For about as long as she could remember, Brittany Crandell’s right arm was the source of countless positive things.
Past success, to the tune of 65 victories during her first three varsity years at Mulberry Grove.
The possibility for even more success as a senior, considering the Lady Aces were bringing everyone back from a 22-7 team.
And seemingly unlimited possibilities in the future, with a number of colleges showing interest in bringing Crandell aboard.
But that all changed in an instant during the Lady Aces’ 2008 season-opener against South Central.
‘It was like a strain, then a pop and my arm was just numb,’ said Crandell of the moment she tore her rotator cuff.
Suddenly, Crandell’s right arm was the source of countless negative emotions.
‘There were a lot of moments of doubt,’ Crandell said. ‘I’d just be sitting on the bench, thinking about all the times I was pitching real fluid, with no injuries. Then I get injured, and it’s my senior year down the drain… It was just horrible.
‘I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to pitch again.’
Unfortunately, Crandell’s fears were justified.
After all, she had an injury so serious that it oftentimes requires surgery and a yearlong rehab.
At best, she was looking at minimal time in the pitcher’s circle in her final prep season.
At worst, there was the possibility she wouldn’t pitch at all, scaring potential college suitors away in the process.
But Kaskaskia coach Lori Cox alleviated Crandell’s biggest fear, banking that Mulberry Grove’s longtime ace will make a full recovery and regain her form as a member of the Blue Devils.
Crandell’s comeback became official last Thursday when she signed on the dotted line to play at KC.
‘I think she’s driven enough and strong enough that she’s gonna be able to bounce back with time off,’ Cox said.
If Cox’s gamble pays off, KC might be landing a true diamond in the rough.
After taking up pitching in the third grade, Crandell quickly developed into what Lady Aces coach John Barnes refers to as ‘just a lights-out pitcher.’
‘She was – especially when she was younger – a power pitcher,’ Barnes said. ‘She’d dominate and get a lot of strikeouts. She could stop a team in their tracks.
‘I can’t remember how many no-hitters she’s had, but it’s got to be well over a dozen from junior high on.’
Crandell could credit much of her early success to a dominating fastball that touched 60 mph and was consistently above 55 mph.
But Crandell truly became a pitcher during her high school career.
‘She learned how important it is to hit corners and outsmart people,’ Barnes said.
The fact that Crandell had put it all together made her devastating injury all the more unfortunate. But to Crandell and the Lady Aces’ credit, they dealt with the blow as well as could be expected.
‘It hurts,’ said Barnes of watching a senior suffer such a serious injury. ‘I’ve had her ever since I’ve been here, and it’s just like your own kid getting hurt. But that hurt only can last for so long. You’ve got to learn to get on with it and help your team.’
Crandell managed to come back and pitch a handful of games later in the season, but she made her biggest contribution to what wound up being a surprisingly successful 26-10 season with her bat.
Her biggest hit was a game-winning two-run single in the top of the seventh in the semifinals of the Raymond-Lincolnwood Sectional, and Cox plans on getting Crandell’s bat in the lineup at KC as often as possible.
‘We did the best we could with trying to get her back and she played a big role hitting,’ Barnes said.
‘The girls did a really good job pulling together,’ Crandell said. ‘Joey (Brewer) did a heck of a job (pitching), and I was just happy I could hit and contribute that way.’
As much as Crandell enjoyed hitting, she still longed to pitch again. Which is why she views Cox’s scholarship offer as a second chance.
‘I was so happy I could still go on and pitch,’ Crandell said. ‘Even though my senior year wasn’t the best (personally), at least I could go on and make my college years better.’
Barnes has little doubt Crandell will succeed at the next level, even though she’ll have to adjust to throwing 43 feet instead of 40 feet.
‘She’s got talent,’ Barnes said. ‘As long as she rehabs and rests, she’ll be able to recover without having surgery. I think she’ll be good and ready to go once spring comes around.’
‘I don’t think she’s gonna have a problem stepping up to the junior college level,’ Cox said. ‘Knowing she comes from Mulberry Grove, that she comes from a good program, helped. I think she’s gonna be able to come out on top and help us out a lot next year.’
According to Barnes, Crandell did much more than that during her time in his program.
‘We rode her coattails for awhile,’ Barnes said. ‘She’s the kind of the kid that set the bar for all the accolades and recognition we get now. It all originated from her.’