The 354th and final at-bat of Lindsey Richards’ college softball career began promising enough.
Richards delivered a deep fly ball to right field late in Saturday’s 6-0 loss at North Dakota State, only to have a Fargo wind push back.
IUPUI’s 24-24 season came to a close shortly thereafter, the Jaguars’ two postseason victories exceeding the program’s total from the previous 15 seasons combined.
Plenty to celebrate, only Richards couldn’t. Not at that moment.
“It’s such a mix of feelings. I’ve been playing softball since I was 4 and played year-round for the past eight years,” said Richards, the 2010 Indian Creek High School valedictorian. “I just bawled when the game was over. It was awful.”
Richards’ softball commitment during the four-day Summit League Tournament forced her to miss IUPUI’s commencement exercises. No small deal for a 4.0 student who hasn’t earned any grade lower than an A since middle school.
“I would have rather been with my team,” she said. “Through the years they’re the ones who become your family, and this was my last chance to play with them.”
Richards, a starting right fielder who usually batted eighth for IUPUI, finished the 2014 season hitting .256 with seven doubles and seven home runs. The senior also scored 23 runs, drove in 27 more and stole two bases.
In 17 Summit League games this spring, Richards managed a .304 batting average with four doubles and three round-trippers.
IUPUI’s final 13 wins included her going 16 of 37 (.432) at the plate with 14 runs and 13 RBIs.
Richards’ finest performance offensively came April 30 in a 13-12 squeaker against visiting Wright State in which she finished 4 for 4 with a pair of runs and six RBIs.
“Lindsey is just an unbelievable quiet leader. She’s the kind of kid you want on your team, and we’re really going to miss her and the passion she brings to everything on and off the field,” second-year IUPUI coach Amanda Rivera said. “There were times I wanted to move Lindsey up in the (batting) order, but she was so good at (No. 8) that I left her there.
“Usually, that’s kind of a gimme for the other team’s pitcher, but Lindsey always made them work.”
With only seven at-bats her freshman season in 2011, Richards, who did some pitching her freshman and sophomore campaigns for IUPUI, watched as her role expanded greatly after that.
In 2012, she started 35 of the Jaguars’ 39 games and was a fixture in right the past two seasons with 97 consecutive starts. Richards, to no one’s astonishment, also was a mainstay on IUPUI’s Academic Advisor’s List (3.0 GPA or better) throughout her four years there.
“(Grades) are about time management, and I’m kind of a perfectionist,” Richards said. “I think softball always helped me with school because you have to get all your stuff done to go to practice. The last four years have definitely taught me so many life lessons.
“I’ve made so many friends for life. We would spend at least four hours a day together six days a week. I made other friends at school, but mostly I hung out with my teammates.”
Now it’s onto life as a adult.
Richards starts her first post-college job Monday in the child support division at the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office in Franklin. She’ll marry her high school sweetheart, Jarrod Crouch, at the Nineveh Christian Church on July 26.
Two more opportunities to swing for the fence.