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Crane sisters alike when it comes to winning for Devils

Jessica Crane is the shy, easy-going junior, the one who sits in the dugout, arms stretched, legs folded. Erica Crane is the outgoing, non-stop senior, the one who is always on the move.

As sisters, it is obvious they are different in many ways. Put them on the softball field, however, and the differences end there.

Both are exceptionally gifted players who can hit for average and are above average in the field. They're starters for St. Petersburg and anchor a defense that has rapidly developed into one of the best in the county.

"We're both real aggressive when we're playing," Jessica said. "I'm sure people would know we are sisters out there. Softball is the one thing we have in common."

But the Cranes were raised on baseball. Jessica and Erica often tagged along with their father, John Crane, a former catcher at the University of South Florida, to watch him play in various leagues around the city. And when they weren't attending one of his games, Jessica and Erica were watching spring training and minor-league games.

"Baseball kind of grew on us," Erica said.

The sisters didn't want to just watch; they wanted to play. So they joined Gulf Beaches Little League eight years ago. That was where they developed their softball skills and their relationship with each other.

"We get along really well," Erica said. "She (Jessica) is my little sister and I don't let anyone pick on her except for me. It helped to play the same sport and to be together. We practice a lot, even away from the field, to make us better. When we started, there was no escaping baseball. But now I play softball and I can't give it up. It's in my blood."

The Cranes wanted to carry on the family tradition by playing the same position: catcher. The problem was, only one could start. Jessica made things easier by switching to third base, leaving the catching duties to her older sister.

Both found their niche, forming a solid tandem for anyone trying to steal third.

Now they are in search of a playoff victory. The Green Devils host Clearwater in the region quarterfinals tonight at 7 at Woodlawn Field No. 2. The winner moves on to the semifinals and final, played at one site, Thursday and Friday.

"Last year we did great," Erica said. "Now we want to do even more. I think as long as we stick together, we can go a long way."

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