by John Unrein
Sound pitching and timely hitting adorned the Grain Valley Eagles baseball team as the Lee’s Summit Tigers came calling on April 2nd. Eagles starting hurler Joel Palecek dealt a gem on the mound to team with the clutch effort at the plate of first baseman Kaden Jeffries. Grain Valley would carry the first game of the double hitter on Good Friday against Lee’s Summit by a score of 3-2.
Palecek gained command of his fastball after the first inning and paired it with an effective changeup to stymy the Tigers offense. The junior hurler for the Eagles would strike out five and only give up one earned run across six and one-third innings. Palecek received a robust round of applause from the crowd upon exiting the game in the top of the seventh inning.
“I was able to hit my spot with the fastball. I thank my catcher (Blake Prewitt) for that. He provided a stable target behind the plate and called a good game,” Palecek said.
“During warmups I typically struggle with my changeup. It felt good getting started and I had a feel for it today. Everything was taken care of by our team that allowed us to win the first game of this double hitter.”
Jeffries showed good eye discipline at the plate for the Eagles. The junior clean up hitter would draw a walk to couple with a double and single in getting on base three times consecutively. Jeffries would wait on both balls struck hard to center and right center field, respectively. The latter hit would yield two key runs batted in for Grain Valley in the bottom of the fifth inning.
“I picked out two good pitches at the plate and got the bat on them. It feels good to win and make contact like that for my team,” Jeffries said.
Grain Valley Eagles head baseball coach Brian Driskell was determined to manufacture a run with Jeffries first hit in the bottom of the fourth inning. A scoreless game witnessed Driskell call time and summon pinch runner Logan Pratt out of the dugout to take over for Jeffries at second base. The move paid dividends for the Eagles as Pratt would use his speed to make it home during the frame. The junior sprinter who has put together a solid track season thus far provides a swift option off the pine that opposing defenses cannot ignore.
The Eagles were encouraged to stay hungry by their skipper between games. A speech that preceded raking and watering the infield by Grain Valley’s head coach to prevent dust from flying on a breezy spring afternoon. Driskell was encouraged by what he saw out of his squad during the first tilt of the double hitter.
“Joel (Palecek) has been an excellent surprise for us this season. He has pounded the strike zone and that permits our defense to handle baseballs that are put in play. We have been able to scratch a couple of runs across at the plate that has fueled some wins for us at this point in the season,” Driskell said.
“Depending on the day, we may or may not have some additional speed on the bench (due to their track commitment). We have three of the four by one hundred and four by two hundred sprinters on our roster. This was (Logan) Pratt’s first game that he could be at today. I gave him the heads up before the start of the fourth inning to be ready. He got stretched, scored an important run for us, and it worked out.”
Driskell finished, “Jeffries had some big at bats today. That is going to be massive for him as the season progresses for his confidence. We talk all the time about comfortable and uncomfortable situations. Both of his hits today were uncomfortable situations, and he came through for us.”
Senior Riley Bown would come in during the top of the seventh inning for the save in relief of Palecek. The victory moved Grain Valley to one game above .500 baseball with a 5-4 record.
Eagles pitcher Joel Palecek delivers the ball from the mound.
Photo credit: Valley News staff
First baseman Kaden Jeffries makes contact at the plate for the Eagles.
Photo credit: Valley News staff