Varsity Softball

Softball preview 2019: Season outlook for Wichita’s top teams, players and storylines

All Metro Softball from left (front row) Gracie Johnston, pitcher, Augusta,  Reagan Smith, picker, Bishop Carroll. Kayli Dryden,  2nd base, Wichita Northwest. Kaylin Watkins, pitcher / 1st base, Bishop Carroll, Madi Arnold, pitcher, Maize, Madi Young, shortstop, Derby. (Back row) Macie Eck,  center field, Andale,  Savannah Hughes, first base, Maize, Ally Vonfeldt, third base, Bishop Carroll,  Emily Fox, outfield,  Wichita Southeast,  Lauren Johnson, center field, Maize South, Sydni Hawkins, short stop,  Wichita Southeast,  Rita Frakes - Andover Central, Coach of the Year  (June 5, 2018)
All Metro Softball from left (front row) Gracie Johnston, pitcher, Augusta, Reagan Smith, picker, Bishop Carroll. Kayli Dryden, 2nd base, Wichita Northwest. Kaylin Watkins, pitcher / 1st base, Bishop Carroll, Madi Arnold, pitcher, Maize, Madi Young, shortstop, Derby. (Back row) Macie Eck, center field, Andale, Savannah Hughes, first base, Maize, Ally Vonfeldt, third base, Bishop Carroll, Emily Fox, outfield, Wichita Southeast, Lauren Johnson, center field, Maize South, Sydni Hawkins, short stop, Wichita Southeast, Rita Frakes - Andover Central, Coach of the Year (June 5, 2018) The Wichita Eagle

Top 10 Teams

1. Bishop Carroll

Bishop Carroll placed five onto the City League first team last year and bring back all of them.

The Golden Eagles must replace catcher Emma Henning but bring back standouts in the infield senior Isabel Marcotte and Ally Vonfeldt, outfielder Hadley Kerschen and All-Metro pitchers Kaylin Watkins and Reagan Smith.

Carroll is coming off a state championship game appearance in which the Golden Eagles were run-ruled by Shawnee Heights, so they will be motivated and loaded to make another run in 2019.

2. Maize

Maize lost seven AVCTL I selections from last year, but the brand of Eagle softball returns.

A pair of juniors outfielder Sophia Buzard and second baseman McKensy Glass — both picked to the AVCTL I first team — will be Maize’s standouts in 2019, looking to build off another league title.

More important, Maize was stunned in last year’s regional championship game against rival Maize South. That loss will undoubtedly spur this year’s group to get back to the state tournament.

3. Derby

With Maize going through a big transition and Derby bringing back six starters from last year, the AVCTL I picture has the potential to look different this year.

All-Metro senior selection Madi Young returns to mark her shortstop spot and contribute on the mound. Junior outfielder Mariah Wheeler and senior outfielder Courtney Cline will combine to make one of the strong back lines in the Wichita area.

Derby finished 20-3 last year with a couple of losses to Maize and a loss to Olathe Northwest in the first round of the Class 6A state tournament.

4. Andover Central

Andover Central stunned Kansas by winning the Class 4A-Division I state championship last year as the No. 7 seed.

The Jaguars had a magical, emotional run behind coach Rita Frakes, who beat stage 3 breat cancer. They finished the season 15-10. Now Andover Central will likely rise to Class 5A.

The Jags return a wealthy crop of contributors, including AVCTL II second team selections Brooklyn Strobel and Kalei Cline.

5. Arkansas City

In the same boat as Andover Central, Arkansas City will likely rise from Class 4A-Division I to 5A in 2019.

The Bulldogs have to replace the AVCTL II Player of the Year shortstop Chevelle Sartin but return senior standouts like Kirsten Birdwell, Kelsey Daniel and Avery Foust. Ark City’s top two pitchers also come back in Menley Westhoff and Hadley Colquhoun.

Ark City won the AVCTL II title last year and reached the 4A-I state tournament with an 18-4 record.

6. Maize South

Maize South caught fire late last year, reaching the 5A state tournament with a 13-10 after beating rival Maize on the road.

The Mavericks bring back some of the top players in the Wichita area, including seniors Lauren Johnson and Ashlie Thissen and a pair of AVCTL II first team selections Carley Sternecker and Kylee Yocum.

7. Goddard

Goddard reached the state tournament for the fourth straight year last year.

The Lions have to replace All-Metro selection Brooklyn Gallagher but bring back AVCTL II second team selections Sydni Williams and Emme Yost to look to get back for a fifth straight trip to state.

8. Andale/Garden Plain

Andale/Garden Plain put a staggering seven players on the AVCTL IV first team. Three come back.

One of the top players in the Wichita area Macie Eck will headline the Indians’ lineup, and juniors Abby Gordon, Madison Grimes and Rachel Choate will join her to help lead them back to the state tournament for the third straight year.

9. Wichita Northwest

It could be the year of Dryden for Wichita Northwest softball.

The Grizzlies could field up to four Drydens at the same time, including All-Metro selection Kayli Dryden and City League first team pick Lexi Dryden. Add in top contributors in senior Tadum Soetaert and junior Josie Deckinger, and Northwest looks to be in for a promising year in the City League and potentially beyond.

10. Haven

The third-place finishers in Class 3A are out for more in 2019.

Haven brings back plenty of senior leadership from Sierra Nisley to Julie Wilhite and Abby Hartung. The Wildcats also return the unanimous Central Kansas League MVP sophomore pitcher Maguire Estill.

Top 10 Players

1. Kaylin Watkins - Bishop Carroll, Sr., Utility

Watkins has started since she was a freshman and earned All-Metro honors each year.

She has that everlasting feeling to her career and returns for the final go in 2019. Last year, she helped Bishop Carroll to a runner-up finish in Class 5A with a .875 ERA while hitting 15 home runs and a .575 average.

Watkins would become the first player to earn All-Metro honors all four years of high school at the same school and just the second ever if she gets there again this season.

2. Lauren Johnson - Maize South, Sr., Outfield

Johnson is among the most electrifying players in Kansas.

With blazing speed, a bat to match and outstanding work in the outfield, Johnson is must-watch softball and will look to lead Maize South back to the state tournament after a surprising bid in 2018.

An All-Metro selection last year and Wichita State commit, Johnson hit for a .422 average with 27 hits, 15 RBIs and a pair of home runs.

3. Macie Eck - Andale/Garden Plain, Sr., Outfield

Eck is the first Andale athlete to go to Notre Dame on scholarship, and she has earned it.

A back-to-back All-Metro selection, Eck led Andale/Garden Plain to its second straight state tournament appearance after hitting for a .547 average with 35 RBIs.

The Indians were bounced in the first round of last year’s Class 4A-Division I tournament. Eck will look to help improve that.

4. Ally Vonfeldt - Bishop Carroll, Sr., Third Base

As part of the Carroll machine, Vonfeldt might be the Golden Eagles’ most dynamic player.

Able to move from catcher to third base and across the diamond to first, Venfeldt’s versatility was key to Carroll’s state runner-up finish and earned her All-Metro honors.

She hit for a .561 average with 20 RBIs and 11 doubles. She also fielded at .977 percent.

5. Gracie Johnston - Augusta, Sr., Pitcher

Johnston was always good for a headline last year.

Over two games last year, she struck out 35 batters, got three runs of offense and won both games. She threw a perfect game, four one-hitters and had five games with at least 10 strikeouts.

Johnston earned All-Metro honors with a 10-1 record, 1.55 ERA, 110 strikeouts and .841 WHIP.

6. Madi Young - Derby, Sr., Shortstop

If Derby makes a run toward a Class 6A title, Young will be a big reason.

An All-Metro and AVCTL I first team selection last year, Young hit for a .479 average with 37 runs scored and 30 RBIs. She helped the Panthers to a 20-3 record, but Derby was knocked out in the first round of the state tournament.

7. Reagan Smith - Bishop Carroll, Jr., Pitcher

The torch is in Smith’s hand; she just has to take it.

Smith will take over as the Bishop Carroll ace next year, replacing Kaylin Watkins. Before then, the duo will have one last year together as returning All-Metro selections. Smith finished with a 10-1 record and .813 ERA last year as a sophomore.

8. Kayli Dryden - Wichita Northwest, Sr., Infield

Dryden brought the energy to the Northwest lineup last year and returns in 2019 as the Grizzlies’ motor.

An All-Metro selection, Dryden hit for a .568 average with a .679 on-base percentage. She had 18 extra-base hits and served as a vital part to the Grizzlies’ middle infield.

9. Ashlie Thissen - Maize South, Sr., Pitcher

Thissen has the potential to take over any game.

She did in the Mavericks’ regional championship game against Maize and showed spurts throughout last season. She returns in 2019 as the Maize South ace and will serve as one of the Mavs’ senior leaders.

10. Maguire Estill - Haven, So., Pitcher

Estill was arguably the best pitcher in small-class Kansas last year as a freshman.

She was named the unanmious Central Kansas League Player of the Year and helped Haven to a CKL title and third-place finish in Class 3A. Estill is coming off an injury but will look to help the Wildcats toward another successful year.

Three Storylines

Continuing the legacy

Bishop Carroll and Maize have undoubtedly been the top two teams in the Wichita area over the past decade.

Last year, Maize beat Carroll for the first time since 2012 in an intense split between the two. This year, the two Eagle teams will look to build off their legacies.

Carroll reached the Class 5A championship game but fell flat against Shawnee Heights. Maize failed to reach state after dropping to rival Maize South.

Carroll and Maize are guaranteed one game this season in a triangular with Maize South on April 25 at Two Rivers.

Looking to party like 2010

No Wichita area team not named Carroll or Maize has won a state championship in Kansas’ top two classes since 2010 when Andale/Garden Plain bumped up and did it.

This year, Derby looks to have the best shot at breaking the streak.

The Panthers will have to contend with a wealth of Kansas City area teams, including Lawrence Free State, Olathe Northwest and Olathe North. Derby has never won a state softball title but have the talent to contend in 2019.

AVCTL II title race

Between Arkansas City, Maize South, Goddard, Andover Central and Eisenhower, there are four returning state qualifiers, one state champion and five sure-fire league title contenders.

Although the talent in AVCTL II will be tough to contend with the likes of Shawnee Heights and Bishop Carroll in Class 5A, almost every team has the potential to reach the state tournament.

Ark City won the league last year, but according to coaches’ preseason questionnaires, there is no clear favorite this season.

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