ODESSA - Coach Brian Driskell’s youthful Grain Valley High School baseball team snubbed their noses at Mother Nature.
His team played error-free ball in less than ideal conditions and used timely hitting and solid pitching to claim its first Missouri River Valley Conference West win Wednesday evening on Odessa High School’s turf field.
Under inky gray skies and a constant drizzle, four Eagle pitchers handcuffed the Bulldogs – who managed just three hits – to pick up a 4-2 Missouri River Valley Conference West win and earn the respect of their coach.
“The guys showed me a lot today,” Driskell, said, after his team won its third in a row, improved to 3-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play. “No errors? That might be the turning point in a game like this. Trent (Flake) had a big hit (RBI double in the sixth inning) that gave us a little breathing room, but playing error-free ball might have been even more important.
“And the guys on the mound got the job done, too.”
Garrett Morrow was scheduled to start, but he is recovering from a minor ankle injury, so Driskell handed the ball to Anthony Blanchette, who responded with a win as he gave up just one run on two hits and had four strikeouts in four innings.
“The weather didn’t really affect me today because I didn’t have any time to think about it,” Branchette said. “I was told before the game I was going to start, so I just went out and tried to throw strikes. It was hard to get a good grip on the ball at times, but when it was too slick, I just asked for a new ball.”
He faced a tense situation in the first inning as the Bulldogs had a run home, and runners on first and second with just one out. But he managed a strikeout and pop out to catcher Crichton Hill to get out of the inning.
“That was huge, maybe a turning point even that early in the game,” Hill said. “All our guys were throwing strikes, and I don’t know how they were doing it. I couldn’t get a good grip on the ball just throwing it back to our pitchers.”
Hill had an RBI single in the top of the first and Josh Kilpatrick doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch in the third to make it a 2-1 game.
“In a game like this, against a conference opponent and in these conditions, every run is huge,” Kilpatrick said. “We all had so much confidence in our pitchers, we felt like when we got the lead, we were going to win the game.”
Hill walked and scored on Flake’s double in the sixth. Flake then scored when Odessa’s Will Fox couldn’t handle a Morrow fly ball in the outfield, making it a 4-1 game.
“We just wanted to keep it going and try to score as many runs as possible,” Flake said. “This is our first conference game and its against a big rival, so we all wanted to win tonight.”
Jake Shafer relieved Blanchette in the fifth and recorded five strikeouts in two shutout innings.
“I come into a game with a chip on my shoulder,” Shafer said. “I want to throw a first pitch strike, then a ball, then come back a strike. It was wet on the mound and the ball was slippery, but that didn’t bother me at all.”
The Bulldogs made it interesting in the bottom of the seventh as Grain Valley reliever Mickey Simpson walked the first three batters he faced.
The lead batter, Jake Smith, attempted to steal third and was thrown out by Hill when he overslid the bag.
Jonas Bennett then greeted Eagles reliever Nick House with an RBI single, leaving the tying runs on first and second base.
“I go into any situation with the same goal – to throw strikes and not think about who’s on base or anything like that,” said House, who struck out the last two Bulldogs to quell the threat. “My job is to throw strikes and get outs – and that’s what I did. I’m just happy we were able to win the game.”