Softball in Kansas: Mulvane headlining major turnarounds; Larned, Sedan, Royal Valley among other big improvements

Mulvane’s Madison Phipps has enjoyed a huge season and career for the Wildcats (Photo by Mulvane Sports).


Mulvane softball coach Jesse Kollmeyer believed the Wildcats would have started nine freshmen in 2020, a year cancelled because of the pandemic. The next season, the Wildcats posted a 4-17 mark with nearly everyone in the first year of high school softball. Mulvane ended a 27-game losing streak that dated back to April 23, 2018 with a season-opening sweep against Sedgwick.

Mulvane had 86 percent of its at-bats from freshmen and sophomores. All of the innings came from Jalin Lavers or Addison Mackey, who were then a sophomore and freshman, respectively.

Madison Phipps started at shortstop and led Mulvane in most offensive categories, including a .409 average and 13 doubles. Mulvane had no juniors in ’21; other key underclassmen included India Downs, Avrie Warner and Emma Kendrick.

“To me that was just an all freshman team,” Kollmeyer said of the team’s experience.

Last spring, Mulvane was among the state’s leading turnarounds with a 12-9 record. The Wildcats switched Phipps, a elite softball talent, from shortstop to catcher. Phipps had caught a little in summer ball, though not to the extent of a high school season. Kollmeyer, a Derby graduate and former college baseball player at Cloud County, was very pleased with Phipps’ time and effort she put in to become a catcher. Phipps and outfielder Olivia Ellis, then a freshman batting ninth, were both first team all-league.

“It’s been probably the best move that we have made in the last four years,” Kollmeyer said.

Mackey hit .561, while Phipps delivered a .469 mark. Downs hit .365, Lavers .357 and Warner .355 with a school record 17 steals. Lavers posted a 3.22 earned-run average and 113 strikeouts in 84.2 innings, per Mulvane Athletics. Mackey, Olivia Ellis and Phipps were honorable mention all-state.

“It proved to be an awesome decision, because she is throwing runners out left and right and it’s one of those positions that we really lacked on,” Kollmeyer said. “We knew Jalin in the circle was going to be something special, but we needed something special behind the plate.”

This spring, Mulvane was expected to take another step with its highly experienced group. Kollmeyer, a gym teacher, has scanned the banners in the Mulvane gymnasium of past softball teams, including the 22-4 state runner-up team that opened 16-0 in 2010. This year is the best start since that group. Mulvane should exceed 12 wins in a season for the first time since 2014. Mulvane won a league title every year from ’10-15 and last made state in ’15.

All 11 varsity players play on travel teams, a near-must for top high school softball players. Five years ago, Mulvane was winless and had one travel ball player, the main pitcher. She tore her ankle the Friday before the first game and did not play that spring.

“Gradually just building up, and it’s finally coming together,” Kollmeyer said.

Mulvane has made a big jump to an 8-0 start this season.

Mulvane is one of several teams that have enjoyed a jump from 2022 – and faces a key opponent on either Thursday or Friday this week. Mulvane rolled through a pair of doubleheaders against Winfield and Buhler. Then, Mulvane held off El Dorado, 10-5 and 7-6, in an April 3 doubleheader. Mulvane trailed 2-0 after the first inning and took a 7-2 lead after four.

On April 6, Mulvane defeated Rose Hill, 3-2 and 9-4. RH is 8-0 when not facing the Wildcats and is another sizable turnaround from ’22.

On Thursday, Mulvane is at Augusta followed by a road doubleheader against Clearwater. Mulvane has lost five straight to Augusta since 2017 and seven straight versus Clearwater since ’18. Clearwater was a final four team in ’22.

“We really preached this last week, especially against Rose Hill going in 6-0 (vs) 6-0, that we have got to play seven innings of the game,” Kollmeyer said. “It’s not four or five innings, it’s all seven, because the AVCTL, in my book, is the toughest league when it comes to spring sports in baseball and softball, and at any moment at any time anybody can get beat.”

Mulvane and powerhouse Wamego (8-0) are the lone undefeated teams in 4A. Wamego, with its multiple Division I signees/recruits, won state two years ago and third place last season. Mulvane wants to contend for a AVCTL Division III title, be a top-4 seed in 4A West and host a  regional, a goal since the beginning of the year.

Junction City, Larned/La Crosse, Sedan, Royal Valley and Rose Hill are among teams with impressive turnarounds. Plus, Wichita Trinity, with no seniors, 10 total players and a highly impressive freshman group, is 6-0 after a 5-34 mark the last two seasons. More on the Knights later this week on SIK.

Lavers carries a .519 average, while Phipps is at .516, including seven extra base hits. She bats second in the order, rare for a catcher.

She crushed a pair of homers against Buhler and went 3 of 3 in the one-run win against Rose Hill. Downs carries a .400 average, while sophomore first baseman Regan Witt is at .367. Ellis has a .350 mark, Warner has a .333 average. Kendrick, a senior, raised her average well over 100-plus points from last spring to .261 and delivered key two-out hits. Mackey, a junior third baseman/pitcher, has hit multiple balls hard, just right at defenders, and carries a .240 mark. Mackey has started at third base since her freshman year.

Sophomore Makaylen Warner starts at shortstop. Downs and Kendrick play second.

“We’ve got to continue to playing seven innings of a ball game, or finishing a game out,” Kollmeyer said.

Lavers is 4-0 with a save and a 2.96 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 28.1 innings. She has committed to Johnson County Community College softball. Kollmeyer said Lavers has gained more fastball velocity and her drop ball is “tremendous.” Senior Peyton Baggett has enjoyed a huge improvement with a 4-0 mark, 2.26 ERA and 12 strikeouts against three walks. She had a 5.98 ERA last season.

“Been a huge part of our success,” Kollmeyer said.

Wamego softball staying perfect with another big performance

Wamego (8-0) and Mulvane are the lone undefeated teams in 4A. The Red Raiders had five shutouts.  Earlier this week, Wamego defeated Concordia, 8-0 and 11-0. Peyton Hardenburger, the reigning 4A pitcher of the year, struck out 19 and moved to 4-0. In the second game, Maya Gallagher, a Division I Holy Cross signing, struck out nine. Hardenburger allowed her first hit this season. Gallagher allowed three hits.

Shortstop Ashten Pierson, a Creighton commit, went 2 of 4 with two runs scored and two RBI.

Hardenburger was 2 of 4 with a third baseman and three RBI. In the second game, Hardenburger went 2 of 4 with three runs scored and a RBI. Pierson was 2 of 4 with two RBI, and Gallagher had two hits, hit a homer and drove in four runs. First baseman Jessi Ebert was 2 of 3 with a run scored and a walk. For the season, Hardenburger has 64 strikeouts and one hit allowed.

Frontenac and Prairie View in rematch of last season’s 3A state title; Frontenac softball with state’s second-longest current winning streak

Frontenac has the state’s second-longest current winning streak behind 5A Valley Center. The defending 3A state champion is off to a 4-0 start. Frontenac is the only team to defeat Independence with an 8-0 victory on April 4. The Bulldogs are 8-1 overall.

The Raiders lead the Columbus regional over Columbus (8-1) and Baxter Springs (7-2). Columbus and Baxter Springs split April 3. On Thursday, Frontenac will travel to Prairie View in a rematch of last spring’s 3A state championship game.

Prairie View is 2-2, though has not played since April 6. PV opened with two blowout wins against Iola. Then, the Buffs lost twice against Santa Fe Trail and ace pitcher Kaelee Washington, a Kansas commit.

Frontenac has not lost since a May 5, 2022 loss to Columbus. The Raiders defeated Santa Fe Trail, 10-0, in the semifinals and beat Prairie View, 7-1, in the championship game. Frontenac, with veteran coach Cassie Rhuems, is loaded, including pitcher Avery Johnson and third Mia Brown. Plus, catcher Kaitlyn Hayslip, first baseman Hattie Pyle, second baseman Annie Lee and outfielders Mady Logiudici, Abi Beaman and Kelby Burke.

Silver Lake continues great early season resume

Silver Lake continues to post a remarkable resume. The Eagles are 6-0 after a pair of wins against War on 24 rival Rossville. On March 30, SL swept Perry-Lecompton by a combined score of 17-0. On April 6, the Eagles defeated Basehor-Linwood, 3-2 and 4-2. Against Rossville, SL defeated Rossville, 5-1 and 5-0. Silver Lake’s three opponents are a combined 15-2 when not playing SL.

On Thursday, Silver Lake will face Wabaunsee, a traditional power who is 3-4 this season. Rossville swept SL last season. Avery Wende, a Division I junior recruit, and Kendra Cook delivered big outings in the circle for Silver Lake.

Silver Lake’s 1-2 combination of Avery Wende (left) and Kendra Cook (right) have led the Eagles to an impressive undefeated start.

Larned/LaCrosse, Sedan, Rose Hill, Royal Valley among nice turnarounds

Rose Hill softball went 11-8 last season and has opened 8-2 this spring. Camrynn Yardley has put together a huge season with a .545 average, .636 on-base percentage and three homers. She also leads RH with runs (19), hits (18), RBI (14) and slugging percentage (1.060). Yardley is 5-1 with a 2.60 ERA in 35 innings with 50 strikeouts against 20 walks. Junior Paige Green is 3-1 with a 3.36 ERA with 25 innings and carries a .444 average.

La Crosse had co-oped with Thomas More Prep-Marian in softball the last two seasons. La Crosse is co-oping with Larned. The Indians are 4-4. Larned has already doubled last season’s record of 2-17. Larned should enjoy its best season since 2014. Alexa Ryersee, a La Crosse student, has a .522 average and .621 on-base percentage, both team-bests. Mackenzie Reinert (.379 average), Teagan Walker (.355 average) and Karley Lemuz (.414 on-base percentage) are among top players. Madison Wood has significantly improved in the circle.

Royal Valley has enjoyed plenty of power early and had a nice turnaround.

Sedan softball has enjoyed a massive improvement after a 5-11 mark in 2022. Sedan has opened 5-2. Junior Sophia Rios has a .714 average with 10 RBI, two doubles and two triples. Sedan carries a .493 average.

Oxford is 8-0 and paces the relatively wide-open West Elk regional. Eva Navrat paces with a .400 average and a .483 on-base percentage. Emery Commerford has seven steals. Oxford was 14-3 last season, though lost an 18-2 result in the regional championship.

St. Marys leads the 2-1A Wabaunsee regional with a 6-0 start. St. Marys has allowed just 13 runs in the six wins, including four games with one run or fewer. St. Marys was 6-14 last season. Senior Lily and sophomore Kaycee SinghDhillon have posted huge seasons. Lily has a .769 average, while Kaycee is at .667. Lily has committed to Benedictine softball. Lily struck out 18 in a 4-0 win against Marysville on March 29.

Royal Valley was 6-11 last season and ended with six straight losses. RV is off to a 5-4 start, including a 3-2 loss to Wamego. Royal Valley faces Holton in a key doubleheader Thursday. Royal Valley has lost six straight to Holton since 2018. In a doubleheader sweep against Hiawatha, RV hit eight homers, including two from

Prominent undefeated teams; Valley Center with state’s longest current winning streak

Valley Center opened 1-2 in 2022 and has won 30 straight games since. The Hornets have eight college signings, including three Division I signings, paced by Lucy Hooper, the returning 5A player of the year and a Minnesota commit. VC has completely dominated with 14.1 runs per contest and 1.5 runs allowed a game. The Hornets have won every game by at least six runs, including 20-0 and 8-2 victories against Hays High. HHS has the inside track to win the Western Athletic Conference after a Tuesday home split with Garden City.

In a matchup of undefeated teams and rivals on Tuesday, Junction City defeated Manhattan, 2-1, in extra innings. Manhattan won the second game, 16-6. Avade Guzmann, a Division I Iona volleyball commit, hit two solo homers in the first game for Junction in a nine-inning victory. Junction City was 6-15 last season and is off to a 9-1 start.

In 2-1A, Richmond-Central Heights is off to an 8-0 start and will host its regional. Central Heights senior Samantha Stegner has signed with Independence Community College.

The Uniontown regional has three undefeated teams: Jayhawk-Linn (8-0), Arma-Northeast (6-0) and Uniontown (6-0). Troy (9-0) and McLouth (8-0) pace the Riverside regional.

Major matchups in 5/6A on Thursday

A huge quadrangular happens Thursday between Olathe West (7-1), St. Thomas Aquinas (6-0), Washburn Rural (7-1) and Lawrence Free State (3-3). OW has outscored teams, 74-27. WR has allowed 1.75 runs per game. The Junior Blues split with Olathe South on April 7.

Rural’s Emmerson Cope is a Nebraska signing and is considered Kansas’ best player.

Class 5A has four undefeated teams: KC Piper (8-0), St. Thomas Aquinas (6-0), Valley Center (8-0) and Bishop Carroll (6-0). In 6A, Shawnee Mission North (6-0) and Derby (8-0) are the lone undefeated teams.

SM North standout Kelsey Hoekstra, featured several times by SIK, threw another perfect game Tuesday. She has two perfect games in the last week.

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