Kansas baseball and softball teams play Thursday and Friday in KSHSAA state tournaments hosted in Lawrence, Wichita and Salina. For more information, see kshsaa.org.
1. Shawnee Mission absent
The Kansas Baseball Coaches Association’s top three teams in Class 6A won’t be in the state tournament.
So for the first time since the 2013 playoffs, there won’t be a Shawnee Mission school in the way of a potential Olathe baseball championship. Olathe East won the last one for the school district in 2002.
But the Blue Valley schools that knocked both SM Northwest and SM East out of the playoffs are still standing. Fifth-ranked Olathe East (15-7) will face No. 8 Blue Valley Northwest (14-8) in the first round Thursday. Blue Valley NW upset SM Northwest to get to the state tournament, only allowing one run to a team that averaged nearly six per game.
Blue Valley (13-9) beat SM East, last year’s champion and the No. 1 team in Class 6A that allowed just 36 runs all season, in a 1-0 duel for the regional championship. The No. 10 BV Tigers will play unranked Derby in the same half of the bracket where Olathe Northwest (15-7) will play Wichita West (12-8).
Manhattan (17-5) is the top-ranked team remaining in Class 6A, coming in at fourth in the final list released May 11. Manhattan’s 167 runs scored is second to SM West, which Olathe East beat in its regional championship, in Class 6A.
2. Another likely Olathe softball title
Four of the last five Class 6A softball champions have come from Olathe schools. Olathe South has won the last two, and before Washburn Rural interrupted the streak in 2014, Olathe East had won championships from 2012-13.
Although South (17-5) is the reigning champion, it comes in as the third seed in the tournament, behind Olathe East (18-4) and Olathe Northwest (21-1).
Northwest, which will play Haysville-Campus (10-10) in the opening game Thursday at 11 a.m., has profitted from near-.600 batting averages from senior Mady Young and junior Shayna Espy. Young’s 41 RBIs entering regionals led the Sunflower League. Espy tied for second with 29.
Olathe North (12-10), the only team to defeat Olathe NW this season, and Blue Valley (17-5) are also in the brackets. East will play North and South will play Derby (16-6) in the first round. Blue Valley, the No. 4 seed, drew Garden City (17-5) for the 1 p.m. game.
3. Repeat champions?
Despite returning only two regulars from last year’s championship team, St. Thomas Aquinas baseball (18-4) kept winning this season. Sophomore pitcher Joe Bryant, who threw the school’s first perfect game earlier this month, and his 0.56 ERA played a large part in that, as well as an offense that averages eight runs a game.
But Bryant won’t play in the tournament this week due to an elbow injury. First-team all-state utility man Bayler Hinz will start in Bryant’s place.
Plagued by errors in the field, Aquinas tumbled down the coaches’ rankings after losing four games, including two to Blue Valley, over the last two weeks of the regular season. That left room for Bishop Carroll (21-1) to ascend the list.
Aquinas, now ranked fourth, will play Seaman (18-4) on Thursday in Wichita. It’s the second year in a row Aquinas opens the state tournament against the Topeka school.
Spring Hill softball (18-4), meanwhile, seeks a second straight title in Class 4A-Division I. But Paola and Piper, the No. 2 and 3 seeds in the tournament, each have 20-2 records and one could challenge the reigning champions in the final bracket.