Grain Valley baseball enters state quarterfinal on a mission

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Grain Valley's Cole Keller, center, is greeted by teammates Kaden jeffries (10), Parker Bosserman (15), Avery Garmon (2) and Riley Bown, right, after slugging a three-run home run in a game against Truman earlier this season. Keller and the Eagles say they are not playing in the postseason just for themselves, but for their former teammates who didn't get to play at all last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Grain Valley baseball coach Brian Driskell has been living with this bad taste in his mouth for two years – and it's going to take more than toothpaste or minty mouthwash to remove it. 

Two years ago his No. 1 seed Eagles lost the district championship 4-2 to No. 2 Blue Springs South, despite Jacob Misiorowski throwing no-hit ball for four innings. Then, last year, his squad was loaded with seniors – many who had earned Division I scholarships and the attention of Major League Baseball teams, including Misiorowski – when the season was canceled because of the pandemic. 

And now, well, let's just say Driskell and his players are counting the days, hours, minutes and seconds until his 25-8 Eagles play host to 26-6 Smithville in a Class 5 state quarterfinal Saturday. 

The game is scheduled for a 1 p.m. start at Grain Valley, but if the thunderstorms that are forecast roll into Eastern Jackson County, the game will be moved to a noon start at Blue Springs South High School, which has a turf field.

More:Keller's dual feat results in Grain Valley's first baseball district crown since 2009

"I don't care where we play – although it would be nice to play at home," Driskell said after a short practice session Tuesday that was missing his seniors, who were at Cable Dahmer Arena for the Grain Valley High School graduation. "We're just looking forward to the chance to play. 

"Losing two years ago hurt. Ben (Baier, the South baseball coach) had a great team and they came over to our place and beat us. But what really hurt was last year. That was the year we'd been planning for, for a long time. We had all those great kids, great seniors, and they never had the chance to show what they could do.” 

In a moving ceremony, Driskell presented each of the 2020 seniors a jersey and a promise

"We told them that we were going to be playing for them this season," Driskell said. "Now, of course we're all playing for the guys on this team, too, but it's pretty cool to hear them talk about playing for the 2020 team that never got the chance." 

One of those players is senior shortstop Parker Bosserman, who is hitting .522 with 38 RBIs and 40 runs scored from his No. 2 spot in the lineup. 

More:Blue Springs relay teams expected to make splash at Class 5 Missouri State Track and Field Championship

"Oh yeah, we're playing for each other and the guys from last year who couldn't play," said Bosserman, who is also known for his defensive prowess. "And now we're seniors and we have the chance to do something really special. 

"Heck, all of us missed last year, except for our freshmen, and we're all excited to play. We're playing a great Smithville team and we know we're going to have to give it all we've got to get a win – and that's what we're going to do." 

Smithville started the season 1-5, but has put up a 25-1 record since and captured the Suburban Small Seven title. 

One of those losses was 9-8 (in 10 innings) to Suburban Middle Six champion Grain Valley in the fourth game of the season on March 22. 

"So much has happened since then," senior pitcher/outfielder Cole Keller said. "Just look at their record since then. They're better and we're better. This is going to be quite a week." 

Keller graduated Tuesday night and joins center fielder Keagan Hart at the Missouri Class 5 State Track and Field Championship Thursday in Jefferson City, where he will run the 400 meters and be a part of two relay teams (joining Hart on the 1,600 team). 

"Going to state on Thursday and playing to go to state Saturday, what a week," said Keller, who is hitting .359 with 32 runs scored and 32 RBIs. "And the best part about it is that I get to share it with all my friends.”