Tuesday was one of the craziest days of the Wichita high school sports season.
From Cindarella upsets to an eight-run comeback with six outs to play, the area’s best baseball, softball and girls soccer teams put on a show as regional champions were crowned and other tournaments continued. Here are the results and recaps:
Derby is back
Derby entered the postseason as the No. 13 seed in Class 6A West. The Panthers had nine losses.
They have also turned the page. Tuesday, Derby opened its regional tournament with an 8-0 win over host and fourth-seeded Gardner-Edgerton. The Panthers capped it similarly with an 11-3 win over No. 5 Manhattan.
Last year’s All-Metro selection Grant Adler threw a complete game shutout in the semifinal, and first baseman Bryce Atkinson opened the title game with a three-run home run.
The 2019 state trip will be Derby baseball’s sixth in the past seven years. The Panthers finished third last year.
Rough 5A night for Wichita
There will only be two Wichita area teams to represent Class 5A - at maximum. No. 3 Goddard lost to 10-loss Salina South 15-2 in its regional championship game. No. 7 Wichita Northwest lost 7-3 to 10-loss Great Bend in the first round of its regional in Hays.
Mulvane stuns rival
For the first time in almost a decade, Mulvane has reached the last eight.
The Wildcats did it as the No. 13 seed and a losing record, but they did it. It started with an emotional 6-5 win over No. 4 Andale/Garden Plain, an AVCTL IV rival and a team Mulvane hasn’t beaten in three years. It ended with a 4-1 win against Clay Center, a team that had just won by 18 runs a game earlier.
After the semifinal victory, Mulvane coach Steve Nelson said the hard part was over. He was right because it couldn’t have gotten much more difficult.
Mulvane snagged a 4-3 lead in the top of the fourth but quickly gave it up as Andale’s Wyatt McCormick launched an RBI triple to center field. Then Mulvane juinor Gage Gerlach stepped to the plate.
He hit a leadoff, standup triple to right field that kick-started a two-run seventh inning. That was enough despite another triple in the bottom of the seventh that cut it to a one-run game.
Back where they belong
Independent had a rough year in 2018, missing the state playoffs. The Panthers are back in 2019 for the first time since winning the 2017 Class 3A title. Independent beat Flinthills 16-2, and though the Panthers enter 13-10, they are riding momentum.
Sedgwick opened its Class 2-1A regional as well as possible, an 18-3 three-inning win over Pratt-Skyline. The Cardinals will meet No. 4 Inman in the semifinals.
Two years from history
The record is 11, and Derby is at nine.
The Panthers are two regional titles away from tying Arkansas City’s all-time Kansas record for consecutive state tournament appearances after No. 3 Derby beat Dodge City 10-0 in five innings. The Panthers found much more trouble in a 6-4 semifinal win over Hutchinson.
The key for Derby will now be advancing past the first round.
Northwest in a miracle
The Great Bend High School softball coaches stood outside the team bus with their hands on their heads, almost motionless and completely wordless.
Inside the bus, players filed into their seats, shoving bags into overhead compartments. They slumped as they sat and put headphones to ears, seeking an escape for the next two hours on the bus ride home.
They had just witnessed what resembled a sports miracle — one not in their favor — after pitching something similar through 5 1/2 innings against the No. 2 team in Class 5A West.
Great Bend, the No. 6 seed, entered the postseason with six losses after playing such Western Kansas teams as Garden City, Dodge City and Hays. Remarkably, the Panthers went on the road to Wichita and played the City League runner-up, Northwest, to a 10-2 lead late in the game.
Northwest needed eight runs and had just six outs to work with. The Grizzlies got nine and won 11-10 to reach their first Kansas Class 5A state tournament in school history.
“They just willed it, and they just didn’t stop,” Northwest coach Cody Stucky said. “Girls were picking each other up, and underclassmen were stepping up just as much as the upperclassmen.”
The game-winning run came in the bottom of the seventh with sophomore Hannah Joynt at the plate.
After clawing her way in and up the lineup, Joynt came through with a “duck-snort” slapper just over the first baseman and in front of the right fielder.
“It’s hard to describe, but it’s a great feeling,” Joynt said. “Being on this team, they’ve shown me a lot. Even though we may be different, we all have the love for softball that gives us that power behind everything we do. It’s just our heart and soul.”
After the game, players on both sides shed tears and hugged their parents, trying to wrap their emotions around what they had just witnessed.
Stucky said he had only seen one other game like it, while he was a coach in McPherson. He said the message heading into the bottom of the sixth, knowing his group needed eight to stay alive wasn’t, “Go score eight.” He knew that if Northwest was going to survive, it needed to compartmentalize the runs into chunks and dig into the deficit slowly.
He just hoped they could do it in time.
“The softball gods evened it up for us,” Stucky said. “I’m kind of like, ‘Wow, did we really just score nine?’ I’ll tell ya, 17-5 sounds a lot better than 16-6.”
Northwest reached its first state tournament since 2016. The Grizzlies haven’t won a state game since the year before that, but with the relentlessness the Grizzlies showed Tuesday, Joynt said anything is possible.
“Softball is unpredictable,” she said. “You can be down almost 20 and come back, beating them by 30. You can’t just lay down and give in to the other team, because they may fight just as hard as you. It’s whoever’s heart is in the right place.
“And I feel like our hearts were in the right place tonight.”
Mavs down rival
By Taylor Eldridge
The crack of aluminum meeting the softball made for a tense moment at the Maize South softball complex when Eisenhower’s Emma Pabst turned on a pitch in the top of the seventh inning and the game-tying run at second base in a Class 5A regional championship game.
Hearts raced on both teams when the ball zipped toward left field and no one in front of it. With a spot at the state tournament on the line, Maize South senior Alyssa Kerr came off her line at third base for a dramatic, diving catch for the final out to secure an 8-7 victory for the Mavericks on Tuesday.
It was the 10th straight win for Maize South (18-4), which included a 16-5 run-rule victory over Newton earlier Tuesday, as the Mavericks will play at state for the second straight year. Eisenhower saw a 15-7 season come to an end.
“It’s kind of a blur, honestly, but I know I made it happen,” Kerr said, laughing. “I’ve been playing softball for a quite awhile, so I just kind of made the play. I was kind of nervous, but I did it. Being a senior, that’s a great memory to have.”
If there was going to be a hard-hit ball with the stakes so high, Maize South coach Mike Tinich said there’s no one else he would rather have it go to than the senior at the hot corner.
“She’s been our starting third baseman for three years now and she’s just been rock solid for us,” Tinich said of Kerr. “She has always been a force for us, but she’s played like that senior leader this year. It’s been amazing to watch. To have a senior end it like that, it’s just really exciting.”
While Maize South views itself as a title contender backed by upperclassmen, Eisenhower starts four freshmen and three sophomores. To compete with a team like Maize South in a championship environment was encouraging to coach Amber Brunswig.
“We definitely talked about that moving into next year when the season starts leaving where we left off,” Brunswig said. “We have a lot of heart.”
The Tigers put the pressure on Maize South early, taking a 4-0 lead after the top of the third inning. Freshman Calli McConnell delivered a 2-out, 2-RBI double, then Eisenhower plated two in the third inning on a hard-hit shot back at the pitcher by sophomore Brittany Gosch thanks to some heady base-running by Emma Furnish.
After Maize South rallied for eight runs in the third and fourth innings to take an 8-4 lead, Eisenhower trimmed the deficit in the sixth inning with a 2-RBI single by Allyson Montgomery and then to 8-7 in the seventh inning when Gosch delivered a 2-out RBI single.
Eisenhower thought briefly it had the game-tying hit when Pabst crushed the ball to the left side, only to watch Kerr make the diving play.
“My player hit the ball and put it in play and (Kerr) just made a great play on it,” Brunswig said. “Inches the other way, who knows, it could have tied the game. We put ourselves in a position to score some runs, but they just made a great defensive play.”
“There’s always nerves when the ball gets hit off the bat like that because you don’t know where it’s going to go,” Maize South senior pitcher Ashlie Thissen said. “But Alyssa has always been good for us at third. She’s at the hot corner for a reason and we trust her. I know she has my back and I have hers.”
Maize South battled back from a 4-0 deficit in the third inning when Kaydyn Davison hit a RBI single followed by a 3-run home run from freshman Emma Edwards, her second of the day after hitting a grand slam in the first game, for a 5-4 lead. A 2-out hit by Carley Sterneker in the fourth inning cleared the bases for three more runs to extend the lead to 8-4.
“Emma was struggling there a little early and she finally waited for one and you didn’t even have to look,” Tinich said. “You hear the sound and you’re like, ‘That’s gone.’”
Maize South finished off the win behind a trio of seniors in Kerr, Thissen and Wichita State signee Lauren Johnson.
Now the Mavericks wait to see which seed they will be in the 5A tournament hosted at Maize on May 23 and 24. After a first-round exit last season, Maize South is motivated to make sure it lasts until the second day this time.
“This year is a lot different, the girls are putting in work every day in practice and you saw us come together there at the end,” Thissen said. “That’s what we do. We come together and this team is different and special and we’re going to make it all the way.”
Goddard keeps tradition alive
With six outs left, Goddard trailed to the No. 14 seed in Class 5A West, a group that entered the day with four wins all season.
Senior second baseman Emme Yost woke the Lions up in the bottom of the sixth. She pushed a groundball between the third baseman and short stop, and drove in the game-tying run. Goddard went on to score three runs and win 7-5.
The focus was back.
Goddard went on to its regional championship against No. 6 Salina South, a team that was fresh off a 15-0 win over Wichita Heights. The Lions held the Cougars off the scoreboard until the sixth inning and pulled out a 2-1 win after a defensive gem. The 2019 title marks Goddard’s fifth in the past seven years and fourth in the past five.
Sophomore Kendal LeGrand, who didn’t pitch last season because of a broken hand, kept the ball on the ground and showed Goddard doesn’t have just one state championship-caliber pitcher, in junior Sydni Williams, but two.
“You can’t win state with just one arm,” senior Gentry Shepherd said. “They change the speed of the game whenever we need it.”
And when Salina South had a chance to crack the game open in the fourth inning of a scoreless game, senior left fielder Torri Vang and senior catcher Shay Martinez combined for a play at the plate that set the tone.
The Lions capped their trip to state with similar flair as Williams caught a liner to first, turned and fired to second base and shortstop Kinley Poynter, who smartly reached the bag in time to put out a runner who was trying to get back. Goddard’s game-ending double play sent coach Rita Smith sprinting onto the field in celebration.
“Did I look fast?” she joked. “I felt pretty fast. This is a special group of seniors. They’re very close-knit, and we want to end on a high note for them. It’s good to be walking out of your own field on top because I’ve been on the other end before, and it’s not a good feeling.”
Goddard will enter the state tournament anywhere between the No. 2 and No. 5 seed. Although one expectation has been reached, the goal begins anew at state. In spite of all the Lions’ state tournament appearances, they haven’t won a state game since 2013, when topped now-two-time defending champion Shawnee Heights 4-3 in nine innings.
The good news: Goddard is arguably the hottest softball team in the Wichita area, winner of 12 straight.
The Lions started the 2019 season with three AVCTL II splits with Arkansas City, Eisenhower and Maize South. All three opponents either reached the state tournament or played in Tuesday’s regional championship games.
Despite starting 3-3, Goddard didn’t panic — or at least didn’t show it. Now the tradition lives on.
“There was a lot of season left at that time,” Vang said. “We knew we had a lot do to do and that there was a lot left for us.”
Cheney dominates field
Cheney cruised to its Class 3A regional championship. The Cardinals entered with only one loss. No other team in the field had fewer than seven. Cheney beat Chaparral 4-2 in the final and outscored its opponents 31-2.
Kingman are queens
Haven and Kingman/Norwich played one of the great finals in Kansas. Haven trailed 2-1 heading into the seventh inning. The Wildcats scored two in the top half to take a 3-2 lead but allowed two more in the bottom as the Eagles booked their spot in state with a 4-3 walkoff win.
Trinity looking for history
Hutch Trinity is heading to state in search of its first state championship in school history after beating No. 1 Moundridge 5-4 in nine innings in the regional semifinal and Marion by the same score in the final.
Bluestem routes championship
Bluestem is back. The Lions are returning to the state tournament for the fourth straight year after beating No. 5 Flinthills 15-4 in their Class 2-1A regional championship. They started the day in danger of missing out, narrowly beating Marion 2-1 to reach the final.
Derby keeps dancing
Much like the boys soccer team had to do int he fall, the Derby girls soccer team must go on the road to reach the state quarterfinals. Derby beat Hutchinson 3-0 after a brace from Hailey Vinroe to meet No. 3 Manhattan in its 6A regional championship 6 p.m. Thursday.
North vs. East, round 3
Wichita North and East have played twice since May 4. East has won both, but there will be a third. The first, 2-1, was to win the North Cup title. The second, 1-0, came with weather-related controversy that sparked a debate on Twitter among players and coaches. The rematch at 4:30 p.m. Thursday will have the greatest implications.
But it almost didn’t happen. It took overtime for East to get past No. 13 Gardner-Edgerton at home, winning 2-1.
Rivals to meet again
No. 1 Bishop Carroll cruised past City League rival Wichita Heights to set up a rematch against area rival Maize South at 6 p.m. Thursday. The ninth-seeded Mavericks eased by No. 9 Andover Central 5-1, a much different outcome from the 2-2 draw May 2.
No. 2 McPherson played only 40 minutes in a 10-0 beatdown of Great Bend to set up an attractive regional championship against No. 7 Kapaun Mt. Carmel at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Northwest can’t pull upset
Third seeded Valley Center struggled to eliminate No. 14 Wichita Northwest. Scoreless at halftime, sophomore goalkeeper Kyrah Klumpp maintained a clean sheet as the Hornet offense went to work, earning a 2-0 win to set up a regional final against No. 6 Hays at 6 p.m. Thursday.
Eisenhwoer gets another chance
In what could be the most entertaining regional championship of the Wichita area, No. 4 Eisenhower beat Andover 1-0 to set up a date with No. 5 Maize at 6 p.m. Thursday. The Tigers lost to Maize 1-0 at home April 11, one of two losses this season.
League rivals to meet once more
After Mulvane earned a first round bye as the No. 2 seed and No. 7 Circle beat Augusta 5-0 on Tuesday, the AVCTL III-IV foes will meet for the third time this season.
The series is split. Mulvane took the first 1-0 at home, and Circle won the second 1-0 in the North Cup third place game. Round three is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday in Mulvane.
Classical writes history
Back in the Wichita city limits, Classical School of Wichita earned its first KSHSAA postseason victory in program history with a 3-0 win over No. 11 Rose Hill. The Saints will travel to Topeka Hayden 4 p.m. Thursday to take on last year’s fourth-place finisher.
Private rivalry goes public
And in what has the potential to be one of the premier games in the Wichita area, private school rivals Trinity Academy and Collegiate will meet for the second time this month.
May 6, Trinity beat Collegiate 5-3 on the road. The Knights will host the Spartans instead for a shot in the final eight at 6 p.m. Thursday.