Grain Valley baseball looks to cap 'dream season' with state title

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner
Grain Valley's Kaden Jeffries (10) is greeted at home by teammates after slugging a two-run home run in the fifth inning of their 7-3 win over Smithville in the Class 5 state quarterfinal last Saturday. The Eagles say they're having fun making up for lost time after the loss of last season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Driskell was burning the midnight oil late Tuesday, watching video and poring over any unmissed detail on game charts of Rockwood Summit. 

That’s the team his Grain Valley Eagles will meet at 11 a.m. Friday in a Class 5 state semifinal at US Baseball Park in Ozark, Mo. 

"You don't get this opportunity very often," said Driskell, who was a college pitcher for Tennessee Tech University way back in 2003, the last time Grain Valley reached the baseball final four, "and I don't want to miss anything. We have had two great practices, so the kids are doing all they can do, and I want to do all I can do as a coach." 

Grain Valley routed a Smithville team (7-3) that had won 25 of its last 26 games in the Class 5 quarterfinal at Blue Springs South High School last Saturday. Cole Keller pitched one-hit ball for four scoreless innings and Kaden Jeffries delivered a key two-run homer to go along with an RBI single, helping Grain Valley improve to 26-8. 

More:Grain Valley baseball's Jacob Grasher makes most of his opportunity

Grain Valley senior Cole Keller, right, high-fives coach Brian Driskell after the Eagles defeated Smithville 7-3 last Saturday to advance to the Class 5 state final four. Keller and his teammates meet Rockwood Summit at 11 a.m. Friday for the right to play for the state championship.

"I've coached for a long time and can say that I've never had as much fun with a team as I have this one,” Driskell said. “They are a bunch of characters, but they know when to have fun and when to get serious – and they get serious when they cross that line." 

Two of the most serious players are seniors Parker Bosserman, the senior shortstop who is hitting .522 and playing nearly flawless defense at shortstop, and Keller, who is 5-2 with a 1.57 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings and owns a .359 batting average with 32 runs scored and 32 RBIs. 

"They're best friends, I think they've been teammates forever and they both hate to lose more than they like to win," Driskell said. "They're our leaders, but they're also two of the best kids in the world to be around. Everyone loves them!"

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

Jeffries, who carries a big stick at first base with a .440 batting average, three homers and 43 RBIs, is another Eagle who has soared all season. 

"You want to talk about a dream season, this is it," Jeffries said. "Last year we were all so disappointed that we didn't get to play, especially for our seniors who missed out on the chance to go to state. We're playing for those guys and for everyone on this year's team and it's been the best season I've ever had, the best team I've been on, and the most fun." 

Bosserman agrees. 

"Everyone talked about last year's team about the chance they missed to go to state, and some of us were a part of that team," Bosserman said. "Last spring was tough. I think missing last season made this season even more important to all of us, especially our seniors. 

"And a lot of teams were sleeping on us. We had all those starters graduate last year, and a lot of new guys stepped up this year and we're going to state. And the way we're winning games in the postseason just makes us that much more confident." 

Jokingly, when Keller was asked what he remembers about that 2003 team, he deadpanned, "Hmmm, let me see, I was 1 year old so I don't remember much about it. But I'll have great memories of this year's team."