Brian Driskell spent much of the weekend trying to determine who the starting pitcher would be in his Grain Valley High School baseball team's opening Class 5 District 14 semifinal game against Blue Springs South.
Should he go with his junior ace Jacob Misiorowski, who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State University, or reliable junior Max Chapman, who has been so effective all season?
As it turned out, both juniors played a huge role – along with a Josh Kilpatrick – in Tuesday's dramatic 3-2 win over Blue Springs in a game that featured an unlikely hero.
The 20-10 Eagles scored two runs in the top of the first inning on Caden Matlon's two-run single, and Chapman made that lead stand until the fourth inning, when Blue Springs' Blake Stegner stroked a two-run double off reliever Parker Bosserman to knot it 2-2.
The real drama on the mound came in the top of the sixth inning when Misiorowski came in from the bullpen. If the Eagles won the game, he was slotted as the starter against Blue Springs South, in a game tentatively scheduled for 4 p.m. today at South (It could be moved to Grain Valley if crews can pump the excess water out of the outfield before game time).
A new Missouri State High School Activities Association rules state a pitcher can throw 30 pitches and still be used the next day.
"We were going to give him 30 pitches and see what happened," Driskell said. "Max and Parker did a great job for us, but we needed to bring in Jacob to get those last few outs."
With runners on second and third, Misiorowski struck out two Wildcats to end the sixth.
In the bottom of the inning, Kilpatrick hit his first home run of the season, a solo shot to left center field off Tanner Martin, to give the Eagles a 3-2 lead.
"That homer was huge, because it meant we had the lead and we could try to complete the plan of throwing Jacob 30 pitches," Driskell said. "I agonized over all the pitching decisions for this game, and thanks to our players, and Josh's homer, they all worked out."
Misiorowski struck out the first two Wildcats in the top of the seventh, and left the game following his 30th pitch, with leadoff hitter Mitchell Smith at the plate with a 2-2 count.
Jesse Scholtz came in from the pen and retired Smith on a groundout to set the state for today's championship game.
"I just came in and did my job, it wasn't a big deal to me that Jake was on the pitch count or that I was facing a guy with a 2-2 count," Scholtz said. "I just wanted to get a groundout, and I was able to do that."
When asked about the timing of his first home run, Kilpatrick broke into a huge smile.
"I thought it was a gapper," Kilpatrick said. "I was running hard and then I saw it go over the fence. Max threw a great game, our relievers got it done and we beat a really good Blue Springs team. This is a great day."
Misiorowski downplayed his role in the drama surrounding the game.
"I knew I had 30 pitches, and I tried to make the most of them," Misiorowski said. "I didn't want to leave, but we all have so much confidence in Jesse. We knew he was going to get the last out."
With his 30-pitch count Tuesday, Misiorowski can now throw up to 105 pitches against the Jaguars.
"I'm ready, ready for anything the team needs," Misiorowski said.
It was a tough loss for coach Tim McElligott's 11-23 Wildcats.
“People look at our record and think we didn't have a very good season," the veteran Wildcats coach said. "But we had a great season. We have so many great kids on this team. It's so hard to say goodbye to them, especially the seniors. This one will hurt for a while, but Brian's kids played a great game, got the big hits and Chapman did a great job in a big-time start."