No one would have blamed Brooke Lipperd for giving up on her dream of playing college softball.
Through her own determination and the support of her father and coach, Lipped overcame two serious knee injuries to make her dream a reality.
Lipperd recently signed her National Letter of Intent to continue her softball career at Franklin College. The Shelbyville senior will study Psychology.
“I wanted to go to a small school … close to home,” said Lipperd. “I like the people there. I’ve met with the Psychology (department) professors and they seem really nice.
“And coach (Angie) Bain is amazing. I like how she coaches. It just seems like a cool place to go. And my dad will be able to come to all my games.”
Lipperd and her father, Butch (photo, seated with Brooke), have grown together on the softball diamonds. She started out playing T-ball with the boys at Shelby County Babe Ruth Baseball.
Butch Lipperd formed the Waldron Wild softball team that Brooke transitioned to before fully embracing the travel softball world. She has been with the Midwest Astros organization for eight years now.
As a young girl taking hitting lessons, she became fascinated with those players that stayed and took pitching lessons too.
“It looked cool so I wanted to try it,” she said.
Soon Lipperd was a lefty slapper, utility player that could pitch. She was a true versatile athlete on the softball diamond.
One fateful day in May of 2018 changed Brooke Lipperd’s life forever. While playing in a travel ball tournament, she tried to avoid a tag while going into third base and felt her knee snap. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and the meniscus in her right knee.
Lipperd had surgery June 18, 2018.
“It was horrible because I had surgery on both my knees because they had to take my patellar tendon out (of my left knee) and use it as my ACL in my right knee,” she explained.
An intense recovery and rehabilitation process had her back on the field before the calendar year ended. However, in her first tournament since the injury, she tore the ACL again while running hard to first base.
Lipped had surgery Dec. 5, 2018.
“Even after the first (injury), I was like I don’t know if I will ever be able to come back,” she said. “My dream was always to play Division I softball and then I tore (my ACL) a second time and I thought I was completely done with softball. I didn’t think there was any way I could play travel softball again.
“Now that I am playing (Division III), which is amazing, the fact that I am playing in college is insane to me.”
To keep her dream alive, Lipperd made the tough decision to retire as a pitcher.
“It was too hard on my knees,” she said. “Getting back, I wanted to focus on getting back into everything and not pitching.”
With the knee injury and the COVID-19 pandemic, Lipperd lost her first two years of high school softball. As a junior, she was 4-1 for the Golden Bears with a 2.83 earned run average over 34 innings of work.
Shelbyville has two quality pitchers returning from a 24-5 squad and another freshman pitcher that could see innings in the circle. That made the decision to stop pitching even easier.
Lipperd will fight for her playing time as a Golden Bear just as she did to keep her college dream alive.
“Wherever (coach Mark) Hensley needs me,” she said with a smile. “I like the outfield but I don’t know if he will put me there or at second base or third base.”
Lipperd will compete for a similar role at Franklin College, who finished 21-15 last season under first-year coach Angela Bain, who played collegiately at Valparaiso University and was an assistant coach at Butler for two years before being hired at Franklin College.
“I can just focus on hitting and fielding way more now than I ever have,” said Lipperd of her routine change this offseason. “I do miss pitching but it was just really hard on my knees. I could either pitch one day then not do anything the next day or I can just do hitting and fielding one day and go back-to-back-to-back. There are no restraints now.”
With just over two months from the official start of her senior softball season, Lipperd appreciates the time spent working on her skills more than anyone. And she never has to look very far to see her father, who is an assistant coach with the Golden Bears program.
“He is really excited,” she said. “He knew that I could always play college softball even after I tore it a second time. He was always right by my side pushing me to do better.
“He is my biggest supporter. He is so happy for me. I am so thankful for him and he is so excited about it. It’s all he talks about.”
Lipperd is the 13th Golden Bear to sign her letter of intent to play college softball since 2015 – and the third Class of 2022 graduate.
Kay Brokering started the run in 2015 when she signed with King University in Tennessee. She was followed by 2016 graduate Abey Bass (DePauw), 2017 graduates Hannah File (James Madison, now playing at Louisville), Natalie Weber (Franklin College) and Jaclyn Tackett (Franklin College), 2018 graduate TeAnn Bringle (Indiana State), 2020 graduates Morgan Stieneker (Olney Central College) and Erica Henry (Olney Central College) and 2021 graduates Addisenn Weaver (Valparaiso) and Katie Mathies (DePauw).
Lipperd joins classmates Cati Richardson (Manchester) and Karissa Hamilton (Kentucky) as headed to the next level.
And 2023 graduate Kylee Edwards has verbally committed to play at Mississippi State University.