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Senior excels for Grangers

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It has been a spectacular senior season so far for LaGrange High baseball standout Charles Crawford, and he’s hoping it isn’t over.

Across the state, all of the spring sports are on hold because of the coronavirus threat, and there is no indication when or if the seasons will continue.

If the Grangers do start playing baseball again, Crawford will look to pick up where he left off.

Crawford is not only hitting better than .600, but he has also been a lock-down pitcher, holding opposing teams without a run while serving as the team’s closer.

“Last year he had a good year. This year he’s having a great year,” said LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch. “He’s putting everything together. He’s hitting, he’s playing the outfield. I’ve cut down on his innings and I’m using him as a closer. Every time we put him out there he’s getting the job done. He hasn’t given up a run.”

Crawford, Branch added, has everything he wants in a team leader.

“You look at your best players and they’re among your hardest workers, that’s your best scenario,” Branch said. “They know the character of them. He’s the total package.”

Crawford is a four-year starter in baseball, and as a freshman he was the third baseman on a veteran team that reached the state semifinals in 2017.

Crawford has remained a critical member of the team since then, and he has helped the Grangers post an 8-3 record this season.

Crawford said being a part of the LaGrange baseball family has “been amazing,” and he has treasured the time he’s spent with his teammates.

“They’re pretty much brothers to me,” Crawford said. “I don’t think I have anybody that knows me better than them. I guess I got a little spoiled going to the final four (as a freshman). Those guys were so great to me. Being a young kid on such an old team was an amazing experience, and it carried over to my sophomore, junior and senior year.”

Crawford has also been a football standout at LaGrange, starting at quarterback for the past three seasons.

Playing football has been a challenge for Crawford, who has taken plenty of punishment over the years.

In one game alone last season, Crawford broke some fingers on his hand and suffered a deep cut on his head.

Crawford also wasn’t able to enjoy much success from a win-loss standpoint in football, with the Grangers winning just six games over the past four seasons.

Crawford, no matter what went wrong over the years in football, kept getting up, and he kept fighting and giving it his all.

“I think it had a tremendous impact on my character,” Crawford said of his time playing football. “It’s something that’s been hard, but I’ve been able to look at all the positives, and stay with my boys, and not let the negatives tear me down.”

Not surprisingly considering his athletic process, in addition to the excellence he has displayed in the class room, Crawford had plenty of options when he began searching for a college home.

While Crawford enjoyed his football experience, he felt that his future was in baseball, so that’s the sport he wanted to play in college.

“Ever since I was young it was kind of my dream to continue playing baseball,” Crawford said. “Growing up I played both sports and enjoyed both sports. I enjoyed the different aspects of both sports, but I felt my best playing baseball. I had a few occurrences where I had some injuries in football, and they weren’t fun. I didn’t want to have to go through that, and baseball has always been my passion.”

Knowing his future was on the baseball field, Crawford set out to find the right college fit, and he set his goals high.

With the encouragement of LaGrange coach John Hardie, who had a stint as a teacher at Princeton, Crawford decided he wanted to attend an Ivy League school.

“I hadn’t really thought of an Ivy League school until coach Hardie joined our baseball and football program,” Crawford said. “He was the one that really introduced me to the possibility of going to an Ivy League school.”

Last summer Crawford took a tour of the Ivy League schools.

“I went to baseball and football camps during the summer,” Crawford said. “I was trying to get my name to some of the coaches, and see if I could start the recruiting process. It was amazing. It was great to see so many historical places. It was great to see all that, along with some good athletics.”

One of the schools Crawford visited was Brown University in Rhode Island, and he was impressed with everything he saw.

As an Ivy League institution Brown clearly had everything Crawford was looking for from an academic standpoint, and he was also impressed with how seriously baseball was treated under head coach Grant Achilles.

“They care so much about athletics,” Crawford said. “They were recruiting baseball guys. They want a solid program. They want the best baseball guys they could find who also have the academics to back it up.”

So the question is, will Crawford’s next baseball game be as a member of the LaGrange baseball team, or in college? Crawford is obviously hopeful his time as a Granger isn’t over.

“There’s nothing that I and the other seniors want more than to continue the season,” Crawford said.

Whenever Crawford’s time as a LaGrange baseball player ends, he will be missed by the person who has coached him the past two seasons.

“My regret with him is I didn’t get to coach him for four years,” Branch said. “The positive is I got to coach him for two. That’s the kind of guy that you wish you had the opportunity to have him for four years.”