Posted: Saturday, 16 March 2013 9:47PM

Crane drops first two games of the season

Crane, Mo. (For  -- Crane dropped a pair of games to open the 2013 season on Saturday, falling in an early-morning contest to Pierce City, 12-3, and later to Conway, 14-6.

The two games played by the host team were sandwiched around an 11-4 Conway win over Pierce City.  -  CLICK HERE FOR PHOTOS
Despite the tough start, Crane head coach Bryan Harmon, remained upbeat about the Pirates' potential.
Coming off a playoff appearance during the basketball season, Crane had several players get a late start on the baseball diamond. Harmon said the Pirates are also without the services of injured senior Cole Walden, who went down late in the basketball season with a knee injury.
Expectations are high for Crane this spring as the Pirates return all but two seniors from a 9-11 team in 2012. They opened the season receiving votes in the Missouri High School Baseball Coaches Association preseason Class 2 poll after going 15-9 during the fall.
Crane fell in the first of two games on Saturday to Pierce City, 12-3.
Among the players Crane is relying on this season is seniors Brooks Jordan (pitcher, outfielder), Jonah Walker (first base), Ryan Gatton (shortstop/pitcher), Clay Strumpff (outfield) and Casey Smith (outfield).
"Walker will bat in the middle of the order and is a vocal leader on the team," Harmon said. "He is someone the kids on the team look up to."
Also expected to play big varsity roles this spring are Colton Vaught (junior, catcher), Tyler Johnson (junior, second base/pitcher), Jared Howard (junior/third base).
A first-year starter, Vaught will catch and lead-off, and set the table the rest of the Pirates. Although he is playing behind the plate, Harmon said Vaught might be the fastest player on the team.
"The game kind of goes as he goes, when he gets on base, good things usually happen," Harmon said. "He is our catalyst, he has a great attitude and is a team leader."
Johnson came on in relief of Brooks Jordan on the mound in the Pirates' season opener on Saturday. Harmon said both Walker and Johnson were academic all-state selections last year.
"(Johnson) is the hardest worker I've ever coached," Harmon said. "You never have to get after him to work hard or anything like that."
Howard batted nearly .400 for Crane during the fall season and will bat fifth in the line-up.
"He really stepped up during the fall and is a good, solid defensive player," Harmon said.
Also in the mix is Clay Strumpff, who will play all over the Crane infield, depending on who is pitching.
Sophomore twins Jake and Sam Sowell, and seniors Casey Smith and Brooks Jordan are splitting playing time in the Crane outfield. Harmon said he is hopeful Walden will return to action this spring, giving the Pirates even more depth in the outfield.
"Walden has been cleared for some light running and hitting and we would like to see him return to the line-up," Harmon said.
Smith is also a left hander pitcher, and got the start in the nightcap on Saturday against Conway.

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