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Hays, Liberal sweep top WAC baseball honors
hays baseball
Hays High, the 2024 Western Athletic baseball champions


HAYS – By the middle of April, while many Western Athletic Conference schools were yet to play most of their conference baeball games, the Hays Indians had already wrapped up their 8-game slate.

With that timetable came an early 8-0 record that allowed the Indians to repeat their 2023 WAC championship and then focus on non-conference games the final month of the short spring season.

It was by plan that Hays baseball coach Dustin Dreher scheduled all the WAC games early.

“We played Dodge City April 16, and it was just their second and third WAC games and it was our seventh and eighth,” Dreher said. “I think I wanted to get us into some three-game tournaments that would replicate what state might be like.”

The early celebration for the WAC title may have been tempered by an extremely tough non-conference schedule as the Indians went 8-10 against those teams. Still, Dreher wouldn’t change his schedule.

“It gave us a chance to see what some of our players could do, work on our pitching rotation and see who could play in different positions,” Dreher said. 

One of his top players was his nephew, Nolan Dreher, a pitcher, and first baseman Lex Lummus. Both are seniors and were named to the WAC all-conference first team.

“One of our goals was to win WAC and we wanted to get that early and it just was fortunate to work out by design,” Dreher said. “This team was built on pitching, defense and speed. The pitching and defense certainly got us several wins.”

Dreher sometimes described his offense as scoring runs using “small ball.” That is getting runners on, stealing bases, bunting runners over.

“We just found a way to scrape around some runs and that was our biggest challenge,” said Dreher, whose team averaged 5.58 runs per game while limiting the opposition to just 2.85 runs a game. “We wanted to play the best teams in the state with the remainder of our schedule because you have to play the best if you want to be the best.”

Dreher said facing some of the top pitchers in the WAC early prepared the Indians for the tough schedule later.

“We saw everybody’s No. 1 pitcher when we played them in the WAC,” Dreher said. “That’s the caliber of pitcher we saw a lot of the rest of the season.”

Part of that non-conference schedule included three-day tournaments in DeSoto, Bonner Springs and one hosted by the Indians.

“All of these are set up to give us an opportunity to evaluate how we might schedule our pitchers if we make it to state,” Dreher said.

A pair of juniors earned second-team all-WAC this year in Jonathan Cano (utility) and Carter Graham, who pitched and played third base.

Dreher said he had to move some players around to new positions from the 2023 team. He will welcome back 10 seniors for the 2025 season, so things certainly appear bright for the Indians.

Joining Dreher and Lummus on the all-WAC first team was J. Brooks Kappelman, the Liberal pitcher-shortstop who repeated as WAC Player of the Year.

Liberal’s other first team selection was pitcher/outfielder Zayden Martinez while WAC runner-up Great Bend led the way with three selections – pitcher/outfielder Carson Umphres, first baseman Ian Premer and utility player Trenton Kern.

Other first team selections included Remmington Miller of Dodge City (pitcher/second baseman); and Culden Plankenhorn of Garden City (catcher/third baseman).

PLAYER OF YEAR – Perhaps the best way to explain how effective Brooks Kappelmann has been as a pitcher for the Liberal Redskins is to look at his earned-run-average.

This year, despite a modest 4-3 won-loss record (the Redskins were 3-5 in the WAC), Kappelman’s ERA was an impressive 1.34. He recorded 77 strikes against just 14 walks.

“The game slowed down more for me and I was able to just play,” said Kappelmann, who earned his second consecutive WAC Player of the Year honor by the conference’s coaches. “It just seemed easier to make the right decisions and I was a lot smarter about getting the right pitch to throw and was more patient.”

Kappelmann said he worked more on better locating his fastball, which averages between 86 and 88 mph, but did hit 90 mph on a few occasions.

“I just was able to spot in better places, keeping it low and away from hitters,” Kappelmann said. 

While also throwing a curve ball, and an occasional change-up, Kappelman said he relies on the fastball as his go-to pitch.

When he was not on the mound, he was playing shortstop for the Redskins and he displayed his offensive skills throughout his senior campaign.

HIs batting average was a lofty .465 and he recorded 7 doubles and 6 triples with 23 RBIs in 23 games. He scored 28 runs and had 9 stolen bases.

“I worked on not swinging at so many curve balls and just the mental side of hitting improved for me,” Kappelman said. “I did a better job of waiting for my own pitch.”

In the field, Kappelmann said he felt he improved his range to run down balls both to his left and right.

“I was able to get to a lot more balls,” he said. “We had a really good first baseman, so I knew I just throw it there and he’d scoop it up.”

Kappelmann won two WAC awards in his final high school year, having been named the Football Player of the Year in the fall at quarterback to lead the Redskins to their best season in many years.

However, he will dispatch the helmet and pads and continue his baseball career at hometown Seward County Community College. He hopes to pitch and also play some in the field for the Saints.

Reaching this stage of his baseball career had Kappelmann recalling his first exposure to the game  when he was just 3 years old and playing on his older brother’s T-Ball team. He also served as the bat boy for the Semi-Pro Liberal BeeJays in the summer.

“I’ve just been around the game all my life,” said Kappelman, whose father, Brock, is the sports director at a local radio station and long-time voice of the Redskins and Saints.

Academically, Kappelmann said he has not made up his mind but has interests in education and finance, perhaps leaning toward teaching and coaching.


HAYS HIGH—P Nolan Dreher, 12; 1B Lex Lummus, 12

GREAT BEND—P/CF Carson Umphres, 11; 1B Ian Premer, 10; 3B Trenton Kern, 10

DODGE CITY—P/2B Remmington Miller, 12

LIBERAL—J. Brooks Kappelmann, P/SS, 12; P/OF Zayden Martinez, 12

GARDEN CITY—C/3B Culden Plankenhorn, 10

Player of the Year: J. Brooks Kappelmann, Liberal

Coach of the Year: Dustin Dreher, Hays


HAYS HIGH—U Jonathan Cano, 11; Carter Graham, P/3B 11

GREAT BEND—SS J.J. Grove, 10; P/OF Koehn Ribordy, 10; OF-P Daxton Minton, 10

DODGE CITY—P/3B Arec Mendoza, 12

GARDEN CITY—IF Ethan Gomez, 11; P/SS Chase McGraw, 12

LIBERAL—1B Marco Alonso, 11


Hays 8-0 16-10

Great Bend 6-2 18-9

Liberal 3-5 13-11

Dodge City 3-5 9-16

Garden City 0-8 7-12

HAYS HIGH (8-0, 16-10)—WW Salina Central 8-3, 7-5; WW Liberal 1-0, 16-1; WL Washburn 4-1, 4-5; WW Garden City 12-2, 9-3; WW Great Bend 4-0, 5-4; LL Clay Center 2-3, 4-5; WW Dodge City 3-2, 18-2; L BVSW 0-1, L SM North 0-4; L Gardner 0-1; W Bonner 10-0; L Basehor 3-5; L Hays TMP 3-4; W Brush, Colo. 7-0; W Manhattan 4-3; W Wichita Life 8-4;  L Salina South 6-8, W Buhler 6-1; L Hutchinson High 2-3

GREAT BEND (6-2, 18-9)—W Russell 17-0; WW Pratt 1-0, 10-6; WW Hutchinson 4-3, 14-2; WL Kapaun 8-7; 0-2; WW Liberal 8-5, 6-0; LL Hays 0-4, 4-5; WW Rose Hill 14-4; McPherson 3-1; L Aquinas 0-10; W Spring Hill 3-1; L De Soto 4-11; WW Hays TMP 9-0; 11-5; WW Dodge City 1-0; 5-4; WW Garden City 8-2; 17-7; W Junction City 12-0; L Salina South 3-6; W Junction City 12-0; LL Manhattan 3-4; 5-15; L Salina South 4-5 

LIBERAL (3-5, 13-11)—WW Hugoton 17-0, 12-0; LL Hays 0-1, 1-16; LL Goddard Eisenhower 1-11, 9-12; LL Great Bend 5-8, 0-6; W Garden City 14-1; WW Woodward, Okla. 14-7, 10-0; Wichita North (WW); L Piedmont, Okla. 4-6; WW Holcomb 3-0; 9-6; WW SW Hts. 13-2; 15-0; L Dodge City 1-13; LL BV West 2-7; 0-9; W Dodge City 7-6; W Garden City 5-2; L Derby 0-3

DODGE CITY (3-5, 9-16)—WW Ulysses 11-3, 8-2; LL Newton 2-4, 2-6; LL Valley Center 4-10, 5-17; W Garden City 7-2; WW Salina Central 2-0, 7-3; L Junction City 1-12, L Manhattan 1-8; LL Hays 2-3, 2-18; L BV West 2-5, L Wichita Heights 2-8; W Garden City 13-3; LL Great Bend 0-1; 4-5; W Liberal 13-1; W Lawrence 2-1, L Free State 1-4; L Liberal 6-7; WL Goddard Eisenhower 7-2; 6-8; L Free State 0-6

GARDEN CITY (0-8, 7-12)—WW Wichita North 24-4, 17-2; WW Goodland 2-0, 8-1; L Dodge City 2-7; LL Hays 2-12, 3-9; L Liberal 1-14; W Junction City 6-0, L Manhattan 3-9; L Dodge City 3-13; WL Wichita Southeast 13-3; 0-5; LL Great Bend 2-8; 7-17; WL Hays TMP 20-5; 6-14; L Liberal 2-5; L Manhattan 3-4