By CONOR NICHOLL
Rivalry matchups, a perfect game, heroics in Wamego, three Class 2-1A top regional seeds fall in wild Tuesday
ELLIS – Thomas More Prep-Marian ace pitcher Madison Augustine and shortstop Jaci Von Lintel are part of the Monarchs’ six seniors for longtime coach Melissa Schoepf. They have started together the last three seasons and formed a strong bond. They didn’t have a freshman year because of COVID. The current seniors finished 10-11 as sophomores and 12-10 last spring. TMP went 0-4 in one-run games in 2022.
This season, the Monarchs entered Tuesday’s Class 2-1A Ellis regional at 13-7. That included a regular season sweep, 14-2 and 12-11, against in-county rival Ellis. Both TMP and Ellis rolled through its quarterfinal matchups and set up a highly entertaining semifinal rivalry contest in front of a big crowd.
The contest had multiple lead changes before the Monarchs delivered a 14-13 victory, one of many rivalry games that shaped Tuesday’s regional softball and baseball contests across Kansas.
“It was so intense,” Augustine said. “And I could feel just the energy from the crowd, and it really pushed me to do the best I could. It felt alive from both dugouts. It felt just so electric, and I used that momentum to just try my best at every pitch, and I felt like I did that.”
Other key softball regional results with rivalries featured 5A’s Valley Center/Maize South, 4A Wamego/Bishop Miege, 3A Cheney, 3A Scott City and 2-1A Uniontown. The Wamego win came on a wild three-run homer by second baseman Emma Erickson, the first of her career. (more below).
In Uniontown, Jayhawk-Linn beat undefeated Arma-Northeast. Two undefeated teams remain, 6A Olathe Northwest and 2-1A McLouth. Three 2-1A No. 1 regional seeds lost Tuesday.
Both Manhattan and McPherson softball and baseball teams qualified for state. McPherson baseball is the defending 4A champions.
On Wednesday, TMP (15-7) will face Ell-Saline (16-3) in the regional final. Start time is 5 p.m. The bulk of Kansas’ regionals will conclude Wednesday. This includes the Cheney regional between Haven (21-1) and Wichita Trinity Academy (20-2) and plenty of CNC rivalries in the Columbus regional with defending 3A champion Frontenac, Columbus and Girard.
Trinity Academy was winless in 2021 and captured five victories last season. The Knights with 10 players and no seniors, are believed to win more games this spring than all other past softball seasons in school history combined. Trinity has had a school since 1994. The Knights have not had softball every year, but it’s a remarkable turnaround.
The Monarchs have played a highly challenging schedule with three games against Ellis, a pair against two-loss Holcomb and a 2-4 mark versus 5/6A squads. Schoepf is 120-82 in 10 years with the Monarchs and has coached many years in the junior ranks, too. She called Tuesday’s roller-coaster game “far and few” in her career. TMP last went to state in ’18. The Monarchs moved to 2-2 in one-run games this year.
“When you have got seniors, you rely on their experience, and hope that they’ve got the mental toughness,” Schoepf said.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ellis scored a pair of runs and had the tying run at third base. However, Augustine coaxed a game-ending fly ball to senior left fielder Sophie Allen. It marked one of several big defensive plays from Allen and the Monarchs. After, Augustine gave Allen a big hug and thanked her. Augustine called the plays “huge” and “felt so relieved.”
“We couldn’t have done it without our outfield,” Augustine said.
Ellis scored four runs in the bottom of the first. TMP trailed 4-0 entering the top of the fourth and 11-5 after five innings. Ellis scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth. Then, TMP came back with seven runs in the top of the sixth.
In the sixth, TMP led 12-11. Ellis star Kaydawn Haag had homered in the first inning and holds multiple school hitting records. She batted with none on and one out. Haag blasted a shot to deep left, but Allen ran it down for a big catch. In the seventh, sophomore catcher Teagan Gottschalk, known for her defense, ran down a foul popup and caught the ball at the tip of her glove near the bench.
“That was probably the best outfield I have seen from them in a long time,” Schoepf said. “Early in the season, we were kind of having miscues and not really focused.”
Von Lintel, the Monarchs’ excellent shortstop and a Barton Community College signee for basketball and baseball, delivered a pair of triples and drove in three runs in the cleanup spot.
“It was insane,” Von Lintel said. “All game, we knew we could do it, we just had to keep our energy up and stay calm when we were on the field, because getting too nervous could really affect us. But it helped us a lot, like getting up in the dugout, and the coach that we have, she is just amazing. We did this for her.”
The bottom four in TMP’s order continually came through. Senior first baseman Karli Komarek reached base four times in the six hole.
“You saw the emotion for both sides changing so often, and they showed a lot of heart to come out there, especially after that inning where they kind of shifted all the tables on us, and to come back and respond like that, I couldn’t be more proud,” Schoepf said.
Freshman designated player Nicole Schumacher was on base all five plate appearances in the seven slot. Allen hit eighth and opened the seven run sixth with a triple. They supported Augustine, who had a walk and single in the nine hole.
“That was huge for us, and the momentum just came back onto our side,” Augustine said. “And it helped us in the long run.”
6A – Four Sunflower League teams advance, Hoekstra with another perfect game
All four state qualifying teams from 6A East are Sunflower League squads. The SL is generally considered Kansas’ best softball conference.
Olathe Northwest (22-0) remained the lone undefeated squad from Classes 3A to 6A. Northwest rolled through its two regional games by 15-0 and 16-0 scores. In the regional final, Kendall Yarnell finished 3 of 3 with three runs scored and seven RBI. She homered and doubled. Bre Severino struck out eight.
Olathe West (21-1) has only lost to Olathe Northwest. The Owls won its two regional games by a combined score of 29-2.
Shawnee Mission North (18-4) and standout two-way player Kelsey Hoekstra – the current 6A pitcher of the year favorite – blanked two regional opponents and is back to state. In the first game, Hoekstra pitched another perfect game with 13 strikeouts. In the second game, Hoekstra had a three-hit shutout with 16 strikeouts. Offensively, Hoekstra had four intentional walks.
She cleared 600 career strikeouts and 250 Ks this season. Overall, she 12 shutouts and three perfect games this season.
Olathe North (17-5) rolled with a pair of double-digit margin wins.
On the West side, Derby (21-1) beat two-time defending champion Topeka with an 8-6 victory in the regional final. Manhattan (17-5) qualified for state for the first time since 2004.
5A – Favorites Valley Center and Basehor-Linwood avoid upsets
All season, the Class 5A favorites are Valley Center and Basehor-Linwood, which combine for more than 10 college signees, multiple Division I players.
Defending champion Valley Center split with Maize South in a pair of wild regular season contests. VC rolled over the Mavericks, 9-1, in the regional and improved to 20-2.
Two-time defending runner-up Basehor-Linwood (20-2) edged out St. Thomas Aquinas, 3-1, in the regional finale. Spring Hill (17-5), Shawnee Heights (17-5), and Pittsburg (16-6) qualified in 5A East. Pittsburg won the SEK with second-year coach AJ Terry. Second-year coach AJ Terry led Pittsburg to its first regional host in 17 years and first state berth in at least 20 years.
4A – Wamego gets past longtime postseason rival Bishop Miege with first career homer from Erickson; Mulvane with huge turnaround
Wamego has had its well-publicized continued postseason rematches with Bishop Miege in all sports. Last fall, Miege beat Wamego for the 4A state football title. In volleyball, Miege bested Wamego in the 2020 postseason. In basketball, Miege knocked Wamego in the ’21 and ’23 postseasons en route to state titles. This winter, Wamego went 21-2 and was ranked No. 1 I 4A, though fell by seven at home to the Stags in the sub-state title.
Many of the same Wamego basketball players are on the softball team that has faced Miege the last three seasons. In 2021, Wamego held off Miege, 4-0, in the first round of state en route to its first state title. Last year, Miege defeated Wamego, 6-5, in the state semifinals. Miege took second to Eudora.
On Tuesday, Wamego again was a one-loss team and ranked No. 1 in 4A. However, since KSHSAA seeds just off record, Miege’s hard Eastern Kansas League schedule put them in the Red Raiders’ sub-state. Wamego held off the Stags, 4-2, in the regional title. The Red Raiders are 17-1 and will be the 4A favorite next week in Salina.
Peyton Hardenburger, the reigning 4A Pitcher of the Year, struck out 12. An emotional Hardenburger delivered a great TV interview with KSNT’s Landon Reinhardt after the game.
The game was tied in the fifth when Miege intentionally walked leadoff hitter Ashten Pierson, a Creighton commit. Then, second baseman Emma Erickson, featured last week on SIK as one of Wamego’s great supporting cast players, hit a fly ball to the left-center field gap. The Miege outfielder tried to make the catch, but it went off her glove. She fell into the retractable fence and the ball went over the fence for a three-run homer. Erickson, known more for her defense, carried a .184 average into the game and had never hit a homer in her career.
McPherson (19-3), Clearwater (14-8) and Mulvane (17-5) all qualified in 4A West. SIK has detailed the remarkable turnaround for Mulvane, which is at state for the first time since 2015. The Wildcats ended a 27-game losing streak in 2021 and won 12 games last season. Mulvane scored three runs in the first inning, one in the second, one in the fourth and three in the fifth. The Wildcats played errorless softball in the victory.
Rock Creek (11-11) pulled an upset in the Ottawa regional and defeated the host Cyclones, 16-9, in the regional finale.
3A – Scott City upends Holcomb in GWAC rivalry; Setting the stage for huge regional finales Wednesday
In the Scott City regional finale, SC held off rival Holcomb, 5-4. This marks the third straight season SC and Holcomb played in the regional final. Holcomb won in ’21, SC won last year. Holcomb won both regular season meetings in ’23.
Scott City ace Cheyenne Cramer went over 500 career strikeouts in the circle. She struck out nine, walked zero and allowed four runs, one earned. Holcomb was up 3-1 before SC came back with four runs in the sixth. Freshman Crissa Irvin hit a two-run double, and junior Malorie Cupp had a RBI bunt single.
The key regionals in 3A will be decided Wednesday. At Cheney, Haven and Trinity both won one-run games. Haven snuck past Kingman, 6-5. Trinity beat Cheney, 5-4. Trinity has four freshmen and no seniors. Cheney led 2-0 entering the bottom of the second. Freshman Dominique Schellenger went 2 of 4 with two runs scored and homered. She worked all seven innings in the circle.
The great CNC regional has Columbus (19-2) against Baxter Springs (13-7), while Girard (14-6) faces defending champion Frontenac (17-3). The Silver Lake regional starts Wednesday and will end Thursday.
2-1A – Top teams fall
In a wild Elkhart regional, Medicine Lodge (9-14) upset both of the top-two seeds. ML beat Bucklin, 8-7, in eight innings in the semifinal, and defeated Spearville, 4-2, in the championship.
In the Moundridge regional, five-win Inman, the No. 8 seed in the regional, defeated top-seeded Sedgwick, 7-4, in the quarterfinals. The semifinals and finals are Wednesday.
At Uniontown, Jayhawk-Linn defeated Arma-Northeast, 4-2, in the regional final. Northeast was 22-0 and features ace pitcher/hitter Shelby Underwood. NE was trying to make state for the first time in 20-plus years. J-L reached state for the third time in five years.
In Wathena, rivals McLouth (21-0) and Troy (18-2) are expected to meet in the regional championship Wednesday. Troy beat McLouth, 1-0, on a walk-off in the regional final last season en route to a state runner-up. McLouth swept Troy this regular season. McLouth is No. 1 in 2-1A. Troy was No. 1 in 2-1A before the McLouth losses.