Spring sports preview: Senior standouts support LHS baseball’s lofty postseason goals

Lawrence High junior Brooks Jones is jubilant during the regional championship against Free State on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.

There’s a bit of added motivation for Lawrence High baseball’s senior-heavy roster this spring after being denied a spot in last year’s state tournament by crosstown rival Free State – the very same team that LHS had cleared in the City Showdown before making its postseason run.

Last year’s finish to a 10-12 campaign with a remarkable midseason turnaround lit a fire in Brad Stoll’s senior class, the Lions coach said.

“It’s one of those that left a really bad taste in our mouth and made them extremely hungry,” Stoll said. “It’s always kind of in the back of our minds.”

LHS prepares to enter the season with a 26-game schedule, the first of its kind after the Kansas State High School Activities Association approved the long-sought extension last summer. This change means increased responsibility for the Lions’ two high-powered senior arms, Brooks Jones (LHP) and Vaughn Wells (RHP).

Stoll, referring to Jones as a “big-arm velocity guy with a really good breaking ball,” has high expectations for the former Tulane commit. The Lions coach had similar praise for Wells, pointing to the “ultra-competitive” senior’s slider.

Better yet, the Lions return a deep infield – seniors Sammy Stoll (1B), Austin Crawford (SS), Tyson Grammer (3B) and Koen Myers (C) – to build around this season. The Lions also retain their primary designated hitter, senior Connor Nowak, in the batting order.

“It’s as many seniors (14 total) as we’ve had in a long time here,” Stoll said. “I think they’re motivated … We’re optimistic and I think there’s some high goals to play deep in the postseason.”

LHS opens its season hosting Harrisburg (South Dakota) on Thursday.

Byrn pushing ‘winning way’ for LHS softball in Year 2

Lawrence High softball took a strong step forward last season, clawing through injuries and on-field woes to produce two All-Sunflower League honorees en route to a regional semifinal loss to Garden City.

LHS coach Mike Byrn, returning two key arms in senior Taylor Zeckser and sophomore Sophie Rowley, is ready to establish a winning expectation among his girls in his second year in charge.

“We’re ahead of where we were a year ago at this time,” Byrn said. “I still feel we’re a year away from being able to truly win. We have to establish a winning way before the wins come.”

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High coach Mike Byrn meets with his team on the mound during a 4-1 loss to Free State on Tuesday, May 2, 2023, at Free State High School.

The Lions return the majority of their infield – junior Maddie Crawford (3B), junior Harper Dye (2B/SS), junior Lydia Folks (1B) – alongside senior outfielder Charlie Burghart. Burghart is all that remains from last year’s senior outfield, which featured Journal-World All-Area selections Emme Dye and Hailey Ramirez.

Byrn is pleased with the power LHS returns to the plate this season.

“We have some kids that can swing the bat with great power,” Byrn said. “If we can clean up some simple fielding and throwing mistakes that haunted us last year, keeping us from being a .500 team, we will compete with everyone we play.”

LHS opens its season hosting Manhattan on March 22.

LHS girls soccer poised for improvement

A lack of experience tested a particularly young Lawrence High girls soccer program last spring, but last year’s 1-14 result is far from representative of where fourth-year coach Joe Comparato and his Lions can end up this season.

LHS, which knocked off rival Free State in last year’s City Showdown before falling to the Firebirds in their regional play-in match, returns plenty of youth this spring. However, the Lions will have to do without now-graduated keeper Cree Stewart in goal.

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

The Lawrence High girls soccer team gathers before the Class 6A regional play-in match versus Free State on Monday, May 15, 2023 at Lawrence High School.

Otherwise, the varsity roster features a young cast of sophomores Erin Derby, Elise Lawrence and Stella Comparato (an All-Area honorable mention), who contributed as first-year players, along with one freshman, five juniors and eight seniors.

LHS opens its season hosting Shawnee Mission North on March 19.

Experience leading LHS tennis this spring

The Lawrence High boys tennis team looks to build on last year’s success, which included a third-place Sunflower League title and two state qualifiers, this spring behind an array of experienced players.

Most notably, LHS returns sophomore state qualifier Jack Bauch after a 25-13 freshman singles campaign and a 10th-place finish at state. Rounding out the Lions’ leadership circle are senior Logan Daniels and juniors Josh Lavin and Asher Sikes.

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High freshman Jack Bauch returns a serve during the Lawrence High Invitational on Friday, April 21, 2023 at Lawrence High School.

Longtime coach Chris Marshall is most concerned with weather, as is the case with most coaches this spring. However, if March and April’s weather is anything like February’s, Marshall and his group will be in luck.

LHS opens its season at Emporia on March 26.

Three senior divers headline LHS girls swim squad

After a successful boys season under first-year head coach Elle Weber, the Lawrence High girls swim and dive team looks to build on a strong 2023 after longtime coach Kent McDonald handed the keys to Weber last spring.

At the front of the Lions’ pack are senior divers Emily Brandt, Meara Kingery and Sophie Wirth. Brandt is searching for another state berth after finishing seventh in the 1-meter dive at last year’s championships in Topeka.

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High head boys swim coach Elle Weber watches a race from the scorer’s table at the Lawrence Invitational on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, at the Lawrence Indoor Aquatic Center at Free State High School.

Weber will look to junior Ava Kohart to step into a leadership role this season after earning a spot on LHS’ state 200-freestyle relay team last year. The Lions coach also pointed to sophomore Violet Meinershagen as a varsity player to watch this spring.

LHS opens its season at Emporia on March 19 (divers) and March 21 (swimmers).

Returning seniors tasked with rebuilding LHS track

The pressure is on for Lawrence High track and field, but there’s plenty of gas in the tank for the Lions to make another late-season run.

Third-year Lions coach Audrey Pope-Trowbridge returns four key seniors – Harrison Kirkwood (discus), Kaden Douglas (discus), Paige Platt (high jump, javelin) and Emma Roman Nose (1,600-meter, 3,200-meter) – to help lay the groundwork for another trip to state.

“We have a ton of sibling sets on the team this year, which is a fun angle I think,” Pope-Trowbridge said. “We also have a group of kids ready to rebuild the program. Looking forward to working with all of them and seeing what we can do.”

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Lawrence High junior Emma Roman Nose passes the hurdle during the 2000-meter steeplechase on Friday at the Kansas Relays on April 14, 2023, at Rock Chalk Park.

Platt, who collected two medals in the high jump (second) and javelin (third) last year at state, and junior sprinter Riley Howell, who was a part of last year’s fifth-place 4×100 state team and also returns for the 100-meter, will certainly be a part of the state conversation again this season.

Other LHS athletes eager to break out include junior Gabby Reed (100-meter, 400-meter), junior Aubrie Magnuson (javelin), sophomore Joseph Lucas (jumper), and sophomore Tyler Dye (javelin).

LHS opens its season at the Topeka Mid-Winter Relays on March 21.

LHS golf returning key state contenders

After falling short of last year’s state tournament, the Lawrence High boys golf team returns to the fairway this spring with some added ambition and three key leaders on the scorecard.

All-Area senior Gunnar Wayenberg’s experience stands out among LHS coach John Moos’ bunch, as he tied for 21st individually at last year’s regional tournament in Olathe and fell just short of a seat at the state table.

Junior Nate Schworm, who placed one spot ahead of Wayenberg at last season’s regional to nail down his own All-Area status, and sophomore Andrew Kirkwood, who tied for 45th in the Lions’ postseason finale, are set to return and contend for state spots alongside Wayenberg this spring.

LHS’ season tees off with the Shawnee Mission East Invitational Tournament on March 25 at Kansas City Country Club.

This story has been corrected to reflect the accurate composition of the Lawrence High girls soccer roster.


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