Grain Valley baseball's Jacob Grasher makes most of his opportunity
Brian Driskell loves an underdog story, and the Grain Valley baseball coach has a couple of them as his team prepares for its first state final four appearance since 2003.
The first, and most obvious, is that his 26-8 Eagles are heading to state a year after his 2020 team – which was a big postseason favorite with nine seniors who had played together since they were in Little League – never got to play because the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all spring activities across the nation.
The second is senior right fielder Jacob Grasher, who has been as productive as any member of the Eagles during their memorable postseason run after spending much of the regular season only seeing the field as a pinch runner.
"When I look back on this season and think of the guys who made an impact, one of those guys will be Grasher," Driskell said of the former reserve who took over right field after Alex Snyder and Parker Stone suffered injuries.
"He got the chance to play and he made the most of it. I'll be honest with you, he was as big as anyone on the team in that (7-3) quarterfinal win over Smithville Saturday afternoon. He got the bunt hit, made his way to third base and scored on a wild pitch to give us a 2-0 lead.
"Then he knocked in the third run with a sacrifice fly in the fourth inning and he's always been a great defensive outfielder. We weren't even sure he would play this year, but he's a team-first guy and he's stepped his game up in the playoffs, and we can't wait to see what he does at state."
The Eagles play 17-14 Rockwood Summit, which is on a four-game winning streak, in a Class 5 state semifinal at 11 a.m. Friday at US Baseball Park in Ozark, Mo.
"I don't care who we play or when we play, I am just so excited that we are still playing," said Grasher, a favorite among his more celebrated teammates. "For most of the season, I just pinch ran for our pitcher or catcher and I was happy. I was playing with my best friends and had the best seat in the house to watch our team.
"Then, Alex and Parker got hurt, and I got the opportunity to play right field and I want to make it tough for Coach Driskell to take me out of the lineup. I'm proud of what he has to say about me, because I would do anything for this team – anything."
In the 2-1 district championship win over Marshall, Grasher started the big two-run inning that helped Cole Keller get the biggest win of his career.
"The guys like Jacob are getting it done at the bottom of the order," Keller said of the No. 9 hitter who has a .321 average, 10 runs scored and three RBIs. "It's so cool when a senior like Jacob gets the chance to play and makes the most of it. And we're all having fun, but no one is having more fun than him."
When asked about trading the best seat in the house on the bench for a spot in right field, Grasher laughed.
"I'd make that trade any day," Grasher said. "This is a dream come true for me as an individual player and for our team. We're all living the dream."