CHEROKEE, Kan. – The Southeast Lancers made school history in every Spring sport this season, and on Sunday June 4, the teams and their families came together to share their successes.
The young Southeast softball team went 6-15 despite having low numbers – only nine girls played in Regionals, but a freshman broke the school’s home run record. Four school records were broken in Track & Field, and a sophomore is believed to be the first girl from Southeast to earn multiple individual medals at State. And, for the first time in the program’s history, the Southeast Baseball team qualified for the State Tournament by winning their Regional Championship.
Baseball Coach David Dainty said the path to that Championship began before they set foot on the field.
“We started the season not by trying to add up wins and losses or trying to do anything like that, we started the season by saying we wanted to set a higher standard for us than we ever have,” Coach Dainty told those in attendance. “That was at the beginning of the year and that was talked about in the classroom, in grades, detention, tardiness, attendance, and practice. We had a thing called ‘player ownership’ where they came up with their own rules for discipline. They came up with rules where you could not fail at anything else in school and be a part of the baseball team.”
Coach Dainty explained that the players came up with their own rules and punishments. If you were late to practice you ran drills. If you were at detention, you missed practice, so that player missed even more practice time because they ran even more drills.
There was a zero F policy. If they didn’t have homework done, they sat at practice and did their homework, then they ran drills for every minute of practice they missed.
“Within about three weeks they figured out that there are more important things to building a winning team than just having good athletes and competing in baseball games, and I believe that is why this group accomplished everything they did this season,” Coach Dainty said. “They set the standard higher than they ever have before in all walks of athletics and they absolutely accomplished it. I couldn’t be any more proud of what they did off the field and on the field.”
The season started well – an 8-1 record and the team was ranked 4th in the State for Class 3A.
“We were feeling pretty good, everybody was patting us on the back, telling us how good we were, and then we lost five games straight,” Coach Dainty said. “After we lost five games straight we had a challenge because we set goals at the beginning of the year – they wanted to be the school’s first regional baseball champions ever. That was the top goal of the season. They wanted to go to the state tournament.”
But the five consecutive losses took a toll on the team.
“They gave up on themselves a little bit,” Coach Dainty said. “We had a talk, and a five hour practice, and they never gave up one minute after that moment. When they realized that had three weeks left and all of their goals were still ahead of them, even though they had five losses in the middle of the season and everybody talked about how we were on a downhill slide, they kept the ultimate goal in mind.”
The team lost its doubleheader to Frontenac, swept Columbus, and entered Regionals as a #3 seed. One of four CNC teams to qualify for the State Baseball Tournament, Southeast finished their regular season 5-8 in the CNC and 10-8 overall.
Southeast hosted #6 Erie (6-8) on May 16. C.J. Peacock, Cole Burdette, and Hunter Jameson combined to throw 13 strikeouts in the 6 to 0 shutout.
In Day 2 of Regional play, held at Erie on May 18, Southeast took an early lead against #2 Jayhawk Linn (14-4) when Brett Malle drove in two runs during the 2nd inning. The Lancers never looked back, outscoring JHL 12 to 1. Hunter Jameson through 101 pitches, striking out 6 batters, before Triston Gardner came in to finish off the game in relief.
Later that night, Southeast faced Humboldt (15-4) in the Regional Championship game. It was a game many in attendance called “an instant classic”. The visiting team, Southeast grabbed a 7 to 1 lead going into the bottom of the 5th inning, when Humboldt rallied to make it a 1 run game. Two innings later, in the final inning of regulation, Humboldt tied it up forcing the game to go into extra innings. As storms approached Erie, neither team managed to finish off the other in the 8th inning – with the game still tied at 7.
In the top of the 9th, Brett Malle singled on a line drive to center field. One pitch later umpires called for a lightning delay.
One hour later the game resumed, and Malle promptly stole 2nd. Malle then scored on a double by Dylan Wilson. Triston Gardner’s sacrifice then advanced Wilson to 3rd base. A few batters later, Cole Burdette hit a towering fly ball to center field for a triple, driving in Wilson. Burdette was driven in by Jake Burns.
Down 10 to 7 going into the bottom of the 7th, Humboldt again rallied. Two runs and two outs later, with runners on both 1st and 2nd base, C.J. Peacock struck out the final batter to give the Lancers the 10 to 9 win.
Coach Dainty said the entire time, the Lancers kept their ultimate goal in mind.
“That absolutely showed in the regional championship against Humboldt when there were so many innings that they could have given up and they kept fighting,” Coach Dainty said. “They came back and fought and they won 10 to 9 in a 9 inning ballgame and that showed every ounce of character that these kids have outside of just being baseball players.”
At the State Tournament held in Manhattan on May 25, Southeast was the #6 seed, and beat #3 Eskridge-Mission Valley (19-3) 8 to 0. It was a game dominated by seniors Cole Burdette and Hunter Jameson. Burdette had three doubles – two of them ground rule doubles that bounced out of the stadium and could have been triples or even in the park home runs, and scored two runs. In addition to driving in 2 RBI’s, Jameson pitched all 7 innings, allowing only 5 batters to get on base, and picking off two of them as base runners.
The Lancers concluded their first ever win at state when a fly ball was caught by leftfield freshmen Bryce Petersen, who had been filling in for senior Triston Gardner, who had injured his knee earlier in the game.
Of the four teams that made it to the 3A State semifinal round, Southeast was the only school that was not a #1 seed at their Regional and was the only team to not have a bye at Regionals. Entering Regionals, the other three State semifinalists had combined for a record of 49-6, an 89% winning percentage.
On May 26, Southeast took an early lead but could not hang on against #2 Marion/Lost Springs (23-2) in the semifinal, losing 8 to 6 in what Dainty called “a dogfight”.
Later that day, Southeast faced #4 Silver Lake (18-6) in the 3rd Place game. Silver Lake – who has won 15 baseball state titles in their history, 4 of them since 2005 – jumped out to an early lead of 7 to 0 after 3 innings. This time, it was the Lancers time to rally
“We found ourselves down seven to nothing, and we battled all the way back,” Coach Dainty said.
After a two run inning in the top of the 4th, the Lancers came alive in the top of the 6th. Dylan Wilson was the first to get on base, on a walk. Freshmen Bryce Petersen and Reece Jacobs each singled, Jacobs driving Wilson in for the first of 4 runs that would be scored that inning. Cole Burdette doubled and drove in a run, then Jake Burns singled, driving in two more runs.
It wasn’t enough as Silver Lake brought the final score to 8 to 6.
The Lancers finished their season 14-10, Regional Champions, and 4th in the State. At the State tournament, the Lancers scored more runs than any other team, and won all but two innings.
“We had just two bad innings and unfortunately it cost us,” Coach Dainty said. “This team showed that not only are they the Regional Champions of the area; the best baseball team we have ever had in this high school hands down, bar none, no question; but they can compete at the state level.”
The baseball team wasn’t the only one making school history this Spring.
Freshman Katie Bitner broke the school’s home run record in Softball, hitting six for the season. In Track, Junior Alli Markley broke the school’s Girls Discus record with a throw of 96’8”; junior Sarah Clausen, sophomores Jessie Jenkins and Taylor Myrick, and freshman Anna Thompson, broke the previous school record in the Girls 4×800 by running 12:51; Jackson broke the Girls Pole Vault school record by clearing 9’6”; and, Jenkins broke her own school record in the Girls 3200 Meter Run by more than 30 seconds – running a 12:28.
For the second year in a row, the Southeast Girls Track & Field Team was runner-up at the CNC League Meet.
“That’s a big accomplishment,” said Head Track Coach Nick Cheney Jr. “We only had 10 girls and Girard had 33, and in track numbers are very important, especially when you’re trying to win a team championship, so that was a very big deal. Sailor Jackson was CNC Champion in Pole Vault and Javelin and all of the other girls contributed in some way by placing in the top 6.”
Even though she had only been doing pole vault for about six weeks, Jackson now holds the school record in that event, was the CNC Champion in that event, and is believed to be the first Lancer girl to qualify for State in that event. She then medaled, taking 8th at State. Jackson also took 8th at State in Javelin. She’s believed to be the only Southeast girl to have multiple individual medals in the same year at the State Meet.
“We thought (the girls relay) would be able to get into State this year but I think we’re a year away,” Coach Cheney said. “We are very young, but everybody comes back on that team next year.”
Three others did qualify for State, however. For the second year in a row, sophomore Saydi Sullivan qualified for the Girls 300 Meter Hurdles. Sophomore Jaret Brumback qualified in the 110 Meter Hurdles.
“He took about two seconds off in the last two weeks and that is big – it all started to finally click for him,” Coach Cheney said of Brumback.
For the second year, sophomore Jessie Jenkins qualified for State in both the Girls 1600 Meter Run and 3200 Meter Run.
“She was fighting through some injuries the last month or so so she wasn’t up to par but she fought through it,” Coach Cheney said. “At State, Jessie finished 9th in the 3200. If she had been healthy she would have finished in the top five.”
“When we compete against people it’s fun,” Southeast Athletic Director Frank Pittman told the student-athletes. “I hate to tell you this, but I like to win, and it’s fun. I told somebody one time when you’re at that state level and you can win a state championship there’s no greater feeling that you will ever have. Till you’re there and you realize you don’t know how that feels.”
“Some of you getting into conference championships or individual championships, setting individual records, getting into the state playoffs – those are special – those are things that cannot be taken away,” Coach Pittman continued. “Those are yours. They belong to you, they belong to your parents, they belong to the school, and when you have those things it is a feeling that you can only describe. They cannot feel that, but you can when you accomplish those, and that is what makes it a great great thing. And when you have that, you’ll always want to have a little bit more success, and I hope we can continue to do that.”
“I’m very proud of what we’ve done this year, and we continue to get better, but I’m never satisfied with where we are and what we can do, I think most of you know that,” said Pittman. “We’re always going to try to improve and – man – is it great, great, great, to be a part of Southeast High School and this school district.”