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by Mark Cheffey
The PHS baseball program has a new face at the helm, and he is looking forward to continuing it’s competitive tradition.
Branden Crisp crossed the river from Quincy, Ill., to where he wants to be.
“I’m very excited,” said Crisp, who has been guiding the Quincy High School team for the past five years.
“And I head a really good time there, and really enjoyed it, but I’m a Missouri guy, so it’s nice to come over to this side.”
The Kirksville native played four years of high school baseball there, and then went to Indian Hills Community College where he was the starting catcher for two seasons as the team took eighth and fourth place in Community College World Series.
He then transferred to Northern Iowa University for one year before finishing up at Culver-Stockton College.
Following that, there were coaching stints at Mark Twain and Indian Hills CC prior to his run at QHS.
Crisp said he was already aware of Palmyra baseball having played against the likes of Jacob Bunten and Jeremy Snow in Legion ball.
And, he became even more familiar with PHS while at QHS.
“They’ve had some really good teams, that’s for sure,” Crisp said. “And lately, they’ve kind of put it on us, so I’m hoping that trend continues.”
Crisp takes over a program that lost considerable experience to graduation, but what he sees as considerable potential.
“We’re going to have some gaps where we’re going to be inexperienced,” Crisp said. “The thing is we’re young, but talented, competitive.
“I don’t think in the beginning of the year, middle of the year, we’re going to be hitting on all cylinders, but I do feel, by the end of the year, we’re going to be playing our best baseball, and that’s always my goal.
“It may not reflect in wins and losses, but by the end of the year, we’re going to be better than a lot of teams because we’ll be able to mature as the season goes along.”
Crisp has not had very much time to evaluate his players and know where each one will be playing, but he has identified a few who he hopes will be making their impact on the team.
That starts with his three seniors, Andrew Comer, Clayton Deming and Jon Lundberg.
“They have done a really good job of helping me out, and at working with the younger kids and helping them out as well,” Crisp said.
He also identified Comer and Lundberg as important parts of the pitching staff along with Ethan Tallman, who has made his mark on the mound the past two seasons.
“He’s going to be a really good front line guy,” Crisp said of Tallman. “I think his upside is unreal.”
Crisp also pointed to Colby Cook, a junior, and Gavin Greving, a sophomore as pitching prospects.
Rounding out the roster are juniors, Joshua Hathaway, Rayce Ragar, Zeke Meyers, Cameron Ragar and Austin Nowell; sophomores, Cody Maziarka, Cade Lehman, Lance West and Devry Buckman; and freshmen, Ty Haskins, Rylan Compton, Raeson Miller, Brodie Webb, Rafe Jones, Colby Jones and Tatum Martin.
Crisp said he is very much encouraged by the support he has seen of the program so far.
“What’s great is the community has been really great about embracing us,” he said. “I went to the Booster Club and said I need another batting cage and they were like, ‘Done.’”
The new addition has helped the team get more swings in during inclement weather, giving Crisp a good look at what the players could be like at the plate.
“I think we have a chance to be a pretty good offensive team if not in the early part of the season, maybe later,” Crisp said.
When asked about his coaching philosophy, Crisp was quick to say one word: development.
While winning is still important, he said he wants to develop the players from top to bottom, giving them a chance to play in different positions and situations.
“If you looked at every one of our teams at Quincy, at the end of the year, they were ready and we were always playing our best baseball.
“And the last guy on the roster is just as important as the rest of them.
“I want to make sure that I’m building a team and a culture that (players) can be proud of what they are doing and everyone feels they have a stake in it.”
Crisp doesn’t have to look far to see how a team can start out slow and still be successful.
Last year’s Panthers started out a grim-looking 0-7, but then went 12-4-1 to reach sectionals and finish 12-11-1.
“And that’s all compliments to (former coach) Mark Loman, because he runs a really good program, and he knows baseball.
“He was really good at developing a team over the year, and I’m hoping to continue that.”
Crisp will have coaching assistance from Matt Thomas and Tanner Adams.
The Panthers will begin the season at the Southern Boone Cluster March 18, before hosting their first home game against Elsberry, March 21.
3/18 at S. Boone(Cluster) TBA
3/21 Elsberry 5 p.m.
3/23 Canton 5 p.m.
3/28 at QND 5 p.m.
3/30 at QHS 5 p.m.
4/3 B. Green 5 p.m.
4/4 Macon 5 p.m.
4/8 at Moberly Noon
4/10 Unity (Ill.) 5 p.m.
4/11 at Clark Co. 5 p.m.
4/13 Monroe City 5 p.m.
4/15 at Moberly 10 a.m.
4//17 at Hallsville 5 p.m.
4/18 Highland 5 p.m.
4/21 Brookfield 5 p.m.
4/27 Centralia 5 p.m.
4/28 at Hannibal 5 p.m.
4/29 S. Callaway Cluster
5/1 at Liberty (Ill.) 5 p.m.
5/4 at S. Shelby 5 p.m.
5/6-7 Pal/QND Slam
5/10 at Kirksville 5 p.m.