BEECHER | One afternoon, you're playing in the Class 2A state third-place softball game.
The next, you're flying to Spain.
If that sounds a bit disorienting, consider what Sarah Crews discovered when arriving in the land of the setting sun.
"It was actually weird, because when I went to Spain, I wasn't able to listen to Pandora, I wasn't able to play softball and I wasn't able to work out, so my daily routine was just off," she said. "Nothing was right — no pitching, no Pandora in the morning. I didn't know what to do with myself the first few days."
Crews figured it out, and had an "amazing" graduation vacation with her parents, older brother, grandmother and a family friend. Back in Beecher, she was greeted with the news that her remarkable softball season earned her the nod as the Times 2014 Softball Player of the Year.
"I think it's a huge honor, and I'm really grateful for the award," she said. "I think it's great being able to be a senior and have such an accomplishment."
Crews was a dominant pitcher, going 23-5 with a 2.47 ERA and 151 strikeouts in 159 innings for the Ladycats, who finished fourth in Class 2A. She also hit .567, with 10 home runs, a team-high 14 doubles and 64 RBIs.
Not bad for a student who graduated third in her class, was a cheerleader, sang in the choir and is "a little obsessed" with working out — so much so she plans on a career in athletic training and physical therapy. With so many interests, is it any wonder she can't even pick a favorite between hitting a homer and striking out the side?
"There's not one way certain things make you happy," Crews said. "Like, when you sing, it's a totally different feeling than after winning a game.
"Hitting a home run, sometimes you don't even know it goes over. Then it goes over and it's even more overwhelming. You're like, 'Oh my God, I can just jog from second home. This is great.' Striking out an important out, it's a huge feeling, especially if it's the third out. Getting out of an inning with a runner on second base, that's exciting."
Not that you'd see as much reflected in Crews' face. She prides herself on being calm, for her teammates' sakes, no matter the situation. Except one.
"After our second to last game, I got pretty emotional," Crews said of a 6-5 state semifinal loss to Teutopolis. "That was like the end of our season. We were only going to have one more game until we never — not saw each other again -- but were a team and together. It was pretty emotional for the seniors."
On a personal level, Crews will concede she was digging "the home run thing. … Last season I only had five. Being able to double that was pretty amazing." But, her greatest joys came from what Beecher achieved as a team.
Despite winning 30, 29 and 27 games in her first three seasons, Beecher advanced out of the regional only in the first of those years.
"The way this team connected this year was really different from the other teams," Crews said. "I think everyone got along really well. At first, it was kind of a rocky road, getting together. But once we clicked, it was like everything was on. We had a few great weeks in a row and kind of knew if we continued that momentum and that success, we'd be able to go far."
They went farther than any Beecher team since 2007, in part because Crews and fellow seniors Bella Woolslayer and Vanna Lowe willingly led a squad composed mostly of sophomores and freshmen.
"We planned a few gatherings," Crews said. "We had a sleepover and stuff. That helps."
It helped, too, to have Crews settling things down on the mound, and protecting Taylor Johnson in the order. Crews, who led the Ladycats in hitting the two previous seasons, ceded this year's crown to Johnson (who hit .598) while betting behind her in the No. 4 slot for the second half of the season.
Next, she'll take her talents to Clarke University in Dubuque, Iowa, where she'll enter an accelerated, direct-entry physical therapy program open to only 20 freshmen. In 10 years, she said, "Hopefully I'll be out of school, maybe working with a professional sports team for a few years and then trying to open my own practice."
And when she talks of her favorite moments from this magical softball season?
"I have two," she said. "Getting to beat Wilmington during the season (10-3) — everybody was playing well, everybody was hitting well, we had like three homers during the game, it was pretty awesome. The year before, they beat us during regionals, and to be able to get them back for it was kind of nice.
"And my favorite off-the-field moment was when we went to Olive Garden together. It was the night before one of our sectional games. We were really trying to 'carb up'. Everybody was getting along really well. It was great chemistry and just a great time."