By GRACE TAFOLLA
IOWA CITY, Iowa — On July 21, 2017, Sarah Lehman walked off a softball field for what she thought would be the final time.
As a high school senior, Lehman pitched the longest game in Iowa State Tournament history, throwing 16 innings to help Iowa City Regina capture the 2A Iowa Girls High School state title in Fort Dodge. Lehman was no stranger to Fort Dodge throughout her high school career. In five years, she made four state tournament appearances, including one runner-up finish and two state championships.
“It was crazy. I thought if that was the end of my career and it was one heck of a way to go out,” said Lehman. “But what I thought was the ending of a book was just a closing of a chapter.”
Lehman found herself on a volleyball court a few weeks later at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She chose to play volleyball at Coe late into her senior year of high school. She thought a small campus was what she wanted and felt volleyball had always been a fun and rewarding sport.
As her freshman year of college progressed, she grasped how much she missed softball. “I realized how much softball meant to me,” said Lehman. “I felt I owed it to myself to try and play the sport I missed and love so much again.”
Lehman made the decision to transfer to the University of Iowa to pursue softball at the end of her freshman year after the Hawkeyes hired Renee Gillispie as head coach. As an Iowa City native, Lehman, now a junior, grew up going to games at Pearl Field and wanted to be part of Iowa’s rise.
“The Hawkeye fan culture was always so fun to be part of,” said Lehman. “Once a Hawkeye, always a Hawkeye. I couldn’t turn down an opportunity to play at Iowa.”
Lehman knew she was a Hawkeye at heart. In her first season with Iowa in 2019, Lehman saw action in 18 games with 11 starts. She notched her first career win against Rutgers on April 21, giving up one hit and no runs in seven innings.
As the 2019 season progressed, Lehman continued to improve, despite taking a year off. She played in six of Iowa’s final eight games and finished the campaign ranked second on the team with 50 strikeouts. Lehman finished with a record of 2-8 and a 5.20 ERA. She tossed five complete games with two shutouts.
In 2020, Lehman was sidelined the first half of the season with an injury but was hopeful she would be cleared to play before the season came to a halt. Despite the 2020 season being canceled on March 12, Lehman is happy she went with her heart and became a Hawkeye.
“I appreciate every practice and every day I get to lace up my cleats and throw another pitch,” said Lehman.