Wins often were difficult to come by for the Reynoldsburg baseball team the past two seasons, but Reece Crabtree sometimes went above and beyond to give the Raiders a chance.
Crabtree, a senior whose prep career ended when the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, was among Reynolsburg’s top pitchers the past two seasons.
The Raiders went 8-18 overall and 0-15 in the OCC-Ohio Division in 2018 and 9-16 overall and 3-12 in the league last spring, but they nearly added to their win total last season when Crabtree pitched one of the best games of his prep career.
Two days after the Raiders lost 7-2 at Pickerington North, Crabtree pitched 10 1/3 innings and threw 118 pitches against the Panthers, leaving with the game scoreless but with runners on base.
Crabtree, who gave up seven hits and three walks while striking out four, ended up the tough-luck loser in a 1-0 defeat.
“I did have one really great game against Pickerington North,” Crabtree said. “It was one of the best games I’ve ever pitched, win or lose.
“We didn’t go too far, but we always had some type of talent on our team. We just could never put it together. We should have been really good last year and probably had the best team talent-wise we’ve had in a while, but we had a few injuries that really hurt us.”
Crabtree became a contributor as a sophomore when he had a 3.40 ERA in 18 1/3 innings while also seeing time at shortstop.
Last spring, he started most of the season at shortstop and served on a pitching staff that also featured 2019 graduates Michael Tooker and Brock Mason. Crabtree posted a 2.48 ERA with 36 strikeouts.
This spring, Crabtree was expected to be joined in the rotation by senior James Dean and sophomore Preston Allen, and he was preparing to catch when he wasn’t pitching.
Crabtree has committed to Hope College, a Division III program in Holland, Michigan, where he projects to be a catcher.
Dean has committed to play football for Tiffin and senior Drew Cook, who split time last year between catcher and second base, will play baseball for Heidelberg.
“(Catcher is) definitely his best position over shortstop,” coach Bob Benjamin said. “He was going to be our top pitcher this year also. ... He kind of got lucky when he was a freshman because that was such a good senior class and they kind of took him under their wing. He hung out with the seniors and learned the ropes and this year you could just tell, he was our leader.
“The crazy part about it is I think we would have had a really good (team) this year.”
Crabtree’s stepfather is Todd Dunkle, who coached Hartley to the 1996 Division IV state championship. His father is Tim Crabtree, who has served as the Raiders’ pitching coach the last four years.
Over the past year, Reece Crabtree has put on about 25 pounds of muscle, according to his father.
He’s hoping to study chemical engineering in college.
“When he was trying to figure out what he wanted to do, he finally settled down when he was 13 years old and decided he wanted to (focus on) baseball and started fall ball,” Tim Crabtree said. “He really was hooked on it and he loved it and went on from there. … As a parent, I can’t be any more proud of Reece. He’s becoming such a great, honorable young man.
“Hope College is a beautiful school. He’s been there several times and the baseball field is actually one of the top-ranked in the country for Division III. He’s going to be a catcher and third baseman and will probably do some pitching. The last two years stat-wise, he was our best pitcher and we had some excellent seniors that could have put up great numbers. This last year he really poured it on with a lot of college visits that included working out with baseball teams and camps.”