Spirited run ends with Campus softball in first Kansas state title game since 2002

A group of five seniors who took their lumps as four-year starters ended their careers in style, leading the Campus softball team to its first state championship appearance in more than two decades.

It was a significant achievement for the group to just return to state, where the Colts hadn’t played since 2017.

But Campus wasn’t satisfied with merely reaching Lawrence for the Class 6A state tournament. The team run-ruled Lawrence Free State in Thursday’s opener, topped Olathe South in the semifinals, then battled in a 10-4 loss to Olathe Northwest in Friday evening’s championship game.

It was a Cinderella run for a Campus team that won just four games two seasons ago when seniors Gabrielle Stauffer, Ava Baker, Londyn Ysidro, Abigail Araiza and Kylah Parson were sophomores. The Colts finished with an 18-7 record this season.

It was first appearance in the state finals since 2002 when Oklahoma State-bound ace Jessica Hoppock powered the Colts to a runner-up finish in 2002.

Campus grabbed an immediate lead in Friday’s championship against Olathe Northwest, as Araiza, the lead-off batter, was hit by a pitch and freshmen Emerleigh Cooper tripled the next at-bat. Parson singled in Cooper for a 2-0 lead.

Olathe Northwest clawed back a run in the second inning, but Campus extended its cushion with a solo home run by Ysidro to lead off the top of the fourth inning.

When the Ravens (22-5) answered back with a solo homer of their own in the bottom-half of the inning, Campus came through with another lead-off home run in the top of the fifth inning when Cooper crushed one over the center-field fence for a 4-2 lead.

But Olathe Northwest roared back in the bottom of the fifth inning, taking the lead on a three-run home run and then tacking on another run to build a 6-4 lead. The Ravens tacked on four more in the next inning, as Campus never recovered from the rally.

While the five seniors played a crucial role in leading the team to the state finals, Campus also had major contributions from a pair of juniors, Minnick and Ava Strohm, and a trio of freshmen, Cooper, Lillian Clements and Alexis Butler.