With the wind blowing out to the outfield fences, the Grain Valley baseball team took advantage Monday.
The Eagles bats were cooking as they sent 12 hitters to the dish in the first inning and 15 in the second as they had a hit parade in a 17-2 rout of Missouri River Valley Conference West rival Oak Grove.
In the bottom of the first, Grain Valley began the game with eight straight hits, which included five straight of the extra-base variety. The inning was highlighted by a wind-assisted two-run home run from designated hitter Crichton Hill. He deposited a pitch from Jared Pemberton over the left-field fence. Caden Matlon and and winning pitcher Garrett Morrow added RBI doubles to deep center field.
“I just got enough of it and the wind took it on over,” Hill said of his first home run of the season. “That felt pretty good.”
After taking a 6-0 lead in the first, the Eagles chased Pemberton when Josh Kilpatrick led off the second with a double at Matlon drove him in with a single to center. That’s when Oak Grove coach Evan Jones decided to play players who had never pitched at the varsity level before. It led to a nine-run inning for Grain Valley, which was highlighted by a two-run infield error and Max Chapman’s two run bloop single to left.
“We knew the conditions coming in and knew we were going to have to make plays in the field,” Jones said. “When the ball goes up, we have to get a better jump on it. The balls that fell, shouldn’t be falling. Once they got past our first guy, we didn’t want to waste any of our other pitching. So we just put guys out there who don’t even pitch.”
Grain Valley assistant coach Dom Giangrosso said that his team’s approach at the plate is what has led to its success as of late on offense.
The Eagles have scored five or more runs in 13 consecutive games.
“We took advantage of pitches up in the zone on hitters’ counts,” Giangrosso said. “One concern we had coming into the year was our hitting. But we preached a good approach and the guys have taken that advice. They wait to see the pitch that they like then jump on it.”
Added Kilpatrick: “I think we’re just confident. We just talked about taking good swings and driving the ball to the opposite field. It’s been working out. We can hit one through nine.”
While Grain Valley (14-9, 5-1 MRVC West) took a 16-0 lead at the end of two innings, Morrow said that the time he had to sit between innings actually threw him off his game some.
He did pick up the win as he allowed two earned runs on four hits and struck out six in the win. After dominating in the first three innings, he gave up a pair of RBI doubles to Clay Griffin and Justin Barnham.
“It really took an advantage away from me,” Morrow said. “I came into this game pumped up. Then we put up 17 runs. It feels good, but it’s hard to focus between innings and try to calm down. It relaxes you, but sometimes, it over-relaxes you. It made it to where I made mistakes with my pitches and location.”
Kilpatrick was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, Matlon finished 2-for-2 with a double, two runs scored and three RBIs; and Max Chapman was 2-for-3 with three RBIs for the Eagles.
Griffin had two hits to pace the Panthers (8-11, 2-5).