A couple teams of Pirates made life tough for first-year Grain Valley softball coach Calvin Valvo and his young Eagles team.
In their first two games of the Greater Kansas City Softball Tournament, the Eagles fell to the Platte County Pirates 5-3 and then were spread 11-1 in their second game by the Pirates from Belton.
“We knew we had a lot of work to do,” said Valvo, a retired coach and teacher who moved from Las Vegas to replace Jim Oliver, the new activities director at Pleasant Hill High School. “Now, the girls know what we’ve been talking about. After watching these two games, the proof is in the pudding. Time to get to work.”
While the Eagles placed second in the Class 3 state tournament last year, senior shortstop Taylor Mays is the lone returning starter off that club, and she came out of the gate swinging, collecting three doubles, three RBIs and scoring a run.
“We have a lot of new girls on the team, and most of them played JV last year,” Mays said. “But we’re going to get better. We did some good things in the first game and lost to a really good Belton team in the second game.
“I’m excited about this season. We didn’t want the season to start like this, but we know we have a lot of work to do and we’re ready to do it.”
Platte County stroked five hits and scored all five runs in the bottom of the third inning off starter Jordyn Tieman, who was making her varsity debut.
“I pitched JV last year and know I have to do better than I did today,” said Tieman, who showed great poise on the mound by recording two scoreless innings after the five-run explosion. “We’re going to be a very good team, I just know we are. I have a lot of faith in the girls, and I know they have faith in me. We lost our first two games, but we’re going to be all right and win like all Grain Valley teams win.”
Under Oliver, the Eagles won five consecutive conference crowns and advanced to last year’s state championship game before falling 3-0 to defending champion Centralia.
“This team has had a lot of success,” Valvo said. “The girls are working hard, and now we know we need to play better defense and do better at the plate with runners in scoring position.”
The Eagles left the bases loaded twice in the first game. One especially frustrating situation took place when a batter struck out, to end an inning, and the next three Eagles collected hits to start the next inning.
“We hit the ball pretty well in the first game, but just couldn’t come up with the big hit,” Valvo said. “That’s something we’ll be working on.”
Valvo said the second game allowed him to “play around with the lineup” as Belton’s Katie Giacone allowed just three hits – including two Mays’ doubles – and added two, two-run doubles when she hit from the cleanup position.
Grain Valley’s Raegan Duncan pitched four innings and allowed eight runs, and Mays allowed three runs in the fifth to see the game end with a 10-run spread.
Michela Gutierrez and Kaylee Hutchens had two hits each for the 0-2 Eagles.
Mallory Stoner was the winning pitcher for Platte County in the first game.
FORT OSAGE LOSES TWO: Fort Osage fell to Kearney 6-3 and Smithville 7-1 in Pool H play Friday at the Greater Kansas City Tournament at Adair Park.
Paige Hayden singled and tripled with two RBIs and Katy Divers had a RBI single in the loss to perennial-power Kearney. A three-run third inning snapped a 1-1 tie and gave Kearney the lead for good.
“For our first game, I thought we played well,” Fort Osage coach Kelly Sullivan said.
Divers singled in the only run in the Smithville loss. Smithville grabbed a 4-0 lead in the first inning on four hits.
“Even though the outcome wasn’t what we would like to see, we were pleasantly pleased with some things we saw from this young team,” Sullivan said.
Fort Osage faces Grain Valley at 5:45 p.m. today in bronze bracket play.
OAK GROVE SPLITS: Oak Grove split its Pool B games in the Greater KC Tournament, falling 11-1 to Lee’s Summit North and defeating Oak Park 9-7 on Wednesday.
Kaitlyn Marsh suffered the loss against North, and Jennelle Nausbach pitched the Oak Park win. Katie Carr hit a single, double and two-run homer with three RBIs, and Savannah Taylor singled and doubled.
“We hung in there with North,” Oak Grove coach Jesse Edwards said. “They got a lot of timely hits. We left a lot of runners on base. Against Oak Park we got the hits when we needed them. We had good leadoff batters in every inning.”
North won the pool and faces Truman at 4 p.m. today in the championship bracket. Oak Grove plays in the silver bracket at 4.