By CONOR NICHOLL
This week, SIK takes a look at all of the elite softball pitching throughout Kansas, mainly from the rural communities.
Mission Valley’s Tomlinson leads Kansas in strikeouts
Tucked in the Mission Valley school district and 42 miles from Emporia, Harveyville has a population of 307. Morgan Tomlinson lives close to the Harveyville field, a diamond that serves as the home park for Eskridge-Mission Valley softball.
“It’s literally like right up the block and I go down in there and I hit, I pitch, I do some fielding, pretty much anytime that I feel that I need it,” she said. “And especially with my younger pitching days when I am still learning, I spent a lot of time on the field.”
Tomlinson started pitching in the fifth grade. In her first outing, a pitcher left and the team was struggling. Tomlinson told her coach she’d been working on pitching. She received an opportunity.
“I was really struggling,” she said. “Like I didn’t think that I could be a pitcher, because it was so bad my first game, but the second game, it just clicked, and it just kept getting better and better from there.”
The right-handed Tomlinson continually worked at the Harveyville field with her dad, Chris. Instead of a net, Morgan likes pitching into a glove. Chris continually sat on the bucket, caught for his daughter and checked mechanics.
“He is out there all night,” she said.
Morgan started a regimen of thousand pitches a week. That continued through her first 18 months of pitching. The work has yielded one of Kansas’ best pitchers for all classes and a front-runner for 2-1A Player of the Year. Per MaxPreps, Tomlinson paces Kansas with 168 strikeouts for a 15-2 Mission Valley squad.
“Definitely just like repetition for me over and over and over again, pitch after pitch, getting better, getting stronger,” she said.
Overall, she has a 1.04 earned-run average with just 54 hits and 11 walks permitted in 101 innings. She has pitched all but nine of her team’s innings. Tomlinson has committed to Hutchinson Community College.
Last year, Tomlinson defeated Troy in the regional championship game – the Trojans are 15-0 this spring – and led MV to a third-place state showing. She went 12-1 with a 1.33 ERA with 148 strikeouts against 16 walks in 100.1 innings.
Mission Valley finished 24-2 last season and again is among the 2-1A top teams behind Tomlinson, senior Jaycie Calvaruzo and multiple freshmen. Tomlinson has thrown between 58 and 62 miles per hour, posted a drop ball around 57-58 and throws a rise, curve and screwball.
“That Mission Valley game, she’s a stud, I mean, that’s what elite pitching looked like,” Troy coach Kyle McConnaughey told SIK. “…Her pitches were working, she had our girls confused. And she’s just an excellent pitcher. We are hoping to get that chance at her again. We would love to have that opportunity to find them at state, but we have got some hurdles in front of us before we can even think about that.”
Additionally, Tomlinson hit .438 with 15 extra-base hits last spring and carries a .370 average this spring. Tomlinson is among Kansas’ 2022 pitching leaders. Plus, she headlines a group of pitchers from 2-1A, 3A and more rural communities.
Schreiner, Baker, Kramer, Wende, Underwood lead deep group of pitchers from rural areas
The group includes Kingman’s Alex Schreiner, Eudora’s Kira Baker, Ell-Saline’s Raleigh Kramer, Troy’s Paityn Engemann, Wabaunsee’s Kaelyn Conrad, Garden City’s Brie Manwarren, Burlingame’s Alexandra Crook, West Franklin’s Lena Walter, Arma-Northeast sophomore Shelby Underwood, Silver Lake sophomore Avery Wende, Beloit’s Chloe Odle, among others.
Underwood (116 strikeouts in 66 innings) and Wende play on the same elite summer squad, the Wallace 16U national team. All nine of Troy’s starters have played travel ball. Troy’s players, like many of the top softball athletes from smaller communities, often significantly drive to join a travel team.
“A lot of these girls that are my team all traveled to Kansas City to play,” McConnaughey said. “…A lot of these country girls come together in these rural neighborhoods, the girls that really wanted to take off to the next level.”
Schreiner is going to Newman, Baker is going to NAIA Baker University, Kramer has committed to Southwestern College, Conrad to Johnson County Community College and Walter to Butler County CC.
Conrad is fourth in Kansas in strikeouts with 117. She is 8-4 with a 1.65 ERA and has a .408 average.
Tomlinson and Schreiner are among those that will play in the Inaugural Sunflower Collegiate League this summer.
Class 3A loaded with top arms
In the Kingman regional, Cheney is 16-0, Kingman stands at 14-2 and Haven is 12-4. Cheney is the defending 3A state champion and has won 26 straight contests. The Cardinals have senior pitcher Korri Lies, the reigning 3A Player of the Year and Hutchinson CC commit. Kingman lost to Cheney in the regional final last spring.
In her first 37.1 innings, Schreiner posted a 4-2 record with a save and a 2.06 earned-run average. Jadyn Belt has been much improved from last year. In her first 23.2 innings, she was 4-0 with a 4.14 ERA, though had 17 strikeouts against nine walks.
Laney Wood, Aly Hageman, a Butler County CC softball selection, and Schreiner have been the leading hitters. Wood is a highly talented sophomore after a first team all-league season in the outfield last spring. Wood bats second.
Hageman is an exceptional athlete and helped Kingman to a 2A powerlifting championship this spring. Hageman swept the 132-pound division in bench, squat and clean. She squatted 230. Hageman was third for all weight classes, first among Kingman athletes, in pound-for-pound ratio results.
Haven lost twice to Pratt last Friday in a matchup of powerhouses. Haven’s top players are: senior pitcher/shortstop Amie Yoder, junior catcher Brookelyn Barnett, junior shortstop/pitcher BrieAnn Brawner, junior outfielder Kelsi Kincaid and sophomore outfielder Sadie Estill. In ’21, Yoder was first team all-state, Barnett second team.
The 3A Cimarron regional has Scott City (15-1) and Holcomb (12-2). SC won 20 games and returned eight starters from last season, including ace sophomore pitcher Cheyenne Cramer. Holcomb features elite sophomore pitcher Korryn Johnson.
Cramer has a .442 average with 12 doubles and two homers. SC senior Rhiley Stoppel has a .568 average. Cramer carries a 14-1 record with a 1.49 ERA. She has delivered 93.2 of her team’s 96 innings. Cramer has struck out 135 against 29 walks. She is second in Kansas to Tomlinson in strikeouts.
In 3A, Hoisington/Central Plains (15-1) and Beloit (11-3) are part of the highly compelling Thomas More Prep-Marian regional. Hoisington features returning first team all-state pitcher Kassidy Nixon. Beloit has won eight straight games. The Trojans opened 3-3 with three losses when it combined to allow just seven runs in the defeats.
On April 28, Ohlde delivered a seven-inning perfect game with 14 strikeouts. This season, Ohlde has four shutouts and three no-hitters. In 37 innings, she has 68 strikeouts and 0.19 ERA. Last season, Ohlde batted .479 with a 0.31 ERA and 127 strikeouts. Beloit was 17-5 last spring.
Council Grove is well-known for its senior hitting duo of Elle Dragone (Division II Harding signee) and Mija Carlson. Dragone is batting .646, while Carlson is at .526. Seniors Paisli Butler and Karly Goodell carry .523 and .362 averages, respectively.
However, junior Jessica Filkin has had a big season in the circle with a 1.52 ERA in 60 innings. She has 82 strikeouts against 25 walks. Council Grove was 14-8 last year and currently stands at 13-1.
The Baxter Springs regional has Columbus (16-1), Frontenac (14-2) and Girard (8-3). Frontenac has standout freshman pitcher Avery Johnson, who worked a one-hitter against Chanute in an 8-0 win on April 21. Chanute is 10-4 in 4A.
Eudora, Holton, Garden City, Olathe South with talented pitchers
Eudora is 13-2 and permitted just 1.5 runs a contest, the best mark in 4A East. Last week, Baker recorded her 321st career strikeout to break the school record. On April 21, the left-handed Baker pitched a one-hit shutout and struck out 20 in a 6-0 win against Wellsville.
Holton stands at 14-2 and has permitted just 2.06 runs, second-best in 4A East. Sadie Walker, a Washburn commit, has delivered another massive year with a .545 average and .603 on-base percentage. She is 9-1 with a 1.26 ERA with 114 strikeouts against 12 walks in 61 innings.
Garden City has permitted 2.9 runs per game, third-best in 6A West. The reigning WAC player of the year, Manwarren started 8-1 with a 0.89 ERA in her first nine appearances. Last week, she struck out 20 in a 14-inning game.
Also in 6A, Olathe South has struggled to a sub-.500 record. However, senior left-hander Sarah Proberts has enjoyed another nice season in the circle. She is 3-13 with a 3.81 ERA and 113 strikeouts in 86.1 innings. She has signed with Wichita State softball.
2-1A’s Ell-Saline and Troy riding aces to perfect seasons; 2-1A very deep in the circle
Ell-Saline (14-0) and Troy (15-0) are the lone perfect 2-1A squads and are in the Republic County and Riverside regionals, respectively. Kramer has thrown around 57 miles per hour and delivers a fastball, curveball, drop curve, drop ball, screwball, knuckleball and a rise ball. E-S, a state qualifier last spring, also has center fielder Sadie Bradley and pitcher/shortstop Valerie VanZant.
Kramer worked 54.2 of her team’s first 76 innings. She struck out 62 with 18 walks against just 32 hits allowed for 1.79 earned-run average. Engemann has posted an ERA under 1.00 and has her well-known perfect game versus Onaga where she struck out all 18 batters.
Last Tuesday, Wabaunsee beat Onaga, 9-2 and 7-2. Conrad went 6-of-9, along with 15 strikeouts in 14 innings. On April 22, Conrad pitched a five-inning perfect game in a 12-0 victory against Northern Heights. She tossed just 55 pitches and struck out 11.
After the first 12 games, Crook was 6-1 for Burlingame with 65 strikeouts and a 0.98 ERA with 35.2 innings. Joselyn Simmons is 4-1 with 27 strikeouts in 27.1 innings with a 0.51 ERA. They combined for six walks and one hit batter. Kenna Masters, Daelyn Winters, Crook and Simmons have all hit at least .394 with a combined 10 homers.
Mission Valley, Burlingame (12-2), Lyndon (8-4) and Wabaunsee (9-5) are all in the St. Marys regional. All four are widely considered state contenders and likely top-5 teams in 2-1A.
Mulvane, Ellis, West Elk enjoying nice turnarounds
Additionally, 4A Mulvane, 2-1A Ellis and 2-1A West Elk have been teams that have quietly enjoyed nice turnarounds. Mulvane is 6-6. Per Mulvane Athletics, junior Jalin Lavers has a 4-4 record with 71 strikeouts with a 3.64 earned-run average in 50 innings. Last year, Lavers was 3-13 with 77 strikeouts in 88.3 innings and a 7.05 ERA. Mulvane was 4-17 in 2020.
Sophomores Madison Phipps and Addison Mackey have been among key players for Mulvane. Phipps, a catcher, has especially been impressive with throwing runners out. Mackey is hitting a team-high .419, while Phipps is at .351. Phipps led with a .409 average last season.
“We wanted to play really good teams,” Kingman coach Ross Bruggemann said. “We have played Pratt every year. Even though we have left the (Central Kansas) League, we have played Haven every single year until this year. We wanted to play Mulvane, because they are much improved, and they have got some really good girls, a really good pitcher.”
Ellis stands at 11-3 after 20-1 and 18-6 wins versus Plainville/Stockton. Significant credit to new coach Casey McCoy for stabilizing a program that has had multiple coaches in the last several springs. McCoy has mainly coached EHS baseball during the years. Ellis has done significant recent work on the softball field, including posting team records and adding a list of sponsors. Sophomore Kaydawn Haag has become the school’s all-time wins and strikeouts leader. Elliott Cox has committed to Williams Baptist softball. Ellis was 13-7 last spring.
Ellis is part of the 2-1A Spearville regional with leaders Coldwater-South Central (12-2) and Spearville (12-2).
Also in 2-1A, West Elk (14-1) paces the Burden-Central regional and made a huge turnaround from last spring’s 6-14 record. Arma-Northeast (17-1) leads the Southeast-Cherokee regional, and Leon-Bluestem (15-1) leads the Marion regional. NE-Arma has made one all-time state appearance.
Undefeated matchup postponed; big games between Silver Lake and Basehor-Linwood; O. West with signature win
Additionally, Monday was supposed to feature a doubleheader matchup of undefeated squads between 4A Wamego and 3A Rossville. Wamego, the defending 4A state champion, entered on a 20-game winning streak. Both teams featured powerful lineups and great pitching. However, the contests were postponed. Wamego has Maya Gallagher, a Holy Cross commit, and freshman Peyton Hardenburger. The duo recently threw back-to-back no-hitters with 27 combined strikeouts.
Rossville has its left-handed combination of Brinley Dyche and Vanesa Quinones, a NAIA Corbin (Ore.) commit.
The stars also feature four of Kansas’ most well-known softball players: Washburn Rural’s Emmerson Cope, Topeka’s Nija Canady, Bishop Carroll’s Kadence Brewster and Cheney’s Korri Lies. Canady, the reigning 6A POY, has committed to Stanford. Brewster and Lies won 5A and 3A POYs last season. Brewster has committed to Oklahoma Christian.
Washburn Rural is 11-1, while Topeka High stands at 14-2. Rural has allowed a 6A West-best one run a game, while Topeka High is second with 2.19 runs allowed a contest.
In 5A, Basehor-Linwood and Bishop Carroll are the lone undefeated squads at 14-0. BC has the state’s current longest winning streak at 37 straight games. Basehor, the reigning 5A state runner-up, went 21-4 last season. B-L has junior Taylor Cruse, an Ohio State commit. She carries a .581 average with seven doubles, three triples and 11 homers, per the Leavenworth Times. B-B-L has hit 24 homers.
Basehor-Linwood easily paces 4A East with 11.5 runs a game and 1.8 runs allowed. That included 11-3 and 4-0 wins versus Shawnee Mission Northwest on April 25, and 4-1 and 11-0 wins versus Silver Lake on April 28.
Traditional power Silver Lake is 10-4 and is part of the 3A Sabetha regional with Rossville (12-0) and Nemaha Central (12-4). Wende is a returning first team all-state 3A selection and helped Silver Lake to a 3A runner-up in 2021. She has worked a no-hitter through the fifth inning in four games.
Wende held Basehor to one earned run and four hits in the 4-1 loss. Wende limited Cruse to 0 of 4 batting. That marked the first time Cruse had been held without a hit in a high school game in her career. Wende has several Division I camp invites for this summer and fall. Silver Lake left fielder Taryn Burkhardt has committed to Johnson County Community College and will officially sign Wednesday.
Entering Basehor, Wende was 5-1 with a 0.26 ERA and 0.79 walks plus hits per innings pitched. She had 40 strikeouts and 10 walks over 42 innings. Silver Lake has freshman Keira Lowery and Taylor Zordel starting at third base and shortstop, respectively.
On April 28, Olathe West defeated Shawnee Mission North, 4-0, for SMN’s first loss this season. North is 12-1 and paces 6A East with 1.15 runs allowed a contest. West stands at 12-4. North has five seniors who have signed to play in college, including Siera Hoekstra to Wichita State. Sophomore Kelsey Hoekstra is an elite arm.
Calvaruzo, freshmen helping Tomlinson
Mission Valley has earned 8-0 and 2-1 victories against Walter and West Franklin, currently an 8-6 squad. Walter has pitched 79 of a possible 85 innings with 123 strikeouts against 32 walks. She is third in strikeouts.
Plus, MV went a combined 4-1 against Wabaunsee, Burlingame and Council Grove. Those are the lone losses for Burlingame and Council Grove this spring. As well, Mission Valley beat St. Marys in 3-1 and 2-1 contests on April 26. Last Thursday, Mission Valley lost to Lyndon, 3-2 in extra innings, and won 5-1.
Lyndon stands at 8-4, a significant improvement from last spring when the Tigers finished 8-14.
“It always feels good especially in this league and around here,” Tomlinson said. “Because a lot of times you don’t get to see that type of competition and when you do in high school ball around this area it’s nice to finally kind of test yourselves against the good competition.”
The 5-foot-4 Calvaruzo has delivered an impressive career with a .423 average, 36 doubles, six triples and 11 homers. That includes a .391 mark this season. Calvaruzo has posted more than a 1.100 on-base and slugging percentage.
Five-foot-8 freshman Kyplee Jacobson, a highly touted player in the younger ranks, has stepped up at catcher. Freshman Josie Buchmeier starts at third base. Junior Norah Parker plays first base. Freshman Adaline Bloomfield and Calvaruzo play in the middle infield.
“The freshmen, they have shown that they can be really trust worthy and capable of so many great things,” Tomlinson said.
Freshman Natalie Hoffman is in right field, junior Paige Martin in center field and freshman Kendra McCart in left field. Martin carries a .417 average, Jacobson carries a .396 average and Parker is batting .377.
Seniors Haley Atwood, Carley Wagner and Caylie Van Meter have played key roles. At 2A powerlifting, Wagner was state runner-up with an overall total of 425.
“For her being the only senior (starter), I think a lot of people look to her and I think that she has a great, great glove and a great arm, and also a great bat,” Tomlinson said of Calvaruzo. “I know that I will be able to rely on her to get a base hit when we need it, especially for postseason coming up for the tougher games, and that’s always nice to have when you have a strong senior that you can just kind of look toward to get just advice or need to talk.”