Kyle Lehmann relied on a few familiar faces when unprecedented recruiting challenges complicated his decision-making process.
The former Western Dubuque all-district outfielder will continue his baseball career next fall at the University of South Carolina-Upstate, an NCAA Division I school that competes in the Big South Conference.
And he owes his current coach, Southeastern Community College’s Justin Schulte, a big assist.
“Everything is so much different with recruiting right now because of COVID, especially not being able to make official visits to schools,” Lehmann said. “Coach Schulte has sent a few guys to Upstate in the past, and he had a lot of really good things to say about their program.
“I have a lot of faith in Coach Schulte, and he thinks Upstate will be a really good fit for me. The more I looked into it, the more I liked it. And it will be nice to play in warm weather year-round.”
Senior shortstop Jason Matthews and junior catcher/first baseman Devin Buckner also helped recruit Lehmann. Both transferred to South Carolina-Upstate after starting their careers at Southeastern, which is in Burlington, Iowa.
“It helped tremendously to be able to talk to those guys and get a good feel for what they thought of the program,” Lehmann said. “Any baseball down south is going to be good, but they were 13-5 last year and beat some pretty big-name schools like Northwestern and Michigan State. And they play schools like Clemson and South Carolina every year, so you’re going to have an opportunity to play some incredible competition. I’m excited about it.”
Lehmann, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound corner outfielder hit .348 with a pair of RBIs, eight runs scored and three stolen bases in 13 games last spring before the season shut down because of the pandemic. A strong fall season also raised his stock with Division I programs.
“Kyle is pretty much a dream kid to coach, because he’s very talented and he works extremely hard on top of it,” Schulte said. “He throws in the low 90s from the outfield, he runs really well and he can obviously hit. He came to us a little raw, but he earned a spot in our lineup because his work ethic is just off the charts.
“Our plan from the get-go has been to bring in a lot of talented kids so they have to compete every day in practice. He’s certainly not afraid of it. He deserves every opportunity he gets, because he’s earned it. He’s been a pleasure to have.”
South Carolina-Upstate will be getting a more-polished player with four seasons of baseball eligibility. The National Junior College Athletic Association decided not to count the 2020 or 2021 seasons against its baseball players’ eligibility.