone back from a 16-4 team, including both pitchers.
“We have a very, very young ball team,” McConnaughey said.
Last year, Troy defeated McLouth, 1-0, in the regional, though Engemann finished 0 of 3 with three strikeouts. Troy is generally currently considered the No. 1 ranked 2-1A squad.
“Possibly be in a situation to give McLouth a run,” McConnaughey said. “I think we are being pushed up a little higher. I think McLouth, at this point in time, I would put them as a better team, because they are an older team. They’ve got those two pitchers, they’ve got that leadership as seniors. They have the core they brought back.”
In addition to Engemann, Troy has received great contributions from multiple girls. Troy has scored double-digit runs in every contest, including a 13-12 extra inning victory against Onaga.
Senior Devina Benitz was a part-time starter last season and has moved into a full-time role. Senior OF Cayley Grable has 13 doubles. Grable has batted fourth and shown great power.
Sophomore Gracie Grable only courtesy ran last season. She’s hitting over .400 with a good bunt/speed and power game after she qualified for state cross country and nearly made all-state last fall.
Freshman Harper Whetstine, an excellent athlete, is leading off and carries a .500-plus average. Whetstine set a new school record as an eighth grader in the 400-meter dash and broke a mark that had stood since 2006. She also tied the Troy middle school high jump record.
Freshman Gracy McConnaughey is hitting over .380 with two homers.
Sophomore utility player Emerson Weber posted a .455 average last season. She had the walk-off hit against McLouth in the ’22 regional. Weber has a .541 average with 33 hits.
“She is pushing Engemann in everything except home runs,” McConnaughey said.
Top Performers Across Kansas
On Tuesday, 4A Wamego and 3A Silver Lake matched up in a softball doubleheader of undefeated teams. Wamego is considered the No. 1 team in 4A, Silver Lake the No. 1 team in 3A.
Game 1 featured Wamego sophomore Peyton Hardenburger against Silver Lake junior Avery Wende. Both are considered Division I prospects. They each use the same pitching coach, Tracey Bunge. Among many accomplishments, Bunge had her number retired at Kansas softball. Bunge was in attendance Tuesday.
Wamego won 3-0 and 6-2. Wamego’s Ashten Pierson, the leadoff hitter, shortstop and Creighton commit, broke the scoreless tie in the first game with a homer. In the second contest, Maya Gallagher spun a four-hitter, Wamego displayed great defense and Hardenburger homered. Wamego, first and third the last two seasons, is 12-0. The Red Raiders have permitted just 1.3 runs per game, easily 4A’s best. (more on Wamego next week on SIK).
In a matchup of top 3A softball teams, Trinity Academy and Cheney split. Trinity Academy won 10-3 and Cheney had a 10-6 victory. Trinity Academy, featured by SIK last week, has already enjoyed the best season in school history with a 10-player roster, no seniors and several superb freshmen. The exemplary Cheney regional features Haven (14-0), Cheney (13-1), Trinity Academy (12-2) and Kingman (11-3). Amazingly – because of splits – all four teams have defeated every opponent on its schedule. Kingman has splits with Trinity Academy, Chaparral and season opening against Pratt. That is the lone Greenback loss, which is 13-1 and tied for first in 4A West.
On the baseball side, 4A’s Clay Center and Rock Creek met up Thursday with both undefeated records. Clay Center won 2-0, and Rock Creek had a 7-4 victory.
Central Burden junior Russ Smith has displayed great leadership and character. His main positions are pitcher, catcher and shortstop. Smith is 4-0 with a 0.80 ERA in 26.1 innings with 73 strikeouts and eight walks. He carries a .535 average with 11 extra-base hits, one homer, 29 RBI and 10 stolen bases. Smith has thrown a combined no-hitter and tossed a complete game no-hitter. The 5-foot-11 Smith participates in football, basketball and baseball. Central Burden went 20-2 last year and lost in the regional semifinals. The Raiders are 11-3 thus far this season.
Olathe West softball has enjoyed the best start in school history with a 14-1 start. Madison Walker has committed to Missouri. Madison Grant is headed to Division I Southern Florida. Ally Miller has signed with Emporia State. Sophomore Maliyah Warren is considered a Division I player and is ranked No. 32 nationally by Extra Innings. Rori Hornung has committed to Park University. West has seven players hitting over .300. West ranks second in 6A East behind 12-0 Olathe Northwest. ONW features Kendall Yarnell, who is headed to Division I Central Florida.
Derby softball has a 16-0 record and leads 6A West. KC Piper has a 12-0 mark in 5A East. Wamego is the lone undefeated 4A squad. Haven is 14-0 in 3A.
On Thursday, Central Heights softball took its first losses with an 8-3 win and a 5-4 loss to much-improved Osage City.
Southeast-Cherokee’s Easton Renn has helped the Lancers to a 12-2 mark. Renn carries a .500 average with 18 RBI. He has posted a 1.90 ERA and 54 strikeouts. Renn is headed to Coffeyville CC baseball.
Garden City’s Iziah Salinas, a Cowley CC commitment, has a 2-1 record with 56 strikeouts in 25.1 innings. GC is 4-7.
Goodland junior Cole Linton has posted a 6-0 record with a 1.30 ERA in 32.1 innings pitched. Linton has posted 57 strikeouts with nine walks. The Cowboys are 11-2. Goodland will host 3A’s top regional with Russell (14-0), Goodland, Scott City (9-2), Holcomb (8-2) and Colby (8-6). Russell swept 6A Liberal, 2-1 and 7-6, on Monday.
Mission Valley baseball won 2-1A last season and has a very young team. MV has shown improvement in the fall and stands at 6-6. Porter Deters carries a .568 average (25 of 44) with eight doubles, two triple and a home run. Deters has 20 RBI with 34 of 34 on steals. Deters tied the state record against St. Marys with six stolen bases in one game.
Preston Bolte has a .550 average (22 of 40) with three doubles, two triples and 19 stolen bases. Porter will set several school records, and Bolte is close to several, too.
Top Baseball Records:
6A East: Olathe South (12-1), Blue Valley West (13-3), Olathe North (10-5)
6A West: Manhattan (11-0), Free State (11-3), Topeka High (10-4), Wichita Northwest (9-4), Derby (10-5)
5A East: De Soto (14-1), St. Thomas Aquinas (13-2), Topeka Seaman (11-2)
5A West: Bishop Carroll (11-1), Kapaun Mt. Carmel (10-2), Goddard-Eisenhower (10-2)
4A East: Rock Creek (13-1), Atchison (10-1)
4A West: Clay Center (17-1), Rose Hill (13-3)
3A: Trinity Academy (16-0), Haven (13-1), Humboldt (15-1), Frontenac (13-0); Columbus (12-1) – both in the Girard regional; Russell (14-0), Santa Fe Trail (13-1)
2-1A: Little River (12-0), Valley Falls (14-2), Onaga (12-2), Cherokee-Southeast (14-2), Colony-Crest (12-0), Elkhart (12-0)