It is quite easy to see how valuable Crystal Sicard was to the Brookfield Central softball team over the past four seasons.
The Lancers went 42-13 in games Sicard pitched in her prep career. When she suffered a season-ending injury just three games into 2015, Brookfield Central went 7-11 and struggled to stay in games against top competition.
Sicard returned from a broken ankle to again dominate in the circle in 2016, posting a 0.70 and striking out 198 batters in 120 innings to earn Now Newspapers All-Suburban honors.
'The injury was a big setback,' Sicard said. 'It was devastating to see my team out there last year (without me). It pushed me just seeing how much the girls needed a pitcher. Just seeing teams beat them pushed me to want to come back stronger so I can help my team and bring us back to where we were.'
It wasn't an arm or a shoulder injury that cost Sicard her junior season. It was much more frustrating than that.
The Lancers were practicing sliding at an early-season practice when Sicard broke her left ankle sliding into second base. Just like that, Brookfield Central lost its star pitcher.
'It was not a pretty thing,' Sicard said.
Sicard was already well-established as one of the area's top pitchers by her junior year. She went 14-3 with a 1.42 ERA as a freshman to earn Now All-Suburban honors and was a repeat member on the All-Suburban team after going 15-4 with a 1.56 ERA as a sophomore.
Sicard led Brookfield Central to within one game of qualifying for the WIAA state tournament each season, falling in consecutive sectional finals to Germantown, losing each game 1-0.
After losing Sicard in 2015, the Lancers allowed 8.9 runs per game.
While the physical rehab was a long process for Sicard, the mental hurdle of trusting herself to land on her plant foot was equally tough to overcome.
'Even when I was in the boot I was still doing arm circles just to keep my arm going,' Sicard said. 'It was really hard to come back because it was my planting foot. It was super hard to mentally get over that. I knew if I wanted to get back to where I was, I had to mentally get through it. A lot of it was mental.'
Sicard returned to the circle for Brookfield Central's opener against West Allis Central on April 12. She began her senior season with three consecutive shutouts and didn't allow an earned run until the fifth game of the year.
At the plate, Sicard hit .373 and tied for the team lead with three home runs. The Lancers bounced back from a down season to finish 13-6 and 11-3 in the Greater Metro before falling again to Germantown in the sectional.
'We had the unfortunate task of playing her in a doubleheader,' Wauwatosa East coach Ed Raue said. 'In game one, we lost 3-1, but she struck out 16. We couldn't touch her. We had some great at-bats. We had quite a few foul balls, but once she got to two strikes, she finished us off.
'That little shoulder can explode. She can bring it. She's small in stature, but for as small as she is, as hard as she throws, it is incredible. She's also a heck of a hitter.'
Sicard will continue her softball career at the University of Indianapolis, which went 51-5 and qualified for the NCAA Division II tournament this past season.
'I'm definitely working out a lot more to be prepared for the college level,' Sicard said. 'I'm working on new spins and new pitches, so hopefully that will help me to be a good incoming freshman.'
Brookfield Central's Katie Dobrzynski was named high honorable mention All-Suburban, and Alexa Rayborn was named honorable mention.
Dobryzynski, a junior, hit .465 with three home runs and 18 RBIs. Freshman Rayborn hit .534 in 58 at-bats for the Lancers.