Grain Valley baseball rallies to clip Falcons in regular season finale with late-inning heroics

Bill Althaus
The Examiner

The Grain Valley baseball team’s regular-season finale Tuesday had a bit of everything.

Coach Brian Driskell's never-say-die squad rallied for a 3-2 seventh-inning, walk-off win over Staley that featured a Disney-esque moment between a father and a son.

Starting pitcher Cole Keller allowed two runs in the top of the third inning on two walks and a two-run single by Staley's Matt Riehkoff.

"I got back to the dugout and Coach G (Dom Giangrosso) told me I was leaning to one side and that my mechanics were off," said Keller, who did not allow another run through six innings. "He helped correct that little flaw and I felt pretty good the rest of the game."

He really felt good when he hit a solo home run in the bottom of the third that was caught by his biggest fan – his father, John.

"John caught Cole's homer in his hat," Driskell said with a laugh after the Eagles put the wraps on a 20-8 regular season. "I looked out and saw someone catch the homer in his hat. So I sent one of our freshmen out to tell John that he needed to give us the ball back (for use in the game)."

But Keller's father wasn't buying it.

"I said, 'No way!'" John Keller said, grinning. "There was no way I was going to give up that home run – especially after I caught it in my hat."

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The Falcons took that 2-1 lead into the bottom of the seventh when Cole Keller collected his second hit of the game, beating out a slow roller to shortstop.

The ball was overthrown and he sprinted to second base on the error.

Keller then scored on an infield error as Kaden Jeffries hit a shot under the glove of the Staley second baseman.

Driskell replaced Jeffries in base with freshman Jace Weems, who was called up to varsity for that one purpose – to add some speed.

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"It's funny, I talked to Jace today at lunch and told him to dress for the varsity game because we might need him on defense or as a pinch runner," Driskell said. "It's funny how those things work out."

Alex Snyder hit a line-drive single to left field that eluded the hard charging left fielder, rolling all the way to the warning track.

"As I approached second, I saw the ball get past the left fielder and then I saw Coach waving me home," Weems said. "I'm glad he saw me at lunch today. It was all pretty exciting."

Snyder agreed.

"The only time we led in the game was when we won it in the bottom of the seventh," Snyder said. "This was just a great win. Cole kept us in the game and we managed to get a couple of runs in the last inning to win it."

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Jeffries pitched one inning of scoreless relief to get the win.

And Keller didn't care who got the victory. All he wanted was a win to end the regular season.

"What a perfect way to come back from that (7-1) loss to Lee's Summit West yesterday," Keller said. "This is the type of game, the type of win, you want to end the regular season as you head into district.

"Just look at today's game – it had all the elements of a district playoff series in one game. We can take the emotion and the confidence from this win into district next week."

The Eagles, ranked eighth in the latest Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association Class 5 state poll, are the No. 1 seed and play Ruskin at 4 p.m. Monday at William Chrisman High School.