Great Bend trio of P-CF Carson Umphres; 1B/RF-P Tyler Stuhlsatz and LF/P Koehn Ribordy earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference baseball honors. Great Bend (13-10, 4-4 WAC) upset WAC champion Hays High 3-1 and beat Andover High 4-3 to qualify for the 5A state baseball tournament. State champion Wichita Carroll beat the Panthers 6-0 at the 5A state tournament.
Umphres (5-4, 2.90 ERA) struck out 37 batters and pitched the Panthers past rival Hays in the 5A regional. Umphres batted .467 (35-75) with eight doubles, 16 runs scored and 24 RBIs. Stuhlsatz (3-2, 4.50 ERA) delivered a .352 average (30-85) with 23 runs scored as the Panthers' leadoff batter. Stuhlsatz earned the victory against 4A state champion McPherson. Ribordy batted .333 (17-51).
Panther 1B Ian Premer and P/2B Edwin Chavez earned second-team All-WAC honors.
His assessment proved correct as the Indians played all eight of their WAC games to begin the season, compiling an impressive 7-1 record that would prove to be enough to win the championship by two games over Dodge City’s 5-3 mark.
Liberal’s junior standout, Brooks Kappelmann, combined a strong season pitching with a solid offensive output and was voted the WAC’s Player of the Year by the respective coaches.
For Dreher, the season was a proverbial roller-coaster as the Indians would then play some of the top Class 5A and 6A teams in Kansas the remainder of the spring, winning just four more games and falling to rival Great Bend in the Class 5A regional semifinals to finish the year at 11-10.
However, the Indians proved to be the best of the WAC and that was enough to give Dreher a lot of positives for a team that lost multiple seniors from the 2022 team that dominated behind two-time WAC Player of the Year Dylan Dreiling.
While Dreher didn’t have anyone to match the 2021 pitching excellence of Dreiling or his 2022 hitting exploits, the Indians did enough to take seven of those eight WAC contests.
“We had a group of seniors (7) who got playing time in 2022 and while we lost some great players, I thought this group just found ways to win games, especially those early WAC contests,” Dreher said.
The pitching was mostly by committee, Dreher said, as Greg Hughes went 3-3 with a team-high 38 innings pitched. Sophomore Carter Graham went 2-1 with 22 innings pitched and fellow underclassmen Cooper Johnson was 2-0 in 11 innings of work. The mound corps compiled an ERA of 4.54.
Hitting-wise, the Indians averaged just more than five runs a game while compiling a team batting average of .247. Junior Cooper Sanders was the top hitter for Dreher, posting a .313 average with 21 hits, 12 RBIs and 21 runs scored.
“Cooper’s a scrappy player for us,” Dreher said of Sanders. The head coach is looking forward to having a strong group returning for 2024 with expectations of bigger and better things, especially outside the WAC. “We played an incredibly tough schedule after WAC, so we know the things we have to improve if we want to get back to competing at the state level.”
The reference was to the 2021 Dreiling-led team that placed third in Class 5A state.
“The seniors we had this year had been playing together since third or fourth grade, so they’re baseball-wise very knowledgeable. They know and understand the game.”
WAC PLAYER OF YEAR
Brooks Kappelmann credits his coaches and his own ability to listen to them for his breakout season for the Redskins in a spring that saw his squad lose several heartbreakers.
The Redskins finished the overall spring with a 10-11 record and went 3-5 in the WAC, but the right-handed pitcher was good enough on the mound and at the plate to impress the league’s coaches when they voted him the 2023 WAC Player of the Year.
“It’s a great honor and it’s been great to play with my teammates,” Kappelmann said. “There’s a lot of other great players in the league, so I’m humbled to win this.”
Kappelmann’s pitching marks have to be evaluated closely to appreciate how good he was this season.
Despite a 4-4 won-loss record, Kappelmann pitched 51.1 innings, and more impressively compiled a 1.09 earned-run-average. He recorded 82 strikeouts while walking just 18. He added one save and yielded just 8 earned runs. His 82 strikeouts is believed to be a school record.
“I just listened to my coaches and worked on the mental side of the game,” Kappelmann said. “I just grew more and felt more comfortable and confident when I was pitching.”
Kappelmann said he improved his curveball but wants to fine tune his change-up heading into his senior season in 2024. He said his highlight game was a 7-2 victory over Dodge City when he went 6.2 innings before yielding the two runs.
When not pitching, Kappelmann was occupying the strategic shortstop position and also making life miserable for opposing pitchers.
“I was working hard to be a good leader on the field,” Kappelman said. “We had a young team and we made some mistakes throughout games. We lost some really tough games and we learned a lot and I think we will be much better next year for that reason.
Two losses to Hays were by one and two runs; they had a one-run loss to Wichita North; a pair of one-run setbacks to Russell/Victoria and a two run loss to Dodge City were all games in which the Redskins had opportunities to win.
One of the best wins for the Redskins came on May 1 when they defeated Class 2A powerhouse Elkhart, 4-2. It was Elkhart’s first loss of the year and that Wildcat team finished third in the Class 2-1A state tournament last week.
He batted .394 while getting 26 hits in 66 at-bats. He had 20 RBIs and 20 runs scored. Nine of his 26 hits went for extra bases and he had an on-base percentage of .506.
“I was able to hit the ball harder this year and found some gaps,” Kappelmann said. “I got more power into the alleys.
Joining Kappelmann on the WAC first-team was teammate Aidan Schwindt; Hays’ Cooper Sanders and Carson Spray; Garden City’s Hayden Bailey; Dodge City’s Arec Mendoza; and Great Bend’s Carson Umphres, Tyler Stuhlsatz, and Koehn Ribordy. Hays’ Dreher was voted Coach of the Year.
FIRST TEAM ALL WAC
LIBERAL—P/SS Brooks Kappelmann, 11; C/SS Aidan Schwindt, 11
GREAT BEND—P-CF Carson Umphres, 10; 1B/RF-P Tyler Stuhlsatz, 12; LF/P Koehn Ribordy, 9
HAYS HIGH—SS Cooper Sanders, 11; P/3B Carson Spray, 12
DODGE CITY—P/SS Arec Mendoza, 11
GARDEN CITY—OF Hayden Bailey, 12
PLAYER OF YEAR—Brooks Kappelmann, Liberal
COACH OF YEAR—Dustin Dreher, Hays High
SECOND TEAM ALL-WAC
LIBERAL—P/OF Zayden Martinez, 11; C/OF Alex Schwindt, 10
GARDEN CITY—C/IB Austin Elam, 12; 3B/P Luis Varela, 12
DODGE CITY—3B Manny Rodriguez, 12; C Sage Riekenberg, 12
GREAT BEND—1B Ian Premer, 9; P/2B Edwin Chavez, 12
HAYS HIGH—1B Bradyn Dreher, 12
Hays High 7-1 11-10
Dodge City 5-3 9-11
Great Bend 4-4 13-10
Liberal 3-5 10-11
Garden City 1-7 7-14
HAYS (7-1, 11-10)—WW Liberal 9-8, 5-3; WW *Garden City 5-0, 11-3; WL *Great Bend 5-4, 4-5; WW *Dodge City 12-2, 7-3; L St. James 0-15; L DeSoto 1-5; L Tonganoxie 1-13; L Paola 2-7; L Gardner-Edgerton 2-10; W St. Marys 14-4; W TMP 11-1; L Manhattan 1-9; L Life Prep 4-7; W Brush, Colo. 14-3 WL Washburn Rural 8-1; 1-6; L Great Bend 1-3
DODGE CITY (5-3, 9-11)—WW Ulysses 7-0, 12-6; W Salina Central 11-10; L Newton 0-12; LL Valley Center 1-11, 5-15; L *Liberal 2-7; LL *Hays High 2-12, 3-7; L Blue Valley West 0-11; L Wichita Heights 2-7; WW *Great Bend 4-3, 8-7; WW *Garden City 13-3, 5-1; LL Emporia 0-11; L Mill Valley 3-9; W *Liberal 5-3; W Wichita Northwest 5-4; L Derby 0-10
GREAT BEND (4-4, 13-10)—LL Kapaun 7-8, 1-7; WW Hutchinson 13-3, 16-6; WL Liberal 15-1, 4-7; WL *Hays High 5-4, 4-5; W McPherson 6-4; W Rose Hill 8-7; W *Garden City 17-4, 4-3; WW Hays TMP 14-4, 4-2; LL *Dodge City 3-4, 7-8; W Salina South 7-3; L Junction City 0-7; LL Manhattan 0-6, 0-12; W Hays High 3-1; W Andover High 4-3; L Wichita Carroll 0-6
LIBERAL (3-5, 10-11)—WW Hugoton 10-0, 18-6; W *Garden City 14-4; LL Hays 8-9, 3-5; WL Great Bend 7-4, 1-15; W *Dodge City 7-2; WW Woodward, Okla. 14-5, 16-6; L *Garden City 1-4; WL Wichita North 11-0, 9-10; LL Russell 1-2, 6-7; W Elkhart 4-2, W Stanton County 15-0; L Maize 2-8, L Wichita West 1-7; L *at Dodge City 3-5; L Wichita Heights 4-7
GARDEN CITY (1-7, 7-14)—WW Wichita North 7-3, 19-4; LL Hays 0-5, 3-11; L *Liberal 4-14; WL Goodland 12-10, 3-4; LL Junction City 6-9, 8-14; W *Liberal 4-1; L *Great Bend 4-17, 3-4; WW Wichita Southeast 15-0, 17-1; LL *Dodge City 3-13, 1-5; WL Scott City 14-4, 1-8; LL Hays TMP 2-17, 6-13; L Topeka High 8-14