For the first time since she was a youth, Erin Lehman will not be playing softball this upcoming season, and she already misses the sport, one she was able to play at the highest level.

Lehman, a 2013 New Palestine High School graduate and former Dragons softball player, just wrapped up her college career as a four-year starting second baseman for the Indiana Hoosiers on a full scholarship.

During her college career, the New Palestine native was named to the All-Big Ten Academic Team on three occasions and was awarded Indiana University’s Sportsmanship Award her senior year.

Lehman, 22, will graduate in December from Indiana University with a Bachelor of Science degree in human biology with plans to attend medical school. This summer she’s in New Orleans working at a local hospital getting physician assistant medical training, but softball isn’t far from her mind.

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“Looking back at my career, even though it’s only been a little over a month, I already miss it,” Lehman said. “It was an incredible experience getting to play against some of the top players in the country.”

Lehman not only played against top talent, but she was a star on her own team. She led the Hoosiers in hitting as a sophomore with 41 hits and a .360 batting average. She was second on the team in hitting her junior year with 53 hits and a .315 batting average.

While the Hoosiers finished this year 23-31, Lehman once again had a stellar season. She played in all 54 games, scored 22 runs, collected 33 hits and had a .338 slugging percentage. She shined specifically on the diamond, with her glove, netting a .969 fielding percentage.

“Defense was something that I really embraced,” she said. “It has always been my favorite part of the game, my entire life.”

There’s nothing like diving and stealing a base hit from an opposing player or making a stop to start an inning-ending double play, Lehman said.

Ed Marcum, her high school coach, can vouch for that. He said Lehman was always a pleasure to coach and never gave anything but her maximum effort both on and off the field. He wasn’t surprised she had the type of success she did in college, even at the Division-I level.

“I had to make it a rule for her not to dive in practice because she was always throwing her body around, and I needed to keep her healthy,” he said in an email to the Daily Reporter. “She was extremely fast and always led our team in steals.”

While there were many lessons to be learned from playing sports at the collegiate level, Lehman said she learned mostly how softball teaches a person to handle some of the tough challenges in life, as well as learning how to remain humble with success.

“I learned about how to be a leader, even though I’ve never been super vocal; I had to learn how to step into that role,” she said. “I also learned how to fail and get over it because things don’t always go your way in life.”

Douglas Lehman, her father, was thrilled to watch his daughter grow into a Big Ten, caliber athlete. She played the game harder than just about anyone he had ever seen, even at an early age.

However, he was more impressed with how his daughter grew and managed her year around softball responsibilities while also being a quality student-athlete in a demanding academic field.

Both he and his wife enjoyed watching their daughter play the game she has loved since she was a child.

“Watching her play on TV and against many top programs in the country has been an honor,” he said in an email to the Daily Reporter.

Lehman’s younger sister, Casey Lehman, who had an all-conference season as a catcher for the Huntington University Foresters at the NAIA level, will help Erin get her softball fix this summer and fall. Lehman plans to work out with Casey when she gets back from working at a hospital in New Orleans.

Erin also is hoping to volunteer with the Hoosiers this fall as an assistant coach, when she’ll be on campus finishing up her degree.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.