Fort Payne senior Hannah Buffington signed to play softball at Jacksonville State University at Fort Payne High School last week. Pictured, from left, are Patrick Buffington, Paul Ellis, Nick Owens, Hannah Buffington, Ella Denes, Crystal Buffington, Lee Buffington and Jon Parker Buffington.

From attending hitting lessons with friend and former Jacksonville State softball player Ella Denes at age 10, Hannah Buffington knew she wanted to one day join the Gamecocks.

Last November, JSU offered the then-Fort Payne High School junior a scholarship to play softball during her visit to campus. 

Buffington didn’t have to think about the offer for too long.

“I called them back that night and committed that night because I knew that’s where I wanted to go,” Buffington said after her long-awaited signing celebration at Fort Payne High School on Tuesday.

Becoming known as a heavy hitter and sharp defenseman for Fort Payne, Buffington fulfilled her dream of continuing her softball career at JSU by signing her national letter of intent with the university in November 2020.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she had to hold off on the official celebration. On Tuesday, her family and friends joined her for a signing ceremony.

“It meant so much to me that all of them came to support me as I basically get the next chapter of my life started,” Buffington said. “They all have had such a big part of helping me get to where I am today. And me getting this scholarship and going to Jacksonville, they’ve been so supportive in all of it. I’m just so thankful for all of them supporting me in whatever decision and opportunity I have.”

As Buffington joined her Fort Payne teammates in competing at the AHSAA Class 6A North Softball Regional this week in Florence, she said she’s planning to major in business and possibly minor in finance at JSU.

“I’ve always loved selling stuff and my dad has a business background with a few businesses,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur like him.”

Fort Payne head coach Nick Owens said Buffington is one of those girls who is “unbelievable at the plate, great defensively and very athletic,” but said her greatest strength is the leadership she’s provided around the program.

“She’s the player that makes her teammates be better, makes her coaches be better coaches and makes the little girls at Fort Payne want to become softball players,” Owens said. “That’s where she excels and that’s why she is moving on to the next level.”

Owens said he’s proud of Buffington and her fellow seniors who have continued advancing Fort Payne’s softball program. Buffington’s signing is another major step for the program.

“It’s extremely exciting because JSU is a great program,” Owens said, “and to be able to come from Fort Payne and know where our program has come over the past six years with the great seniors that we have, to finally have one break through and make it to a place like JSU screams volumes about where this program is headed. That’s because of players like Hannah.”

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