Warriors’ Crane battles back from injury, earns Cherokee County baseball MVP

Cherokee County High School senior shortstop Jeb Crane was recently selected by the Cherokee County baseball coaches as their Most Valuable Player. Photo by Shannon Fagan.

By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director

COMING FRIDAY: All-Cherokee County Softball Team

It was a moment Cherokee County High School head baseball coach and Warrior football defensive coordinator Bret Henderson said he’ll never forget.

In the Warriors’ Class 4A football title game against Andalusia at Auburn back in December of 2022, then-junior defensive back Jeb Crane suffered a gruesome ankle injury and had to be carted off the field.

“I’ve been doing this for 15 years and I’ve seen some bad ones,” Henderson said. “He was calm. He leaned over and said ‘Just let my parents know I’m OK.’ He kind of cracked a joke, and I was like ‘You sure you’re OK? This is one of the worst I’ve seen.’ But he came back. He looked me in the eyes and said ‘I know I will’ and sure enough he did.”

Not only did Crane just come back to play, he became one of the Warriors’ go-to guys during the 2024 baseball season.

As a senior, the shortstop batted .507 with 12 doubles, four home runs, 27 walks, 11 hit by pitches, eight stolen bases, 37 runs and 32 RBIs in 28 games with the Warriors (17-11).

“It’s been bred in me from when I was young to be tough and never quit, never sell yourself short,” Crane said. “I tore every ligament in my ankle and broke my fibula in half. There was a point in time after my injury I wondered if I was going to be able to run the way I ran before, but it was just by the grace of God I was able to recover and probably put up the best year I had in high school.”

The Cherokee County baseball coaches took note of Crane’s efforts on the diamond. They recently rewarded him as their choice for All-Cherokee County Most Valuable Player. Crane is the first Warrior to earn the award since Jy Lockridge did so in 2018.

“It’s an honor,” he said. “There was a lot of work that went into it, a lot of late nights in the cage. My coaches prepared me for what I needed to do and I was able to go out and do it.”

One of Crane’s motivating factors is his brother, Warrior assistant baseball coach Josh Decker. Decker was a standout performer for the Warriors back in 2017.

“I never thought I would’ve had my brother as a coach, but it happened and I’m really glad it did,” Crane said. “He was definitely the hardest person on me by far, including myself and my dad. I always try to be better than my brother at everything. He kind of looks at it as he wants me to be better than him. He really pushed me to be that. I really appreciate that and I appreciate the time I got to spend with him.”

Henderson said he’s enjoyed the short time he’s had to coach Crane on the field. He transferred from Oxford to Cherokee County as a sophomore, then his injury took him out of his junior season.

“I hate that I didn’t get to see him play four years,” Henderson said. “He’s an older kid. He’s going to graduate at 19. He’s mature. He wasn’t a rah-rah guy. He led by example, and that’s going to be really hard to replace.”

Two memories of Crane from last baseball season stick out to Henderson.

“During spring break, we went over to Sylacauga and played in a wood bat tournament, and swinging the wood, I think he was 6-for-7 that day with a walk. He had a home run, two doubles and a sacrifice fly with those wood bats.

The other memory Henderson has of Crane was the Warriors’ senior night game against DAR.

“He always told me he hated to pitch, but I let him throw,” Henderson said. “He said ‘Coach I haven’t pitched in a game since I was 12 years old.’ He threw two complete innings, 34 pitches and struck four out. I was like ‘Why do you hate this?’ That was a good moment. He was always a warrior on the field, but in that moment when he came off, he was just grinning knowing that was probably the last time he was ever going to pitch.”

“I got to come back on the bump one last time, and it’s probably one of the most memorable moments of my high school career to be honest,” Crane said. “I wasn’t planning to pitch that night. I had to convince him (Henderson) to let me get on the bump. It all went well. I was ecstatic to be able to do something that night that I’ll remember.”

Joining Crane from Cherokee County High School on the all-county baseball team is Cooper Rodgers, Jace Turner, Jackson Aultman, Ben Elsberry and Luke Young.

Representing Spring Garden is Chapel Pope, Connor Bates, Zane Edwards and Clayton Sadler.

Cedar Bluff and Gaylesville both have three selections. Chosen from Cedar Bluff is Bryson Teague, Isaac Bishop and Kaden Pack. Alex Baty, Hunter Allmond and Kuper Bradley represent the Trojans.

Morgan Tucker and Cam Gifford were selected from Sand Rock.

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