HERTFORD — It was hard to tell whether it was early signing day or a Baccus family reunion at the Perquimans High School media center earlier this week.
The star of the day, Danielle Baccus, made sure she didn’t leave anyone out to witness her signing a letter of intent to play softball with Division I Hampton University. The scholarship will include all expenses thanks to her athletic talent on the field as well as abilities in the classroom.
The Perquimans senior, an all-conference player in softball and volleyball, maintains a 4.05 GPA.
From immediate family to coaches, teachers and Perquimans staff, even players from area schools such as Camden and Pasquotank, it was all a family affair for Baccus.
“I wanted to invite all the coaches that impacted my life from when I was a little girl all the way up until now,” Baccus said. “Each person here had a part, even if it was family and friends or coaches.
“It made me feel special. I am just happy that everyone was here to support me.”
Baccus, a two-time all-area softball selection, will major in nursing, which is rigorous coursework even without the demands of playing a sport. However, the school made her an offer she couldn’t refuse: a fifth year of scholarship money that will allow her to complete lab hours needed to graduate.
It will come in part for Baccus agreeing to continue with the Hampton softball program in an assistant coach capacity.
The Perquimans first baseman, who last season had a slugging percentage above .600 and hit .401 with 25 RBIs for the Lady Pirates, had interest from other colleges, and offers from Division II schools Belmont-Abbey and Pfeiffer.
The added attention was nice, but the bonus of going to play at a Division I level — and Hampton takes on tough non-conference clubs such as LSU, North Carolina and Tulsa — was hard to resist.
“I don’t have to worry about scholarships or applying or anything, which is nice. They even included my meal ticket and books,” Baccus said. “So many people told me, ‘Yeah, you could go to a DII school or DIII, but I don’t know about DIs’ and I thought, ‘I could do this.’ I knew that I was DI potential, and now that it’s my senior year, I’m getting so many looks, and it’s great. I’ve dreamed of going to a DI school ever since I was little.”
Baccus said she can now focus her energy on being a better leader for Perquimans this spring on the softball field, but Lady Pirates coach Robert Spruill said she has already gone above and beyond in those duties, dating back to last season.
The Lady Pirates had just one senior this past spring in Katie Copeland, now a student-athlete at Guilford College. Baccus picked up any slack with the lack of seniors in the lineup.
“Besides being a fantastic athletic, she’s my definition of a stud,” Spruill said. “She’s got five tools: She’s big, she can run, she’s got skills, but her leadership ability is the biggest. She’s all business and works extremely hard, even in the offseason she works hard. I think it’s good for the other girls to see that and last year we had one senior, and we needed some help, and Danielle stepped up to the plate.
“She’s genuinely concerned about the success of the team and how the other girls are doing, and she wants to win and works hard to do it.”
And that work has been noticed by more than just her Perquimans teammates. It extends into the local softball community. Lindsay Russell, third baseman at Camden, was there to watch Baccus’ signing and has played with her on travel softball teams.
Although the two are on rival school teams in the high school season, they remain good friends off of it. Russell, last year’s Daily Advance Player of the Year as a sophomore, is also looking at Hampton for college ball, as well as UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro and East Carolina.
“She’s a really good player. It’s a great accomplishment,” said Russell, who helped Camden to a 1A state final berth. “I will always be by her (Baccus) side, no matter what.”
Baccus’ travel softball coach this fall, Ken Grimes, is also impressed by her leadership, and made sure to let the Hampton softball coaching staff know they are getting more than just a talented player.
“She’s a natural born leader,” Grimes said. “She not only leads by conversation, she leads by example. The other girls look up to her because when you watch the girls break out of the dugout, wherever Danielle is playing, she’s the first one on the field, she runs a dead sprint to the outfield or infield or wherever she’s playing.
“She’s always willing to take the extra base, do whatever it takes.”
Another plus: both Perquimans and Hampton share the Pirates nickname, just not the same school colors.
The Hertford school is black and gold while Hampton is blue and white.
Regardless of the colors, Baccus likes the wardrobe options.
“When I found out, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness I’m going to be a Pirate again,’” Baccus said. “You can wear a black shirt, and if it says ‘Pirates,’ you’ll be fine.”