by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley cross country team is gearing up for the upcoming fall season this summer, meeting five days per week to run on various trails in the Eastern Jackson County area.
Last season, the girls team qualified for state, finishing 16th, and will return three of its top six runners. On the boys side, Grain Valley has a younger team full of runners that are looking to make their first appearance at the Missouri State High School Cross Country Championships.
That’s why the Eagles have been putting in a lot of work over the summer. So far, the summer camps have been going well, according to head coach Nick Small. Small said there should be 20 runners each for the boys and girls teams when the season starts in late August.
“Our numbers have looked pretty good, but we have a lot of kids on vacation right now,” Small said. “”Most days we meet off campus so we can change the scenery a little bit.”
“We have a lot of fresh new faces joining us and the veteran runners have been doing well, too.”
Some of the trails the teams have run on include Little Blue Trace Trail in Independence, Lake Jacomo, and Burr Oaks Woods in Blue Springs.
“We have put in hundreds of miles every day,” Carson Hill, a transfer from West Virginia said.
Added Nathan Allen: “We have been training our bodies for different layouts, so we can get ready for the races we have coming up.”
The summer training has also included some shorter runs on the track at Grain Valley High School.
“We have done some sprint workouts and shorter runs in intervals,” Payton Bell said. “We have been doing some 400 (meter runs) on repeat today.”
The girls team will be young but return a few from the 2020 team that qualified for state. One of those runners will be Ella Casey, who led the girls with a 99th place finish at state. About four runners will return that have varsity experience.
“We will have a younger team because we graduated a lot of seniors last year,” Casey said. “I think our goal is to get as many to state as we can. I want to make it to state and (earn a personal-record time).”
For the boys, Small is looking for some new faces to step up and provide a spark as it will have mostly freshman runners.
“Carson has come right in and stepped into a leadership role,” Small said. “He’s taking it on really well. We have mixed in some of our juniors from last year and we also have Nathan Allen joining us from the track team.”
Having such a young team could make it a little more difficult to advance far in the postseason, but some runners on the boys are confident this team can make an impact.
“We want to make it to state and finish in the top 10,” Mason McCain said. “I want to break the school record and get a medal at state.”
Grain Valley’s first meet will be Aug. 28 at home, and Small said his team has prepared well for the start of the fall season.
“Our kids usually do a pretty good job of stepping up when they need to, and I can see that already with their mindset and their training,” Small said.
by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley tennis program has had a lot of success in recent years and the 2020-21 school year was no exception.
Last fall, the doubles team of Chelsea Gorden and Finley LaForge made the state semifinals before finishing fourth, the first duo in the history of the program to do so. On the boys side, this spring, twin brothers Carter and Cade Compton made it to the state boys doubles tournament and took eighth.
This season, Grain Valley hopes to sustain the success a few of its players had last season as more than 20 athletes participated in a summer cap last Tuesday and Wednesday at the high school.
So far, veteran head coach Randy Draper has liked what he’s seen.
“There are things these guys and girls are trying to add to their game and work on this summer, and this camp helps with that,” Draper said. “A lot of them are playing in tournaments that help them keep sharp.
“The high school tennis season is really short, so you have to get better outside the season or you’re behind. I am pleased. We have some good players and I like the way they are hitting the ball.”
A lot of the work players have been doing during summer camp has involved working on forehand shots and Draper’s personal favorite shot, volleys. The players have said the work they do during the camps has been beneficial.
“We have been working on doubles of course because it makes everyone better,” Gorden said. “We all have been in Summer Slam Tournaments, too, getting some work in before the season.”
Added LaForge: “There is a lot of team bonding that goes on during this time. We get to know each other really well. Every practice, we keep getting better and better.”
The Compton brothers echoed those sentiments.
“This gives us a chance to get better,” Carter Compton said. “We’re off the whole summer, so it gives us time to get better. My serve was bad, so I have used the summer to work on that.”
Not only that, but Draper has also had the girls play against the guys in scrimmages, which give the camps a unique dynamic.
“I grew up with the Comptons, so it’s pretty fun to play against them,” Gorten said. “They were new to tennis and they had a really successful season. It’s nice to have new competition because girls tennis and guys tennis are pretty different. The guys hit a lot harder.”
Kade Compton admitted the girls put up a tough fight against the boys.
“It’s pretty even,” He said. “Coach Draper splits everyone up. It’s pretty fun.”
The girls team will play this fall and will likely return most of its top six singles players from last season, including LaForge and Gorden. While many of the players will still be underclassmen, the majority of players will have at least one varsity season under their belts.
“We had three freshmen in our top six last year,” Draper said. “We are still young, we are just more experienced this time and we have some good senior players that will help us.”
While LaForge and Gorden said they hope to make it back to the girls doubles tournament and do even better than they did last year, they have some big team goals as well.
“We want to make it to state as a team,” LaForge said. “We were pretty close last year. This year, we are taking a big step forward. Everyone is putting in a lot of work.”
On the boys side, the Comptons are the only returning players that were in the top six for singles. Draper will depend on a lot of newer players to fill in the remaining four spots.
“Those guys are really good,” Draper said of the Comptons. “We have some other guys that are working hard, too. We lost some really good players from last year’s team and we have some young guys trying to step into those spots.
The first official practice for the girls team is Aug. 9. The boys will start their season in March 2022.
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley graduate Caden Matlon is looking for a new college team.
This past spring, he didn’t get any playing time for Johnson County community college. The Cavaliers had a handful of other catchers competing for one spot, making it difficult for Matlon to earn any playing time.
Before he decides where to transfer, Matlon has shifted his focus to the Ban Johnson Summer League, where he plays for the Creche Innovation Stars. He’s had a solid season for them, hitting .294 with three doubles, seven RBIs and .849 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
“It’s good to be playing baseball again,” Matlon said. “I am looking at Dodge City Community College and Maple Woods, Jesse is my connection there.
“Johnson County had 47 guys. It wasn’t a good fit. They had three third-year guys at catcher.”
Stars manager Kyle Clifton said he was impressed with the way that Matlon has crushed the ball after not playing at all during the spring.
“In his first at bat he probably hit a ball (with a 90-plus exit velocity) right back up the middle,” Clifton said. “When you have that kind of approach you know you’re a good hitter. For him, it was just about knocking the rust off.”
And his approach has led to minimizing strikeouts as he’s only fanned four times this summer.
“He doesn’t swing and miss. That’s his strength,” Clifton said. “He hits a lot of line drives. He’s compact and short to the ball.”
At the beginning of the Ban Johnson season, Matlon struggled throwing runners out. Clifton said he noticed that Matlon was short-arming his throws, so he told the redshirt freshman to relax and just throw. Since then, Clifton has helped Matlon make adjustments and it’s helped decrease his release time and add velocity to his throws.
“It looks like he’s throwing the ball a lot better,” Clifton said. “He’s gotten better at holding runners and catching people stealing. He should get better as he goes back to his college season.”
Matlon is getting his first taste of college competition with the Stars. He said he noticed right away that facing college pitching would be a lot more difficult than batting against high school pitchers.
“Pitchers are so much better (at the college level),” Matlon said. “They have a lot more control over their pitches, especially their off-speed stuff.”
But Matlon should play his first full season in college next spring. Matlon said he has no preference on where he wants to go. He just wants to play baseball.
“(NCAA Division I) is always the goal, but I just want to be as good as I can,” Matlon said.
by Michael Smith
Grain Valley graduate and baseball player Jesse Scholtz has been trying to find his footing at the college level since graduating high school in 2019.
Creche Innovation Stars manager Kyle Clifton of the Ban Johnson Summer Baseball League helped him along the way in doing so. Before playing for the Metropolitan Community College team this past spring, Scholtz had a three-quarters delivery as a pitcher.
Clifton suggested an adjustment to Scholtz’s pitching style earlier this summer, and judging from the way he’s pitched for the Stars, it looks like the change was a good thing.
“Jesse started at a three-quarter angle, but he’s always had a downward tilt,” Clifton said. “I noticed he was at his best once his arm was more relaxed. So I just said, ‘Why don’t you just go to a sidearm delivery?’ It’s been an easy transition for him and he’s just been lights out.”
The pitching style is uncommon at every level of baseball in the United States. A sidearm delivery is when a pitcher throws from a horizontal plane rather than a more common vertical one. The ball is often released level with the player’s shoulder or lower. It’s a technique a few Major League players use like Darren O’Day and Brad Ziegler, an Odessa High School Graduate.
“I used to be a straight sidearm pitcher, but now I am a little under that,” Scholtz said. “It’s not a submarine delivery but it’s pretty far down there.”
The throwing motion came natural to Scholtz as he grew up playing shortstop, and throwing in a side arm motion is common when playing that position.
“It wasn’t that big of a jump since I used to be a shortstop,” Scholtz said. “I had been tinkering with my throwing motion. When I dropped down, it took a little getting used to. But now, it feels comfortable for me.”
Allowing the natural downward tilt to his pitching style has resulted in a breakout season for the Stars as he’s served as an emergency relief pitcher for the Stars. He’s pitched 23 innings and has a 1.52 earned-run average and a 1.26 walks-and-hits-per-inning pitched. Scholtz has also struck out 24 batters and has only walked 11 as he seems poised to be a Ban Johnson All-Star this season.
“It’s been a really fun season. We are looking to get into the playoffs. We just have to win one of our next three games,” Scholtz said. “I have been throwing pretty well. When I am asked to pitch, I just give it my all like I am going to war with my teammates.”
He utilizes a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider which has been effective for the former Eagle. His strength has been getting hitters to hit ground balls and limiting home runs.
“I feel like I have gotten a lot more soft contact from hitters,” Scholtz said. “I wouldn’t say I am a strikeout pitcher. I usually just let my defense work.”
He’s provided versatility to the Stars as Clifton has used him in a variety of situations, whether it’s serving as an opener for a game, pitching as a closer or being the primary replacement for when another pitcher gets hurt. Scholtz has been a Jack of all trades.
“If I have an emergency pop up, I can just throw him out there,” Clifton said. “He says he can get ready in a minute. He goes from cold to ready in a matter of seconds.”
Scholtz struggled during his red-shirt freshman season with Metropolitan Community College, posting a 8.51 ERA in 24 1/3 innings. Now that he’s vastly improved with his sidearm delivery, a much better 2022 season could be in store for the sophomore.
And if he can increase his production following his 2022 season, Scholtz could move on and transfer to a four-year college and play two more years. He hopes he can land with any team after his sophomore year at MCC, whether it’s with an NCAA Division I program or a NAIA school.
“Going down there to throw his pitches just helps his marketability,” Clifton said. “It’s something special he does. There’s definitely a market for it. I can see him playing after he’s done at MCC.”
Grain Valley’s Isaac Herbert won the Boys 10-11 division in the 2021 Missouri Junior Amateur Championship on the Posse course at Paradise Pointe Golf Complex in Smithville on July 14th.
Bailey Burkett (Kansas City) and Dylan Comstock (Orrick) headlined the winners of the tournament. Burkett took home wins in both the overall championship and the 14-15 division, shooting a 9-over 76 and 77 for the two-day tournament. She and 14-15 division runner-up Lyla Louderbaugh (Buffalo) both outplayed the 16-18 division medalists, whose champion, Ella Overstreet (Jackson), shot 13-over.
On the boys side, Comstock sat in control of the field from the outset, firing off five birdies on the front nine during Tuesday's first round. He completed day one with an eagle at the 18th to card a 7-under 65. He followed up with a steadfast performance in round two at 2-over 74 to finish the tournament at 5-under with a six shot lead.
Other notable performances include Anson Munzlinger (Columbia), who finished at the top of the boys 12-13 division with a 1-under 74 and 69 over two rounds.
Winners by division:
Championship (Girls) — Bailey Burkett (+9 // 76, 77)
Championship (Boys) — Dylan Comstock (-5 // 65, 74)
Boys 16-18 — Dylan Comstock
Girls 16-18 — Ella Overstreet (+13 // 79, 78)
Boys 14-15 — Jonathan Jordan (E // 72, 72)
Girls 14-15 — Bailey Burkett
Boys 12-13 — Anson Munzlinger (-1 // 74, 69)
Girls 12-13 — Grace Tiedemann (+23 // 83, 84)†
Boys 10-11 — Isaac Herbert (+23 // 48, 47)*†
Girls 10-11 — Olivia Tiedemann (+43 // 55, 60)*†
Boys 8-9 — Blaine Munzlinger (+2 // 38, 36)*†
* Nine-hole rounds
† Less than 10 participants
Grain Valley High School graduate Kara Eaker, currently in Tokyo as an alternate with the US Gymnastic team, has tested positive for COVID-19. Eaker was vaccinated and is the first American to test positive after arriving in Japan.
Eaker and fellow alternate Leanne Wong, who has also tested positive for COVID-19, have been placed in isolation.
The Olympic games open Friday; the women’s gymnastic team will begin competing on Sunday.
by Michael Smith
Coming out of Grain Valley High School in 2020, Max Chapman had a lot of promise.
He was ranked the third best left-handed pitcher in Missouri and the 42nd best prospect in the state according to perfectgame.org. At the time, the lefty was committed to Wichita State, one of the top NCAA Division I programs in the Midwest.
However, when Chapman didn’t feel like he was going to get enough playing time with the Shockers, he elected to play for Johnson County Community College (JCCC), and it turned out to be a great decision for the soon-to-be college sophomore.
During his freshman season, he made 13 appearances and started seven games for the Cavaliers and finished with a 4-2 record, a save, a 2.73 earned-run average and a team-high 72 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings pitched, helping Johnson County break the school record for wins in a season with 43.
“It’s a program I have been really familiar with. My dad went there,” Chapman said. “When I made the decision to transfer to Johnson County from Wichita State, I was comfortable with the decision.”
His season was good enough to earn First-Team All-Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference East Division and Second-Team All-Region VI honors.
In the Ban Johnson summer league, with the Building Champions team, Chapman has been just as good. Before Monday’s game against the Milgram Mustangs, had a 1.50 ERA and 13 strikeouts in 12 innings.
“He was one of the league leaders in several categories,” Building Champions manager Jim Hernandez said. “He’s been pitching extremely well for us.
“He has a bunch of different pitches that he can throw for strikes and he keeps the ball down extremely well. That makes him very effective. He is one of the main guys we go to for pitching.”
Playing in Ban Johnson has allowed Chapman to catch up with former teammates as six others who graduated from Grain Valley play in the league.
“It’s great to see old faces that I have not seen in awhile,” Chapman said. “It gets a little more competitive out there when you face one of your friends. You compete for bragging rights. It was fun playing against Mason (Rogers) today.”
Currently. Chapman primarily uses a fastball-curveball combination but he’s been working on adding a changeup to his repertoire.
“The curveball is my best pitch,” Chapman said. “I get a lot of strikeouts on that. The fastball was good this season also. Hopefully next year I can have a full three-pitch arsenal.
“I am working on stride length and trying to stay level to be more athletic on the mound.”
Chapman has one more year left to play for the Cavaliers before possibly transferring and extending his playing career. The sophomore said he hopes to land with a Division I team again and get a similar amount of playing time that he received with Johnson County.
“Being at the Division I level before, I obviously want to get back there,” Chapman said. “But I really want to find some place that’s going to get me the best opportunity.”
by Michael Smith
Fans of the Grain Valley varsity baseball team had an exciting season to watch in 2021 after it went to the Class 5 state championship game and finished in second place.
With some seniors graduating, there will be some new faces entering the fold in 2022. One of those could be Bryce Smith, who will be entering his senior year this fall at Grain Valley High School.
Smith played for the junior varsity squad last spring and was exclusively a pitcher. During that season, he only had one at bat. This summer, with the Oak Grove Post 379 American Legion team, he’s having a breakout season as a hitter.
Smith has a .375 batting average, a .979 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 16 runs and 15 RBIs in 16 games played. On the mound, Smith has a 4.61 earned-run average, 1.97 walks and hits per inning pitched, 22 walks and 22 strikeouts in 27 1/3 innings pitched.
He’s shown his versatility by playing second base and pitching. He could be a valuable asset for the Eagles next season as he aims to make the varsity squad.
“I definitely want to make that team and help them as much as I can at any position and pitching especially,” Smith said.
Post 379 manager Jeff Wright said he thinks Smith has what it takes to make the Grain Valley varsity squad.
“I will be happy if the Grain Valley coaches give him a chance to play,” Wright said. “I know Grain Valley has a lot of talent and opportunities are few and far between with the numbers they have. He has the ability to warrant a spot on the roster.”
While he’s been primarily a pitcher for Grain Valley, Smith said he could see himself getting more at bats for them in 2022.
“Not hitting this past year really motivated me to go out and really hit the ball this summer,” Smith said. “Last year I really struggled, so this year I worked on a lot of things. I changed a lot.”
And his bat has been a big reason Post 379 is one of the top teams in the American Legion Zone 2 division and has a winning record at 17-8-1.
“He’s definitely provided a solid bat and has been a consistent run producer for us,” Wright said. “It’s pretty impressive considering he only had one at bat in high school.”
His pitching will be key for the rest of Post 379’s season, as well. A lot of his success depends on how well he locates and throws his off-speed pitches.
“If I am not feeling my changeup or curveball really well, then I have to use my fastball a lot,” Smith said. “That’s when people start to make contact because they can read that. Sometimes when all my pitches are on fire, that’s when I can strike out a lot of people.”
However, Wright and the rest of the Oak Grove squad hope Smith can get healthy in time for the Zone 2 Tournament next week. During last week’s annual Wood Bat Invitational, Smith suffered a hip injury.
“It’s been going on for a month and it was so minor that I didn’t really think about it,” Smith said. “I just injured it in the Wood Bat Tournament really badly. I just hope I can play in the Zone 2 Tournament.”
Added Wright: “If everything works out right, I am hoping to get him back next week. It makes it hurt that he’s not playing right now. He’s an important part of this team.”
Valley Speedway will host some of the fastest Midget race car teams in the country at Thunder in the Valley Powri national Midget show Friday, July 16th and Saturday, July 17th. The event will also feature top non wing Powri WAR series sprint cars and SMVR Vintage car series.
Valley non wing Sprint car: POWRi WAR Sprints
Valley Powri Midgets: POWRi National Midgets with POWRi West Midgets, POWRi
Adults are $20 Kids 6 to 12 are $10 Free for 5 and under. Tickets can be purchased online at www.valleyspeedway.com or at the gate day of the event. Gates open at 5:30 hot laps start at 6:30. Valley Speedway is located at 348 E Old US Highway 40.
Results from July 3rd Points Race Night:
Dirt DemonsA Feature 1 (15 Laps): 1. 121-Eric Schmidt; 2. 15-Roman Stump; 3. 13JR-Nick Dangerfield; 4. 117-Levi Cox
Heat 1 (6 Laps): 1. 13JR-Nick Dangerfield; 2. 121-Eric Schmidt; 3. 15-Roman Stump; 4. 117-Levi Cox
E ModsA Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 21K-Coleman Browning; 2. 33-Jeremy Curless; 3. 86-Doug Brisbin; 4. 1M-Mike Ryun; 5. 22-Dustin Dillon; 6. 65-Jason Smith; 7. 75-Rayce Martin
Heat 1 (6 Laps): 1. 1M-Mike Ryun; 2. 21K-Coleman Browning; 3. 33-Jeremy Curless; 4. 75-Rayce Martin; 5. 86-Doug Brisbin; 6. 65-Jason Smith; 7. 22-Dustin Dillon
IMCA Northern SportModA Feature 1 (25 Laps): 1. T25-Tim Stallbaumer; 2. 81-Austin Charles; 3. 93SS-Chad Shaw; 4. 81JR-Dan Charles; 5. 33-Jeremy Curless; 6. 41D-RJ Dishong; 7. 13M-Kraig Maple; 8. 29-Stanley Boose; 9. (DNF) 66X-Chris Wright; 10. (DNF) 73-Bobby Grove; 11. (DNF) 02-Donald Johnston
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 81JR-Dan Charles; 2. 93SS-Chad Shaw; 3. 66X-Chris Wright; 4. 29-Stanley Boose; 5. 02-Donald Johnston; 6. 73-Bobby Grove
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 81-Austin Charles; 2. T25-Tim Stallbaumer; 3. 13M-Kraig Maple; 4. 33-Jeremy Curless; 5. 41D-RJ Dishong
IMCA Stars Mod LitesA Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 46-Dillon Raffurty; 2. 64-David Raffurty; 3. 4K-Garrett Stonum; 4. 75-Justin Raffurty; 5. 3XL-Josh Guy; 6. 52-Clayton Hogie; 7. 3-Nathan Wolfe; 8. 41-Michael Raffurty; 9. 33-Marlin Hogie; 10. 414-John Spitler; 11. (DNF) 34-Tyler Furrell; 12. (DNF) 84-Joe Gunn; 13. (DNF) X-Dayton Kelley
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. 46-Dillon Raffurty; 2. 3-Nathan Wolfe; 3. 4K-Garrett Stonum; 4. 75-Justin Raffurty; 5. 52-Clayton Hogie; 6. 84-Joe Gunn; 7. X-Dayton Kelley
Heat 2 (8 Laps): 1. 64-David Raffurty; 2. 34-Tyler Furrell; 3. 3XL-Josh Guy; 4. 41-Michael Raffurty; 5. 33-Marlin Hogie; 6. 414-John Spitler
IMCA Stock CarA Feature 1 (20 Laps): 1. 46-JJ Baumli; 2. X9-Brad Whitney; 3. 211-Dale Eaton; 4. 99-Brian Labonte; 5. 94J-Josh Steele; 6. 91-Brad labonte
Heat 1 (8 Laps): 1. X9-Brad Whitney; 2. 211-Dale Eaton; 3. 91-Brad labonte; 4. 99-Brian Labonte; 5. 94J-Josh Steele; 6. 46-JJ Baumli
2021 Grain Valley High School graduate Raena Childers was named to the 2021 United Soccer Coaches spring girls high school all-central region team. Childers is the first GVHS student to be honored at this level.