County teams getting ready to start regional competition
With the Jackson County spring sports teams in the midst of league week, that means postseason competition is right around the corner.
Officially, regional competition will start with the golf and baseball tournaments next Monday, followed by softball on Tuesday and regional track meets closing out the week on Friday.
The Royal Valley and Holton baseball teams will have their work cut out for them in regional baseball, as they will be looking up at a tough number one seed in the form of Rock Creek. Only one team will get a shot at the Mustangs, though, as the Panthers (#2, 9-10) and Wildcats (#3, 7-12) will face off in the first round of the tournament.
Rock Creek earned the top overall seed with a 17-2 record and is coming off a state runner-up finish in Class 3A last year. The Mustangs are averaging nine runs a game and recently wrapped up a league title in the extremely competitive Mid-East League.
In addition to a potent offense, with two players (Jackson Goodmiller and Nick Beyer) currently hitting over .550 on the season, the Mustangs pitching has been stellar as they have two pitchers (Caleb Rogge and Shilo Schaake) with sub one-run ERAs. Also, the team has shown a penchant for aggressive base-running with Goodmiller, Beyer and Schaake all stealing at least 15 bases so far this season.
The Mustangs share a pair of foes with Royal Valley, as they, too, split with Clay Center this year and also split with Wamego (a team that swept Royal Valley). Rock Creek will open up regional play against those Tigers of Clay Center (5-15), who are the fourth seed in the Hoyt regional.
Clay Center and Rock Creek will get tournament play started at 2 p.m., while Holton and Royal Valley face off in the second semifinal game at approximately 4 p.m. The regional championship is currently slated to start at 6 p.m.
Regional softball action will see a similar set-up with Holton playing Royal Valley in the first round, though the Panthers (17-1) will be the top overall seed in the Rock Creek tournament, while the Wildcats (8-9) enter postseason play as the fourth seed.
The two Jackson County teams will get things started in St. George at 2 p.m. on Tuesday and will be followed by another interesting match-up that will pit second seed Rock Creek (13-6) against third seed Santa Fe Trail (11-7).
Rock Creek shares one common opponent with Royal Valley, as the Mustangs also split with Wamego earlier this season. As a team, Rock Creek is averaging 8.5 runs per game and is led by Winter Henry and Kayla Buell, who are both batting a shade under .500 on the season. Henry also leads the team with 28 RBI.
Santa Fe Trail already dropped a pair of games to the Panthers this season, but one was a tight 6-4 contest and the team has been averaging 11 runs per game this season. The Chargers’ offense is led by Candace Roberts, who is hitting .518 this season with 15 RBI and four home runs. Meanwhile, pitcher Kelsey Simmons has been the ace on the mound with a 5-4 record, 106 strikeouts and 2.4 ERA.
The semifinal game between the Mustangs and Chargers is slated to start at 3:30 p.m., while the championship game will follow at approximately 5 p.m.
On the links, Holton and Royal Valley will head west to Abilene for regional golf competition and they, too, will have their hands full.
The Wildcats have seen a pair of regional teams (Wamego and Clay Center) in tournament play earlier this season and finished behind both in the final standings. Adding last year’s state runner-up, Buhler, to the field will only increase the level of difficulty to try and qualify for state.
Holton and a smaller contingency from Royal Valley will also be going up against the likes of host Abilene, Chapman, Concordia, McPherson and Nickerson in postseason play, which will start at 9:30 a.m. on Monday.
Finally, the track teams will wrap up regional competition on Friday, May 22 with Jackson Heights heading to Washington for a 2A meet and Holton and Royal Valley staying close to home to compete in a 4A meet in Hoyt.
Both teams will have plenty of tough competition to go up against, as the Panthers and Wildcats will be in a field that features some of the top sprinters and distance runners in Class 4A. That includes a 3200m run event that will be loaded with the top five runners in the class this season.
Other teams competing with HHS and RV in Hoyt will include Abilene, Augusta, Chapman, Clay Center, Concordia, El Dorado, Mulvane, Rose Hill, Rock Creek, Topeka Hayden, Towanda-Circle, Wamego, Wichita Trinity and Winfield. That meet will start at 1 p.m. next Friday.
The Cobras, meanwhile, will face similar challenges, especially from host Washington County, which features some of the top distance runners and throwers in 2A. That includes previous state champion Dylan Hodgson, who holds the top times in the class in the 1600m and 3200m runs.
Jackson Heights’ girls will also have to compete against some top distance runners and sprinters, as Maranatha will be bringing some of the top tier athletes in Class 2A to the meet.
Other 2A teams competing in Washington next Friday include Wabaunsee, Burlingame, Mission Valley, McLouth, Heritage Christian, Onaga, Kansas City Christian, Solomon, Troy, Valley Falls, Wakefield and JCN. The meet will start at 3 p.m.