Grain Valley roars back only to fall in final inning in Class 5 state title game

By Bill Althaus
The Examiner

OZARK, Mo. — Although the path to the final inning of the Class 5 state championship baseball game between Grain Valley and Willard had more plot twists than an O. Henry novel, Brian Driskell knew the ball was in the hand of the pitcher he wanted on the mound with the game on the line. 

It simply didn't end the way Driskell and his Eagles team had dreamed about – with Willard rallying for a 9-8 win – to finish off a season that will go down in history as the best in the history of Grain Valley High School.  

A Kaden Jeffries RBI single gave Grain Valley an 8-7 lead in the top of the sixth inning as the Eagles fought back from a 7-2 deficit take a one-run lead going into the bottom of the seventh inning. 

Grain Valley designated hitter Parker Stone (19) celebrates after hitting an RBI single in the fifth inning of the Class 5 state championship game against Willard. The Eagles rallied from a 7-2 deficit to take an 8-7 lead but Willard scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to win it 9-8.

With Parker Bosserman on the mound for his fifth inning of relief, Driskell believed his team had the best chance of winning because the coach said of his senior star, "He hates to lose more than he enjoys winning." 

Bosserman got two strikes on Cooper Hampton before he flared a soft single to left field. Kade Bieillier followed with a solid, two-strike single to right field and Klayton Kiser struck out. 

Grain Valley starting pitcher Riley Bown throws to a Willard batter in the Class 5 state championship game Saturday at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark, Mo. The Eagles rallied from a 7-2 deficit to take an 8-7 lead but fell 9-8 when Willard scored twice in the bottom of the seventh.

Elliott Friend then tied it with a single up the middle and Evan Gaunt was intentionally walked. 

With the bases loaded, Bosserman struck out Landon Moore, before No. 9 hitter Kyden McMain – who had tripled, singled, scored two runs and driven in two – hit the walk-off game winner to give the Tigers the 9-8 victory. 

"At the moment they got the hit, there was anger, sadness, disappointment, confusion – any emotion you can imagine," said Driskell who led the 27-9 Eagles to their winningest season and the first final four appearance in 18 years. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it, it was tough. 

"But the night before the game, in talking with our coaches, we all agreed that we wanted the ball in Parker's hand with the game on the line and he was great for four and two-thirds innings. He came in when we were down and he gave us the chance to get back in the game and get the lead. I just hate it that a kid like Parker is the losing pitcher in his final game because he has meant everything to this team from the first day he put on a Grain Valley jersey." 

Following the medals ceremony, Bosserman joined his family and friends in the stands and talked about his final game as an Eagle. 

"Not the way you want to go out," said Bosserman, who finished the season with a school record 62 hits, including two in the title game. "I've pitched four or five innings before, but not many times. I thought the strike zone was a little inconsistent, but they got the hits and they won the game – no excuses." 

When asked about coming back from the five-run deficit he said, "Cole (Keller, the winner of the semifinal game who played left field in the title game) and the seniors were getting everyone fired up in the dugout. And our fans were doing a good job (in the stands). I wouldn't want to be on any other team; it just didn't work out today." 

Starter Riley Bown gave up three runs in two innings before Joel Palecek came in and allowed a triple to the lone batter he faced. Bosserman then entered the game and allowed an RBI single, a three-run fourth inning and the final two runs in the seventh. 

But the Eagles scored a run in the third inning on Bown's RBI groundout. Parker Stone, who was 2-for-3 with two RBIs, drove in the second run with an RBI triple in the fourth. Grain Valley made it interesting with a four-run fifth inning. 

Nick Hooper led off the fifth with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Bown reached on an error, went to second on Bosserman's single and scored on an RBI single by Keller. Grant Merriman then relieved Willard starter Gavin Burk and Jeffries collected an RBI groundout and Stone followed with an RBI single to cut the deficit to 7-6. 

"We knew the game was far from over," Stone said, "and we knew were going to score more runs." 

Bown singled in the top of the sixth inning and Bosserman hit an RBI double to tie it. Jeffries followed with an RBI single, to give the Eagles their short-lived 8-7 lead. 

"No one can say we ever gave up or didn't try," Jeffries said. "We had the lead and we just couldn't keep it, but it wasn't from a lack of effort or trying. This is the only team I would want to play for." 

Bosserman pitched out of a second-and-third situation in the sixth before allowing the two runs in the seventh. 

"We came here as a team and did everything we could to win a state championship," Keller said. "This team raised the bar for future Grain Valley baseball teams, and that was one of our goals. We won the most games in school history, had the top finish in school history – although it wasn't the finish we wanted – and we did it moving up a class and playing against, and beating, the big schools. 

"We put Grain Valley baseball on the map, and I am so proud of that."