The first time it happened, Leah Beach was taking a final. She couldn’t concentrate, and she knew something was wrong.
“It felt like I was spinning. I got super unbalanced and thought I was going to pass out,” the Tecumseh (Lynville, Indiana) softball junior said. “I just wanted to fall asleep or something.”
Leah’s immediate concern was for her season. Sectionals were coming up in less than a week. She had to play.
“Since I was so dizzy, they didn’t want me on the field,” she said of the school’s athletic trainers. “They didn’t want me on the field.”
“‘That’s too bad,’” the third baseman told them. “‘I’m going to play anyway.’”
Her mom picked her up from school and took her to an urgent care clinic. She’d never had symptoms like this. It was an episode of vertigo, the nurse said. They saw some fluid in her ear and thought that was the problem. They gave her some medicine and sent her on her way. If she felt fine, she could play.
She sat out the team’s final regular season game with a lingering headache. But as she got off the bus for the team’s sectional championship game, she felt dizzy.
“The motion of the bus made me sick,” she said. “I had to stand still. I couldn’t move. It got harder to breathe. Once I cooled off, I went and played the game.”
But she realized this wasn’t a one-off situation. Her concern began to grow.
“I was a little concerned that I’d have an episode as my pitcher was pitching, that I wouldn’t be able to move if a ball came to me,” she said. “I was afraid I’d run the bases and stop in the middle.”
She took the field, and there was a pop-up down the third-base line. She let her catcher get it, and for good reason.
“As soon as she caught it, I stopped and couldn’t move,” sh said. “If I did, I might fall down.”
Her coach and training staff came out to check on her. It took a few minutes for her to return to normal, and her coach begged her to come out of the game.
“I told her several times, ‘Want me to take you out?’ She said, ‘No. You’re not dragging me off the field,’” Tecumseh coach Gordon Wood said.
The Braves won that game, and were sectional champs for the 17th straight season. Beach took it easy during practice the next week, trying to rest her body. But the headache lingered. When the team was warming up for its regional championship game, she had to step away. It was too much.
“I got lightheaded. I couldn’t breathe,” she said. “I had to step off the field. It was so bad that I just had to.”
She played, but the pain persisted. The Braves won their fourth straight regional title in front of their home fans. The rest of the team rode the firetrucks in celebration. She couldn’t.
“I wasn’t able to do that. My headache was the worst it’s ever been,” she said. “I was happy for my team, but I just couldn’t do it.”
She went home, watched the videos her teammates sent her, and slept. That week, she went to her family doctor. He ran blood tests. Everything came back normal. But still, the problems persisted.
Before the team took the field for the semistate finals, Beach looked at her coach.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” she said.
“I think I might,” she said.
She did. The teams waited. Five minutes later, she took the field. She played, and the Braves won, and on Saturday, Beach will play for her second state title in three seasons.
Her play has been a key reason why the Braves have made another deep tournament run. She’s batting .326 with 21 RBI and nine extra-base hits, striking out just three times in 100 at-bats.
“Gordon says this is the best hitting team he’s had in a while,” Beach said. “We’ve made it so far and I’m so proud of these girls.”
The community has become accustomed to a winning softball program, but that hasn’t stopped them from coming out in droves.
“At regionals, we didn’t have enough seating for all of our fans,” she said. “We had people sitting in the outfield. You couldn’t see our concession stand because there were so many people in the way.”
Laurie Beach says her daughter is “pretty much back to normal.” Her coach says “we never know when it’s going to come up.”
But if the last few weeks have taught him anything, he knows this: Leah Beach is going to play.