By CONOR NICHOLL
On April 6, Rose Hill and Mulvane met for a softball doubleheader. Both teams are significantly experienced and had posted 6-0 starts. Mulvane captured the victories, 3-2 and 9-4. Afterward, Mulvane coach Jesse Kollmeyer and Rose Hill coach Brooke Heumann met for a quick meeting.
Both squads are in Class 4A West. The top-four seeds host a West regional. The West has a clear line of separation after the top-seven, a pack that includes Mulvane and Rose Hill. Kollmeyer hoped April 6 would be the last time Mulvane played the Rockets this spring.
“Hey, I don’t want to see you guys again,’” Kollmeyer said. “I hope you are not in our regional, and close to our seed, because they are a very good ball team that will continue to turn heads, and I presume doing a lot of good things. It’s a team that I don’t want to face again, because they were very two good ball games, and the quality of play that we want to be at.”
Since then, Rose Hill delivered four quality victories against traditional powers Augusta (17-7, 12-2) and Andale-Garden Plain (7-2, 9-7). On Monday, RH lost to undefeated Cheney in a wild doubleheader, 8-3 and 16-15. Rose Hill, which returns all nine starters from a 13-9 squad last spring, has averaged 10 runs per game.
Senior two-way player Camrynn Yardley, a returning first team all-leaguer in the outfield and pitcher, will likely be in strong consideration for a 4A player of the year finalist. The Allen County Community commit carries a .500 average with five homers, tops among 4-6A players, per MaxPreps.
The Rockets face struggling Winfield in a doubleheader Thursday. On Monday, Rose Hill receives a home doubleheader rematch against Clearwater (10-4). Last spring, Clearwater beat Rose Hill, 7-0, in the regional championship game. Monday’s contests will also be for the AVCTL Division IV title, a conference that includes Andale-Garden Plain, Wichita Collegiate, Wellington, El Dorado, RH and Clearwater.
“They are fun to be around, and they will do anything that I ask of them,” Heumann said. “It’s a great group of girls.”
Rose Hill has not won an outright softball conference title since 1990, per Heumann’s knowledge. RH has not shared a league softball crown since 2011 with Mulvane or reached state since 2019. Many of the Rockets play high-level club softball.
Rose Hill’s key group features seniors Yardley, Karley Grinstead and Carly Lee, juniors Payton Jackson, Reese Goetz, Paige Green, Dakota Bryer, along with sophomores Addie Rea and Kadance Heumann.
When Yardley is pitching, Jackson is the catcher, Goetz at first base, Heumann second and Green at third base. Lee plays shortstop, Bryer left field, Grinstead center field and Ray right field.
“Kind of felt they were unfinished last season,” Heumann said. “Getting beat by Clearwater, so they feel like they have some redemption this season. They never give up. They are in the game, they are focused, they are having fun and just proud of the way they have come out this season, the heads on right.”
Last season, Yardley hit .500 with two homers. This season, she has just one strikeout, along with 13 extra-base hits in 61 plate appearances. She raised her slugging percentage from .740 in 2022 to 1.000.
Last season, she posted a 7-1 record with a 3.84 earned-run average in 65.2 innings. This spring, she has posted a 6-2 mark with a 2.66 ERA with a 58/29 strikeout to walk rate in 50 innings.
“She is one of the most consistent players I have, whether it’s fielding, pitching, hitting, you can always count on her to do their job, but she will never take credit for herself,” Heumann said. “It’s always the team that’s doing it. She’s just a team player. She will do whatever she needs, whenever she needs. She is having a great year at the plate, I mean absolutely great.”
Green has posted a 3-2 record with a 5.71 ERA in seven games. She has upped her strikeout rate with 37 in 38 innings. Last year, Green posted seven strikeouts in 16 innings.
“Paige has been hitting her spots very, very well,” Heumann said. “She has been great in the circle. … Getting strikeouts, she is getting ground balls, letting our defense play behind her, and trusting that they will be behind her, so her confidence has really grown this year.”
Andale has long been a state power and qualified for the 4A state tournament last spring. Rose Hill had lost six in a row to Andale since 2016. RH’s last victories in the series came on April 6, 2015.
Last season, Rose Hill and Andale were rained out. The game was switched to Maize South’s turf field. Rose Hill lost 17-7.
“We flat got beat,” Heumann said.
This season, Heumann cautioned her team about overlooking opponents before the Andale doubleheader April 13. Rose Hill broke open the 7-2 game with five runs in the bottom of the fifth. In Game 2, RH scored two in the seventh in the 9-7 win. Yardley homered and drove in five runs. She hit a walk-off two-run double on the first pitch of her at-bat in the seventh.
Andale currently stands at 10-6.
“They were just ready to come out,” Heumann said. “They were ready for Andale. … They have battled hard with them, and it was our year. They did very well.”
Mulvane is currently 13-1. The three runs scored against RH is easily the Wildcats’ fewest this season. Cheney, the 2021 3A state champions, is 12-0 this spring and faces 11-1 Trinity Academy in a critical 3A regional doubleheader Thursday.
In its first 10 games, Cheney won nine by at least nine runs before the Rose Hill doubleheader. In the 8-3 game, Rose Hill trailed 4-3 after six innings. Cheney scored four runs in the top of the seventh.
In Game 2, Cheney led 5-0 entering the bottom of the third. RH led 10-7 after six innings. In the seventh, the Cardinals scored nine runs. Rose Hill countered with five in the bottom of the seventh. Grinstead posted three of six with three runs scored and three RBI.
Overall, Green carries a .431 average. Grinstead has a .396 average, Goetz at .373, Rea with .361, and Lee at .360. Heumann has posted a .318 mark. Rose Hill scored 132 runs in its first 14 games last season and has 143 entering Thursday.
“They are all friends on and off the field,” Heumann said.