CHARLOTTE – Since the eighth grade, Hannah Faulkenberry has known where her four-year home was going to be, but it has taken her awhile to find herself.
Before the NCAA changed college softball’s early recruiting rules last August, coaches were heavily recruiting prospects before some of them were teenagers.
Faulkenberry, playing so impressively as an eighth-grader, caught the attention of several college coaches. But that was stressful, especially at such a young age.
“Coaches started recruiting me in the eighth and ninth grade,” she said. “It was a lot of pressure that went with it, and especially in the eighth grade. I felt like coaches were watching everything that I did. It got to be a lot.”
By her freshman season at Osbourn Park in Manassas, Va., Faulkenberry was already committed to the Tar Heels and was having a splendid season. That year, she batted .476, raked 40 hits and had 16 extra-base hits, including a pair of homers. Her team went 25-3 before losing by one run in the state semifinals.
But after the season, her family moved to Weddington. Despite another fine season from Faulkenberry, the Warriors struggled to a 3-17 record that included a 14-game losing streak.
When her family moved her to Charlotte Christian before the 2017 season, Faulkenberry said it finally felt like home.
“It has been rough and I’ve been through a lot, but it’s definitely made me grow as a person,” she said. “It was pretty rough moving that much. When I got here it was a completely different environment with better coaching and more girls playing, so it was a good change.”
Along with star pitcher Mackenzie Lewis, Faulkenberry and the Knights had a decent year during her junior season, but after Lewis graduated, it marked another obstacle for Faulkenberry to cross.
She was going to be the sole leader of the team – something she’d never really had to do before – and on top of that was changing positions from her usual third base to shortstop.
“She’s very knowledgeable about the game, so she could play anywhere on the field,” said first-year Knights coach Kevin Hinde. “It was a transition, but she was very, very open to it and she really embraced it.”
The Knights were admittedly young this season and started slowly with four consecutive losses. But that’s when Faulkenberry went on an impressive three-game tear that put her power and consistency at the plate on full display.
On May 10, she went 3-for-3 with three home runs, six RBIs and was hit by a pitch. Two days later, she went 1-for-1 with three runs scored and two walks. The following day, she went 2-for-2 with a homer, three RBIs and a walk.
“We had a couple of rough patches that we had to work through, but I think in the middle of the season is when we started to get things going,” she said. “We learned how to work as a team and things got much different. It was a fun year.”
It was also another stat-stuffer for the Knights star. Faulkenberry played great defense and was an on-field leader at shortstop. At the plate, she hit .634 with a 1.314 slugging percentage. She also drove in 28 runs, drew eight walks and belted six doubles, five homers and three doubles.
She was named to the NCISAA all-state team and was also a Premier Girls Fastpitch Regional All-American. Faulkenberry is also the 2018 South Charlotte Weekly Softball Player of the Year.
“I think she’s very deserving of (awards),” Hinde said. “Outside of softball, she’s just a great kid and she works so hard at everything she does.”
Faulkenberry said she wants to go into the medical field when her playing days are over. She could have gotten into Carolina on her own with her 4.62 GPA that included several honors classes, but in Chapel Hill, playing softball and finally coming home is good enough right now.
“I’m going to one of the greatest universities in the world, I’m getting a great degree and I’m getting to play softball, which has given me so much,” she said. “This is the right spot for me. I feel like I’m placed exactly where I should be.”