• Eagles happy to break playoff barrier

  • Jim Oliver’s buddies at Grain Valley High School are going to have to find a new nickname for the Eagles softball coach.

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  • Jim Oliver’s buddies at Grain Valley High School are going to have to find a new nickname for the Eagles softball coach.
    “They jokingly called me the Marty Schottenheimer of Grain Valley softball,” said Oliver, who was 0-5 in district championship games going into this year’s final against Odessa.
    The reference was to the former Kansas City Chiefs coach who was the winningest coach in the NFL during the 1990s, but he could never lead his team to playoff success and a Super Bowl win.
    Oliver’s Eagles made sure their coach would finally get a district title by hammering Odessa 8-3 in the Class 3 District 14 title game, ending four years of frustration for senior third baseman Jordan Orth and second baseman Kelli Hill.
    “To win district as a senior is amazing,” Orth said. “We came close in the past, had great seasons, but never won district. You just want to scream and yell and get all excited. Now, the sky’s the limit at sectional.”
    The 22-5 Eagles, who also celebrated their fifth straight Missouri River Valley Conference West title this season, will play host to 17-8 Nevada 5:30 p.m. today in the first sectional game in Eagles history.
    “It’s so great to have the game at home,” Hill said, “because we have the best fans. And we know they’re going to be out there supporting us. We can’t wait.”
    Neither can their coach.
    “It was pretty nice to be a part of that 5-0 win over Oak Grove to start district,” Oliver said. “I told the girls all season to keep working on their fundamentals. That’s what I’ve been preaching all season – make the plays and you’re going to win some games.
    “And it was nice to get some runs early – it was 1-0 going into the third inning then Taylor Mays came up with a three-run home run to break it open for us.
    “I was surprised by the score of the Odessa game – we came out swinging and the girls did really well. We scored three runs before we made out first out, that gave us some breathing room against a very good team.”
    Oliver has two aces up his sleeve as he heads into the sectional matchup as 14-2 Brooklynne Simbeck has developed into one of the premier pitchers in the area. She owns a 16-strikeout, no-hit victory over Excelsior Springs and had 17 strikeouts in a victory over Class 4 district champion Blue Springs South.
    If Simbeck isn’t on the mound, 8-3 Lexie Worden starts for the Eagles.
    “It’s great to have two pitchers the caliber of Brooklynne and Lexie,” Oliver said. “They throw a lot of strikes and make it easy on the defense because of the way they pitch.”
    Page 2 of 2 - CLASS 4: First-year Blue Springs South softball head coach Kristi Williams had not experienced a district championship since her first year as an assistant for retired coach Vickie Brummel.
    Williams’ 18-13 Jaguars overcame a 4-0 deficit to down favored Lee’s Summit North 8-6 and blanked another favorite, Lee’s Summit, 5-0 to reach the title game against crosstown rival Blue Springs. South grabbed a 4-0 lead and held on for a 6-5 victory enabling the Jaguars to play host to 19-10 Raymore-Peculiar at 4 p.m. today.
    “We’re all excited to be playing in a sectional game, especially a sectional game at our place,” Williams said. “We had a tough district and found a way to win three very exciting games.”
    While sectional play is newfound territory for Grain Valley and Blue Springs South, it’s familiar ground for Amy Temples’ 27-3 Truman Patriots, who went to state two years ago and lost to Liberty in sectional play last season.
    Truman will travel to 22-8 Platte County for a 5:30 p.m. game today. The Patriots defeated Winnetonka 14-4 and Kearney 1-0 to advance to sectional play.
    “The girls are really playing well right now,” said Temples, the second-year head coach. “We’re thrilled to be in sectionals. We’re really playing well right now. We had some questions after we lost our last game of the (regular) season to Blue Springs South, but the girls have bounced back and are hitting the ball well and we always know what to expect from Paige (Parker, the Truman all-state pitcher).”

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