No matter what Emily Crane does on the softball field, it just works out.
The latest case in point is exemplified by Crane bursting onto the scene of major Division I softball.
The 2011 Post-Dispatch All-Metro softball player of the year, Crane is the starting second baseman for the University of Missouri, where she is currently hitting .400 with a team-best 10 doubles and 18 RBI.
“I know my job is just to get on base, because I know the girls behind me will always hit me around,” said Crane, who has started all 30 games for the Tigers (24-6). “It’s comforting the things the girls behind me can do.
"I’m just playing the game I love. I never thought I’d have this (success). I am so thankful to be in this position. My mindset is to go out there and have fun. When I go out there and have fun, I tend to do better.”
While Crane has been dynamic at the plate, she has been rock solid at second base, the third position she has manned in three years. In her final two seasons at Troy, Crane played center field and shortstop.
The move to second base has paid dividends, even if it was met with some trepidation at first.
“After Christmas break, Coach E. (Mizzou coach Ehren Earleywine) told me he was going to throw me in at second and to not be alarmed. Obviously, I was alarmed. He told me he was going to teach me everything he knew, and so far, so good.”
Crane is more than holding her own with 51 assists, 44 putouts and just four errors for a .96 fielding percentage.
Crane has done such a good job at her new position that she has drawn raves from someone who could, by all rights, be an incredibly harsh critic.
“I played second base my whole life, that’s my position,” Earleywine said. “She has done fantastic. She’s in the lead-off spot, which takes a lot of courage in and of itself. She has had a lot of big hits against great pitching. We didn’t know she was going to be as good as she is, and this fall, she’s just torn it up.”
The great thing for Crane — and for Missouri — lies in just how well she truly fits in.
In her first year of collegiate softball, Crane said she knows what the Tigers’ endgame is all about.
“We played down at Missouri State, and I just kept thinking about how the last time I was on that field, we were winning a state championship,” Crane said. “Knowing that there is so much more to achieve at this level makes it a lot more special. As long as we continue to hit and to remember that it’s just softball, then it (the College World Series) is a goal because (starting pitcher) Chelsea (Thomas) will support us. I am just excited to see what will happen.”
GRIESHABER HAD TWO HOME RUNS AT MINUTE MAID PARK
Kyle Grieshaber (Marquette) tries to keep his approach to hitting as simple as possible.
"I just like to be me out there," he said. "Sometimes you can get caught up in trying to do too much. I just try (to use) what I know my strengths are."
A senior infielder at Central Missouri (27-8), the nation's No. 5-ranked NCAA Division II baseball team, Grieshaber is hitting a robust .381 with team-highs of eight home runs and 44 RBI. Grieshaber played the first two years of his college career at Louisville before transferring prior to the 2012 season to Central Missouri.
One of the highlights of the season for Grieshaber was hitting two home runs at Minute Maid Park, the home of the Houston Astros. Central Missouri played four early season games at Minute Maid, and Grieshaber responded with six hits in 15 at-bats.
Grieshaber holds 11 season and seven career records at Marquette, including a .502 career average. He batted .552 as a senior.
FAILONI A YEAR TOO EARLY
If it were a year from now, Michael Failoni (Edwardsville) of the Lindenwood University baseball team would be recognized as the leading Division II hitter in the nation. Since Lindenwood is not a full-fledged NCAA member until the 2013-14 academic year, its athletic statistics are not yet eligible for NCAA inclusion.
If eligible, Failoni's current .481 average would place him first in the country, and his .719 slugging percentage would be among the top 10. Twenty-three of the former Edwardsville standout's 65 hits have gone for extra-bases, including four for home runs.
Lindenwood is 16-21 overall and 14-15 in is its first season in the Mid-America Athletics Association.
BUFORD CONTINUES TO EXCEL AT MISSOURI STATE
Dorian Buford (McCluer North) has picked up right where he left off last fall for the Missouri State football team. Buford reeled in a 43-yard touchdown during last Saturday's second scrimmage of the spring. Buford and the rest of the Bears will cap spring workouts with this Saturday's annual Maroon and White game.
Buford was a first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference selection last fall after catching 59 passes for 642 yards and two touchdowns for a Bears team that finished 3-8 overall and 3-5 in the MVC.
WEBSTER BUILDS SLIAC WIN STREAK TO 20
Webster University increased its streak of victories against St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference opponents to 20. The Gorloks, whose run of wins dates to late in the 2012 season, are gunning for a seventh straight regular-season SLIAC championship. Webster (22-6) is 14-0 in the conference and in search of a sixth straight year of winning 20 or more league games. The nine SLIAC schools play a 24-game league schedule.
Included in the win streak was the first nine-inning no-hitter in school history, thrown by junior right-hander Dylan Dean Smith (Albion, Ill.), who is 3-0 with a 3.12 earned-run average. Junior infielder Taylor Stoulp (St. Mary's) leads Webster with 25 RBI. Senior outfielder Mike Rainbolt (Kankakee, Ill.) tops the Gorloks with a .380 batting average.
Webster was ranked 15th in the most recent Division III poll.
NO-HITTER TRIGGERED TURNAROUND
Fontbonne University senior pitcher Andrew Schlereth (Affton) appears to have turned his season around following a no-hitter earlier this month.
Schlereth was winless and struggling with a 7.98 earned-run average before throwing a 3-0, seven-inning gem against Greenville College, a game that saw him strike out three and not walk a batter. The only two baserunners he allowed came via an error and hit batter.
Schlerth is now 2-4 and, over his last 21.2 innings, has an ERA of 2.91 for a Fontbonne team that is 11-16 overall and 7-4 in the SLIAC.
The only other no-hitter in Fontbonne history was thrown by David Willey (Trinity) in April 2010 against Blackburn College.
UMSL FOUL SHOOTERS MOST ACCURATE
The University of Missouri-St. Louis men's basketball team was the most accurate in the nation among Division II schools, according to the recently released final NCAA statistics.
UMSL made a school-record 80.4 percent of its free-throw attempts en route to a 17-10 season. The Tritons made 516 of 562 tries. The previous school record of 76.4 percent was established during the 1984-85 season.
“It is a neat thing to finish at the top and to have that recognition," third-year UMSL coach Steve Tappmeyer said. "It probably did calculate into us being able to win 17 games this year. There were probably a number of games that we may not have won had we not shot free throws well.
“Getting to the free-throw line was a point of emphasis this year for us. When teams get to the free-throw line, it really affects the opposing team and softens the defense up when they begin to get into foul trouble.
“We didn't do anything particularly different in practice this year, although we do have some drills where we do shoot free throws every day," Tappmeyer said. "However, I've learned that the bigger the deal you make out of making them, the more pressure it really puts on the players.”
Leading UMSL at the line were junior Michael Weber (Ames, Iowa) and senior Joshua McCoy (Fort Zumwalt South). Weber finished the season ranked fifth in the nation at 91.4 percent (85 of 93), while McCoy was 41st at 85.6 percent (101 of 118). McCoy graduates ranked second all-time in career percentage at 84.7 (188 of 222).
AROUND THE AREA
• Freshman Jill Harmon (Lindbergh) has the top long jump (19 feet, 2 inches) and second-farthest triple jump (37-5) this spring for the Illinois Wesleyan women's track team. Harmon won the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin indoor triple jump title and was second in the long jump earlier this year. At Lindbergh, Harmon was a three-time district champ in the triple jump.
• Redshirt freshman Jehu Chesson (Ladue) is trying to work his way up the depth chart at wide receiver during Michigan's spring camp. Chesson caught 129 balls for 1,764 yards and 23 touchdowns during his prep career at Ladue.
• Washington University's women's tennis team is ranked No. 10 among Division III schools. Freshman Jamie Silverberg (Cherry Hill, N.J.) is 20-1 in singles. The Bears (12-5) are 5-5 against ranked opponents, including a 5-4 victory over No. 7 University of Chicago last Saturday.
• Missouri Baptist's baseball team (28-8) is ranked No. 23 among NAIA schools. The Spartans are a league-leading 22-3 in the American Midwest Conference.