by Michael Smith
The Grain Valley baseball team’s pitching was dominant and senior Nick Hooper and sophomore Brek Sloan took care of the rest.
The duo combined for four hits, two runs and three RBIs during Grain Valley’s 5-0 win over William Chrisman Friday on the road.
Hooper admitted he has struggled at the plate lately, but might have received a boost of confidence in the Suburban White Conference matchup. He was 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI and jump started the Eagles offense with an RBI double in the first inning to bring in Kaden Jeffries, who also hit a two-out double.
Even when he made outs, Hooper hit the ball hard.
“I haven’t been very successful at the plate as of recently, but today felt good,” Hooper said.
I saw the ball jump off the bat and get to the gap. That was relieving.”
Grain Valley coach Brian Driskell said he was happy with the way he saw Hooper swinging the bat on Friday.
“The things people don’t always see is the effort and the work they put in behind the scenes,” Driskell said. “Nick has done a really good job of making some adjustments that we asked him to do. I saw more balls squared up today than I have seen previously.”
Starting pitcher Joel Palecek said he was pleased with the run support he received from Hooper and the rest of the offense. The right-hander was the winning pitcher as he surrendered just one hit in four scoreless innings and struck out three.
“Really proud of the way Nick performed,” Palecek said. “He did great. The whole team did great.”
So did Palecek. After issuing four walks and surrendering three runs in a season-opening loss to Lee’s Summit west, he’s bounced back in a big way. He has surrendered just three earned runs in 24 innings since the rough start to the season. The right-hander said he made a few changes to his mechanics since the Titans game and it has worked out.
“I have been focusing on strikes and letting my team get the outs,” Palecek said. “I have been trying to keep my front shoulder closed a little longer and finishing a little more. That helps me keep the ball down.”
Palecek was relieved by left-hander Pierce Bousselot in the fifth and the junior pitched three spotless innings, getting nine outs on eight ground balls and one fly out to end the game.
After Hooper got the offense started in the first, Keagan Hart scored from third on a pop fly off the bat of Jeffries that resulted in an error for Chrisman in the third inning
The Eagles broke it open in the sixth when Sloan, who was 2-for-3 on the day, ripped a two-run double to right-center field and he scored on a Hart grounder to cap the scoring.
The win was Grain Valley’s fifth in its last six games.
“As young as we are, there are going to be some ups and downs,” Driskell said. “With the games we had early, it would have been really easy for a team to tank and really get down. But we have really steadied the ship. I am proud of that.”
Grain Valley senior Nick Hooper was 2-for-4 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI at the plate during a 5-0 victory against William Chrisman. Photo credit: Michael Smith