Hunter Crabtree won’t be waiting for a call from the Midwest Nationals asking him to fill in again for a Show-Me Collegiate League game. After all, nobody calls any more.
Rather, Crabtree hopes to be getting another text message to inquire about his availability again. The Nixa grad was some kind of a fill-in Sunday, homering while helping account for seven runs in the Nationals’ 13-5 triumph over the Queen City Crush.
“My Nationals 18U summer coach texted me two days ago and said that (the Nationals’ Collegiate League team) needed a player for tonight,” Crabtree said. “He said he felt like I’d be a good guy to go play. I told him that I would do it.
“Tonight was great. I enjoyed it. It was exciting,” he added. “This is my first game with them and may be my last. But if they need somebody to play, let me know and I’m ready to go.”
The left-handed swinging Crabtree homered in his first at-bat, a three-run shot down the right-field line. The teams combined for 23 hits, with Crabtree hitting the only homer. It was just the sixth homer hit in 10 SMCL games. He’s in six-way tie for the league lead in dingers.
Crabtree closely resembled Ozark junior Jake Skaggs and not just because Skaggs hit three home runs in one game at U.S. Baseball Park this year. Like Skaggs, Crabtree features a high leg kick to help generate power in his swing.
“They’re pretty similar in their swings,” said Nationals third baseman and Ozark grad Carson Shaver. “That’s probably why they’re successful. They’re doing a lot of the same things and it’s working. I’ve played with Hunter for four years. I’m happy he did good tonight. I’m always happy to see him succeed.”
Crabtree had a leg kick during a senior season for Nixa this year that did not meet his expectations, but not nearly as pronounced as his leg kick is now.
“I kind of shortened it during the high school season to try to get my foot down earlier and stay shorter — that’s what coach (Jason) Daugherty preaches,” Crabtree said. “I think (the higher leg kick) gives me more rhythm and more power.”
Crabtree followed up his homer with an RBI-double and a walk. He scored three runs. The only time he was retired was on a hard-hit fly out to right. The Missouri Southern State signee feels he may have put too much pressure on himself in March, April and May, but is feeling no pressure in June.
“I’d say there were situations during school ball in which you felt like you needed to do this or that, which is fine,” Crabtree said. “But here it’s just go out and play. I’m kind of mind-free, just going out and hitting the ball and not worrying about anything. I’m not thinking too much, just putting my swing on the ball.”
It felt extra good for Crabtree to enjoy himself on the ball diamond, after Nixa’s season ended with the Eagles losing a two-run, sixth-inning lead and falling to Glendale 4-2 in the Class 5 District 9 championship game.
“I think for most of us it took a week to kind of get over it,” Crabtree said. “It was tough. It still runs through my head at least once a day, thinking of what we could have done better or what I could have done better to help us win that game.”
The Nationals rallied from a 5-3 deficit by plating four runs in the seventh inning and six more in the ninth. Shaver enjoyed a big night himself, going 4-for-5.
NATIONALS (ab-r-h-bi) — Mozley 5-2-1-0, Shaver 5-2-4-2, Miller 4-1-1-0, Mitchell 4-1-2-3, Cleverly 4-1-1-1, Larson 5-0-0-1, Kamykowski 3-1-0-0, Ziegler 3-2-1-0, Crabthree 3-3-2-4.
CRUSH — Crawley 4-1-3-1, Lenz 4-0-1-0, Turner 4-1-1-1, Fernelious 5-0-0-0, Randazzo 2-1-1-2, Yates 5-0-1-0, Thompson 4-0-2-1, Meacham 4-0-0-0, Kennedy 4-2-2-0.
Nationals 030 000 406 - 13 12 0
Crush 211 100 000 - 5 11 2
WP - Lummis. LP - Lee. HR - Crabtree.