WAMEGO, KS. (KSNT) – For the second time in three seasons, Wamego took home the 4A softball state title.

The ace pitcher of the 2023 team was sophomore Peyton Hardenburger.

Her numbers were flat out dominant. In the state semifinals and championship game, she pitched two complete games, allowing zero hits, zero runs and striking out 29. Wamego won both games 1-0.

“She’s just, ‘I’ll take my opportunity when I get it,’ and obviously as you can see she took those opportunities and capitalized on a pretty well,” Wamego head softball coach Luke Meyer said.

Those numbers are a reflection of her regular season, where she averaged 16.9 strikeouts per game. In seven innings, that means her teammates only had to help out for an average of four outs per game.

“At the beginning of the season, I definitely got some words from my shortstop Ashten Pierson,” Peyton said. “She’s like, ‘Dang man, you got to give me some balls.’ [I said] you’re already committed, it’s my turn.”

No pitcher in Kansas history has gone a full season without giving up a run. Peyton was scoreless until the substate championship game, giving up two runs against Bishop Miege. In her opinion, that was two too many.

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“I gave up those two runs against a really harsh competitor,” Peyton said. “But it’s always good to have that in the back of your mind as motivation. Like you’re always chasing something I know, I still have two more years to crack that record and leave a mark on Kansas.”

The real key to Peyton’s success is how she powers through the struggles.

“She just kind of has this look, you know, of determination on her face and is, ‘Don’t mess with me right now. I’ve got business.'” Miranda Hardenburger, Peyton’s mom, said. “And so we saw that look, there were no outs in the Eudora, game bases loaded and then three strikeouts in a row. Saw the body language in the face shift. And it was ‘Here’s the next gear!'”

When Wamego lost in the semifinals of the state tournament her freshman year, she took it personally.

“Ever since then I’ve been hungry for that moment. It’s just working overtime. Trying to correct and use your failures to grow,” Peyton said. “I have been pushing and pushing myself for that moment exactly, and I think having those two no-hitters on the biggest stage you can in Kansas high school is just the cherry on top.”

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Even with her success, she still takes a step back to look at the bigger picture.

“At these games, you see little boys wanting autographs from us girls, it’s just something that you kind of rarely see,” Peyton said. “God didn’t just give me a talent to go out and throw a softball. He gave me it as a platform to speak to younger kids and teach them how to not only be a beast on the field, but be a kind human being that genuinely cares for other people.”

Wamego beat Eudora 1-0 to win the 4A state title.