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Hannah Dukeman’s 2019 softball season with St. Joseph-Ogden was a prolific one.

Serving as the Spartans’ catcher and hitting one lineup spot behind three-time News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year Bailey Dowling, Dukeman put together her third All-Area first-team campaign in helping SJ-O to a 22-10 record and 11th regional championship in as many years.

Since that run ended, though, Dukeman hasn’t been seen suiting up for any Spartan athletic events.

That’s because she’s still on the mend from offseason surgery on her right wrist. She returned to her specialist last Tuesday to have a cast and surgical pins removed.

“It is my dominant hand,” Dukeman said, “... which has been difficult, but I guess I’ve kind of just accepted the fact that I have to adapt to it, because I can’t do much else.”

One thing that medical situation wouldn’t stop was Dukeman signing her National Letter of Intent with Ball State softball in mid-November and celebrating the occasion with a ceremony on Nov. 22 to become SJ-O softball’s latest D-I athlete, joining Dowling (Alabama) and many others in years prior.

“It’s definitely a fantastic feeling,” Dukeman said. “I have been working to play at the college level for years now, and to know that my hard work ... was just worth it (is) a great feeling.”

Dukeman’s junior-year statistics alone tell the story of just why a college program would desire her services. She batted .543 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI and was a strong defensive presence at catcher.

She first linked herself to Ball State following an unofficial visit in fall 2018.

“This last year hasn’t been any different in terms of practicing and working hard and commitment,” Dukeman said. “My coaches mentioned other schools to me before, but I also let them know as well that Ball State was my No. 1.”

What has changed for Dukeman is her activity level since undergoing wrist surgery.

She was a force, especially beyond the three-point line, for a Spartan girls’ basketball team that placed third in the Class 2A state tournament last season.

“I have to watch and not play, so it stinks,” Dukeman said. “The girls are open toward me being their coach, I guess. I sit on the sideline and help them out when I can.”

Dukeman is looking forward to getting back on the diamond for one last stint with SJ-O softball when the season starts in mid-March. She anticipates being able to catch once again, but does have a contingency plan in case the wrist surgery hinders her ability to play that position.

“(My doctor) said ... I’ve been an athlete for so long it might end up almost, not healing itself, but getting back to where it was,” Dukeman said. “But if it does happen to affect something like that, he said that outfield can still be a priority ... because that’s another position I might potentially play in college.”

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).