Pratt, Carroll lead week 1 softball rankings
1. Pratt Greenbacks – Pratt returns a bevy of talent from a squad that finished 17-6 and went to the Class 4A, Division II state tournament last season. Senior pitcher Paige Huber is one of the best arms in the CIK area after she went 15-3 with a 1.03 ERA and a .538 batting average last season.
Junior utility player Bre Bosley carried a .459 average and 1.83 ERA. Sophomore outfielder Jenna Finchem batted .507 last season. Pratt is the favorite to win the always challenging Central Kansas League.
2. Bishop Carroll Golden Eagles – A stunning 9-4 loss to Andover in the first round of the Class 5A state tournament halted the Golden Eagles’ 77-game winning streak and ended Carroll’s season at 22-1. Carroll had won the five previous Class 5A softball titles. Overall, Carroll batted .511 as a team.
Senior Maddie Miller, a Texas-Arlington signee, hit .600 with 12 homers and 59 RBIs, while sophomore Kaylin Watkins also hit .600 with four homers and a team-high 15 doubles.
Watkins paced the squad with 55.2 innings and had a 54/6 K/BB ratio. Northwest and Carroll will likely again be the top two City League teams. Carroll has won six straight in the last three years, including 8-3 and 12-3 last season.
3. Garden City Buffaloes – GC set a school record for wins in ’16 after a 20-3 record. GC returns standout ace Abbie Dart, one of the best pitchers for all classes in Kansas. Last season, GC lost to eventual Class 6A champion Olathe South, 3-1, in the first round of state.
It marked the closest game for O. South in the state tournament. Dart, a Tyler Junior College signee, went 18-3 with a 0.58 ERA with 226 strikeouts in 120.1 innings. Her younger sister, Hailey, won two games last season. Dart carried a .479 batting average, while junior Laura Farmer hit .403.
4. Ellinwood Eagles – Ellinwood went 20-4 last season and lost in the Class 2-1A state title game in its first-ever state softball trip. Ellinwood had captured 16 straight victories before the title game loss.
The Eagles have enjoyed great success under Jason Duvall, who previously coached Great Bend to multiple winning seasons. Senior pitcher Allison Panning (19-2, 1.58 ERA) and Brittney Beck (.507 average) pace the Eagles.
5. Wichita Northwest – The Grizzlies are very experienced after an 18-5 season in 2016. Senior pitcher Emily Prichard anchors the staff, while infielders Kassidy Blevins and Lucy Herter were all-state selections last season. Northwest fell to eventual runner-up Washburn Rural in the first round.
6. Andale-Garden Plain – A-GP has a new coach with Chuck Schrader, formerly with A-GP rival Clearwater. Senior pitcher Bailey Bugner is back, along with senior outfielder Peyton Chavez from a 16-6 team. Each player was a first team all-league pick. A-GP collected Class 4A titles in 2011 and ’12.
7. Sterling Black Bears – Sterling did win the CKL last year and set a school record with 20 wins. The Black Bears, which switched to the Heart of America league, took heavy graduation losses but does return standout Emma Horsch.
She carried a 17-1 record and 1.47 ERA. Senior all-state infielder Lindsay Gilmore batted .493 last year. Longtime assistant coach Dean Mantz takes over for Tyson Bauerle.
8. Lyons Lions – Veteran coach Marlin Clark has always squeezed maximum ability from a small roster with little depth. Lyons has reached the state tournament four straight years, the longest current run in the CKL. Ruth and Laura Pineda have led Lyons in the circle the last several seasons. Laura has graduated, but Ruth returns after she delivered a .455 average and 1.85 ERA in 41.2 innings.