By John Miller (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Experience will be a strength for the Crane Pirates this coming spring. The team returns eight starters and 10 lettermen and is poised for a strong campaign this year.
“With so many key players returning, we are hoping to have a much-improved season,” noted 13th year coach Bryan Harmon, who has an overall coaching record of 354-250. “We will need some young pitchers to step up to replace the innings that were pitched by (graduated senior) Nick Brannan, but we feel that we have a deep pitching staff. Many players will be counted on to step into new roles this year, both in the field and in the lineup. We have the pieces to be successful, but we must continue to put in the work to improve every day.”
Last year, Crane finished 11-12 and went 3-3 in the Southwest Central League. A district championship loss to Purdy ended the Pirates season.
Brannan and Raif Cook are the team’s two holes to fill from last year. Both graduated last spring. Brannan went 4-3 on the mound with a 3.43 ERA while Cook posted a 4.20 ERA and an 0-1 record. Offensively, Brannan batted .322 with five doubles and 19 total hits. Cook was a .283 hitter last year with 13 total hits.
Brannan was named first-team all-conference in the outfield and second-team all-district as a pitcher.
With Brannan and Cook gone, the Pirates will look to its large group of returners to fill the void. Seniors Darin Terrell and Heath Quick should both provide solid leadership for the rest of the team. Terrell will split his time between catcher and short, while Quick will man the outfield. Quick batted .412 last year, while Terrell posted a .208 batting average. Terrell was named second-team all-conference for his honors behind the plate last season.
Crane also returns seven juniors: Zane Compton, Chase Conrad, Koy Essary, Isaac Robinson, Hayden Shepard, Isaiah Smith, and Seth Steele. Compton, Robinson, and Smith were all picked first-team all-district last year. Smith and Robinson also garnered first-team all-conference honors. Sophomore Wyatt Howard is also back after batting .250 as a freshman last spring.
Compton went 0-1 with a 3.74 ERA last spring and batted .286 with 11 RBIs. Robinson posted a 4-1 mark with a 3.73 ERA and batted a whopping .406 with 26 total hits and 20 RBIs. Smith went 2-3 on the mound with a 2.65 ERA and batted .371 with four doubles, six triples, and 17 RBIs.
Along with it many returners, the Pirates will also look for contributions from a pair of newcomers: junior Wesley Clark and freshman Blake Evans. Both will provide quality depth for the Pirates this spring.
Crane’s schedule this spring isn’t easy. It includes a stretch from March 21 – April 21 where the team will play 13 straight games away from its home ballpark.
“The schedule we have built will test us,” Harmon said. “Hopefully, it will make us stronger when we enter postseason play.”