By Kary Booher (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Throughout the offseason, the one lingering question about the Crane High School softball team was pretty simple: Could the Lady Pirates win a third consecutive district championship?
The pieces appear to be in place to give Crane a good run at it.
“A third one would be an amazing accomplishment,” Crane coach Mike Morelock said. “Our girls have a senior group that will lead us this season. With all the talent we have coming back and the addition of freshmen … we have a chance to be very competitive. I have high expectations for our team this season.”
Crane finished 11-4 last season, which ended in a loss in the sectionals to Purdy.
Of the roughly 14 players on the varsity roster, the notables include four returning starters — seniors Olivia Edwards, Mackenzie Funcannon and Katie Robinson, and Celsie Killman.
Edwards is the team’s only varsity pitcher. She was 11-4 last season with more than 120 strikeouts and a 1.94 earned run average. She walked six batters.
“She is a warrior and performs at a high level,” Morelock said. “She is a senior leader who we will lean on and expect to lead us throughout the season. She has an infectious personality and (is) one of the most competitive athletes I have seen at the high school level.”
Funcannon also brings a key element.
“She has speed, power and an incredible knack for performing under pressure,” Morelock said. “She will be a huge key to our success this season.”
Robinson is one to watch, too.
“She will hit in the middle of the lineup and will play an important role for us,” Morelock said. “Katie works extremely hard and will contribute in a tremendous way this season.”
Other players include Cassie Luney, Megan Funcannon, Bobbi LeBlanc, Harley Brantley and Chesney Essary.
Morelock declined to offer a projected lineup that would note which girls are competing for certain positions.
“With so many incoming freshmen that are athletic and extremely competitive, it would be irresponsible for me to project a lineup,” Morelock said. “Coach (Dan) Akin and I will have a most welcome problem as we will have many spots up for grabs as practice gets under way. In a small-school setting, sometimes you do not have competition at every position.”
“This season, I believe we will have a just that at many positions,” Morelock added. “It is the coaches’ job to put the most competitive team on the field.”
He later added it’s “the old adage will hold true – ‘if you can hit, I will find you a spot to play in the field.’”
It’ll be an interesting league schedule, as Crane now plays Purdy and Southwest after the Southwest Central League lost Clever and Forsyth.
“As for how far we can go? That depends on the level of team maturity and competitiveness we achieve,” Morelock said. “I truly believe we could be just as competitive or even more competitive than last year if we can put it all together by the end of the season.”