As Herbert Hoover softball pitcher Delani Buckner stood before well-wishers as she signed her letter of intent Wednesday to play for Appalachian State University, tears welled in her eyes. Those tears weren’t from sadness, but for joy in what’s to come and gratitude for everyone who had helped her reach this point.
Now, the senior has one last run with her Husky teammates before heading to Boone, North Carolina, to start her college career.
“It’s just so special looking out and seeing all the support you have,” Buckner said. “All the teachers and staff and coaches and peers, it just means a lot.
“It’s weird looking out and seeing the crowd other people got when I was a freshman, sophomore and junior,” she added, “seeing my teammates sign to schools.”
Buckner has made a Class AA All-State team every season she has played for the Huskies. She was a second-team selection as a freshman and a first-teamer as a sophomore and junior. She also was named Gatorade West Virginia Player of the Year as a sophomore and West Virginia Sports Writers Assocociation Player of the Year as a junior. All three of those years, the Huskies have won a Class AA state title.
Buckner has amassed 664 strikeouts, 273 in her junior season alone. She is 52-3 as a Hoover pitcher.
Buckner’s value to Hoover, and to any team on which she plays, goes beyond the stat sheets, Huskies coach Missy Smith said. Her intangibles make her an essential part of the roster.
She’s the first person out of the dugout to celebrate a big play, Smith said, and jumping up and down when someone makes a good defensive play. Buckner is a standout athlete who also is a standout teammate.
“She makes everybody around her better,” Smith said. “She knows that when she works hard, she’s going to throw well. But she also understands that, no matter how well she throws, if they hit it, we’ve got to have someone to field it. She makes everyone around her better, because she believes without a doubt that everyone else can do their job.”
Buckner always has loved the strength of the Hoover community, considering it a significant factor in her success. She feels that same type of community in Boone, which made it the perfect next step.
“I felt like I could go there the next day and fit right in, go to classes and go to practice,” she said. “The coaches and players made me feel so welcome and I truly felt that if I had to move in a weekend, I could to it right there.”
n Buckner has split pitching starts over the past two seasons with teammate Presley McGee, who herself signed a letter of intent last week to continue her career at Alderson-Broaddus. McGee hit .374 with with a team-high 12 doubles to go with 37 runs and 39 RBIs. She was 15-0 in the circle a year ago and is 31-1 for her career with 259 strikeouts in 150 innings.