By Chris Parker
Crane softball won the program’s third district title in four seasons last year. The Lady Pirates finished 11-11 overall ending with a state quarterfinal loss to Advance.
Five seniors return from that team including: Aubree Chisam, Gracie Brawley, Lauren Akin, Danielle Cutbirth and Perry Mease.
Head coach Mike Morelock on Chisam: “Aubree Chisam is our pitcher and will be in the circle again for us this year. Aubree got her first full season last year against varsity hitters and grew tremendously throughout the season. She is a competitor and we saw her grow mentally and develop a hard-nosed instinct. She throws a lot of strikes and keeps us in ball games. In addition, she was an offensive leader for us as well last year. We could always count on her to put the ball in play and come through big at the plate.”
Chisam posted a .468 batting average with 20 RBI last year. She had an OPS of 1.121.
Morelock on Brawley: “Gracie Brawley plays centerfield for us and is a phenomenal athlete. There is not a fly ball that is safe with her in the field. She literally goes and catches everything. She is one of the best defensive outfielders around.”
Brawley had a .373 on-base percentage with 19 RBI and 14 runs scored.
Morelock on Akin: “Lauren Akin will play shortstop for us this year for most of our games. She is a gifted softball player and leader for us. She is one of our top offensive players and hits the ball very well. She always seems to come up big for us when we need it and is very aggressive on the bases. Her personality is contagious and she keeps morale high during games.”
Akin hit .339, but her 10 walks drove her on-base percentage all the way up to .471. She scored 21 runs and had 14 RBI.
Morelock on Cutbirth: “Danielle Cutbirth will be behind the plate for us this year for most of our games. We made this move last year and is one of the reasons we were able to make a push during the postseason last year. Once we put her behind the plate the running game of our opponents was non-existent. Danielle led our team in almost every offensive statistic last season and made all-state honors for the second year in a row. She is always positive and a great teammate.”
Cutbirth hit .500 with a .609 on-base percentage. She scored a team-high 29 runs.
Morelock on Mease: “Perry Mease will be competing hard this season. Perry started in the outfield for us for last season and grew a lot as a player. Her energy is always high and is always encouraging her teammates to do their best. Perry is one that has worked hard this offseason in the weight room and will play hard no matter what she is asked to do.”
Mease scored nine runs and drove in eight more.
Akin (second base), Lillie McMenamy (shortstop), Shay Blair (third base0 and Addison Blair (first base) return to the infield.
Mease and Brawley return to the outfield.
“We have several returning starters from last year considering we only lost one senior,” Morelock said. “With that being said, we have several freshmen we will be adding to our roster and a few others as well. For the first time since I took over as the head coach, we will have true competition at several positions. This is such a great problem to have. I look forward to our girls pushing one another and working through tough and hard decisions that will have to be made. The girls know that if you can hit, we will find a spot for you. We had some pitfalls and a rough start to our season last year and then finally figured things out and played our best softball right at the end of the year. We learned a lot about adversity and how to overcome obstacles. This experience combined with clutch hitting, pitching, and sound defense will need to continue for us to reach our goals this season.”
Morelock will be looking for consistency at the plate from his team.
“A lot of coaches will agree that consistency is the hardest thing to achieve in high school sports, but is also something we strive for,” Morelock said. “Especially at the plate. Quality at bats are essential in having success. Making the opposing pitcher throw a lot of pitches, hitting the ball where it is pitched, and having a high on base percentage will do a lot to help us through this season. I know we will have a solid defense but we will have to focus on not allowing mistakes to snowball and making the next play.”
Crane opens the season on Mar. 18 at home against Marionville. It starts off a schedule that Morelock calls the most challenging ever for Crane.
“We have the most challenging schedule we have ever had for our program this year,” Morelock said. “This was not done lightly and was very much on purpose. The regular season is for getting better each and every game and building momentum to hit the postseason ready to compete for championships. We have an awesome conference full of competitive teams and great coaches. My expectations are that we go out and compete to the best of our abilities, we grow as a team throughout the season, and we go into districts ready to make a run at that district title. We will be tried and tested all season with many formidable opponents.”
Morelock will be joined in the dugout by assistant coaches Dan Akin and Curtis Chisam. Akin was named the Assistant Coach of the Year in 2021.