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Grantham’s big bat, timely offense drive Francis Howell into Class 5 title game

Francis Howell outfielder Kyle Grantham gets congratulations from his teammates at home plate after a first inning homer run in a Class 5 semifinal baseball game June 2 at CarShield Field in O'Fallon, Mo. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

Francis Howell outfielder Kyle Grantham gets congratulations from his teammates at home plate after a first inning home run in a Class 5 semifinal baseball game June 2 at CarShield Field in O’Fallon, Mo. [Jonathan Duncan/Mid-Rivers Newsmagazine photo]

Francis Howell’s Kyle Grantham has never been known as a long-ball hitter during the regular season or postseason.

Grantham, known more as a singles guy, turned into a mini-version of Babe Ruth for the Vikings at the absolute perfect time.

The Vikings’ junior right fielder blasted a pair of home runs to right field on Thursday night and behind Grantham’s power, some timely offense, and sturdy pitching from Jake Kostyshock, Francis Howell defeated Lee’s Summit West 6-1 in a Class 5 semifinal at CarShield Field.

Howell (28-11) will look to capture its third state championship since 2011 when the Vikings face Jefferson City Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the Class 5 championship game.

“I was just looking for a pitch I could drive,” Grantham said. “I got a good pitch each time and I drove it.”

Grantham wasted no time driving the ball against Lee’s Summit. In his first at bat in the bottom of the first, he blasted a second pitch fastball high over the right field wall off Lee’s Summit West starter Dusty Stroup to stake the Vikings to a 1-0 lead.

“It was awesome,” Francis Howell coach Tony Perkins said of Grantham’s opening inning shot. That got us on the board early and then he did it again. I’m so happy for him.”

In the fourth, Howell added to the lead as Brady Wildschuetz doubled to right center to bring home courtesy runner Dylan Williams, who came home from second after McGuire Dean’s single to center field.

Dean came home to score on a suicide squeeze bunt by Chase Beiter pushing the Vikings to a 3-0 cushion.

Outfielder Joey Land followed with an RBI off a perfectly laid down bunt that rolled between first and second base for an infield hit, scoring Wildschuetz from third to finish off a three-run Howell rally.

“We were hitting the ball hard and I think the second time through the lineup, we were just finding the gaps,” Grantham said.

Howell also benefited from timely defensive plays as well.

Senior second baseman Justin Perkins killed a Lee’s Summit rally in the top of the fifth with a superb diving catch of a sinking line drive by Titans catcher Alex Brough, with two out and a runner at first. Perkins laid out for the ball and held it through the entire play.

“Wasn’t that awesome, Perkins said. “That was so huge and when those guys came in the dugout everybody was going crazy and that’s a pick-me-up thing.” Joey Land also turned in a big defensive stop taking away an extra base hit in the left field corner.

“I thought defensively we were calm and we got the outs when we needed them,” Perkins said.

Lee’s Summit West (23-11) got its only run in the fifth when Ben McClain scored off a fielder’s choice grounder from Stroup.

Grantham pounded his second homer of the game in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-1. He drove home the Vikings final run when he was hit by a pitch with bases-loaded to make it 6-1. Grantham finished the night 2 for 3 with two runs scored and three RBI.

“This is the best game I’ve ever played and it’s just incredible,” Grantham said. “I don’t even know how to describe the feeling. It’s just an awesome feeling.”

Kostyshock made sure the Titans would not get close, pitching around a couple of early threats, as he went the distance to get the win. The senior righthander struck out nine and walked four, while scattering four hits.

Coach Perkins admitted that his club has become very at home playing in the River City Rascals ballpark in recent years. Especially come playoff time.

“Experience I think is the big thing, I’ve got like four or five guys that have been here like three times,” coach Perkins said. “They’ve been along for the ride since they were freshman and have been to the Final Four three times so these guys all remember it and they all see it.”

Lee’s Summit West plays Lindbergh in the third place game at 10:30 a.m. on Friday.

NOTES: The Vikings win over Lee’s Summit West was the 500th in Perkins outstanding career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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