COLUMBIA — A pair of giggling teammates looked on as Emily Crane flapped her arms like a bird to the Avicii song “Wake Me Up.”
Between innings of the Missouri softball team’s annual Black & Gold Exhibition Game Saturday, the sophomore center fielder couldn’t help but dance to the song blaring over the loudspeaker at Devine Pavilion. Even in the midst of an uncharacteristic 0-4 day, Crane bounced around like a child on a sugar high. For every new song — from Katy Perry’s Top-40 hit “Roar” to Metallica’s rock classic “Enter Sandman” — Crane seemed to have a new move.
“She’s random,” coach Ehren Earleywine said. “You could be talking about baseball for one minute, and the next minute you could be talking about the best way to trim a hedge.”
The “free spirit,” as Earleywine describes her, also happens to be one of the team’s best players. Last year as a freshman, Crane started every game for the Tigers at second base, despite playing the position for the first time. The Troy native led Missouri with a .376 batting average (11th overall in the Southeastern Conference), 13 stolen bases, and tied for the team lead with 16 doubles, displaying an uncommon combination of speed, power and prowess in the field.
The stellar freshman season earned Crane a spot on the USA Softball Junior Women's National Team, made up of the nation's top 17 softball players 19-and-under. Crane and her teammates spent 21 days together last summer, practicing in Ohio before competing in the Junior Women's World Championship, a tournament the team won by defeating Japan 4-0 in the gold medal game.
"She can do everything," Missouri first baseman Kelsea Roth said. "She can run, she can hit, and play in the field.”
Roth is also familiar with Crane's off-the-field hijinks.
On a bus ride back to the hotel last season, fresh off a win over California State Fullerton, Crane and outfielder Taylor Gadbois hatched an idea to force Roth to sing for the team. After waiting for Roth to use the bathroom, Crane and Gadbois barricaded her inside. A trapped Roth had no choice: to get out, she sang lines from the movie “Pitch Perfect." Outside the bathroom door, her teammates huddled together and joined Roth in reciting lines from the musical comedy.
“Apparently I can sing,” Roth said. “Well, sort of.”
As the bottom of the 10th inning approached in the Black & Gold game Saturday, an eventual 8-7 win for Crane’s Black team, the sophomore sprinted out to center field. This year, Crane will move from second base to her natural position in the outfield. The move was made to allow her to feel more comfortable.
“I think I put myself under too much pressure last year,” Crane, who played center field for three years in high school, said. “Even though I didn’t do bad, I think I’ll be more calm, cool and collected in the outfield this year.”
When the final out of Saturday's contest was recorded, Crane jogged in from center field, her blonde braid bobbing up and down. The bass from the Katy Perry and Juicy J song “Dark Horse” thumped over the loudspeaker. Once again, Crane couldn’t help herself; the "free spirit" of the Missouri softball team began to dance.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.