Danielle Castleberry brings leadership, love for teammates in her return to the diamond

Junior Danielle Castleberry (No. 31) has made a triumphant return to the diamond after missing last season with an injury. Photo by Mitch Robinson.

Junior Danielle Castleberry (No. 31) has made a triumphant return to the diamond after missing last season with an injury. Photo by Mitch Robinson.

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In sports, there’s nothing quite like a good comeback story. Take, for example, Mercer softball player Danielle Castleberry. After starting all but six games for the Bears as a freshman, Castleberry was sidelined for the entire 2018 season due to injury.

“Every day felt really long, but looking back it kind of flew by,” Castleberry said. “It makes you realize not to take things for granted.”

Now, the junior infielder is making her long-awaited return to the playing field — this time as a team captain.

Among a host of other accolades, Castleberry was a four-time all-region selection and two-time offensive player of the year at Woodland High School in Stockbridge, Ga. While softball has not always been her sport of choice, her abilities on the field are impressive.

“My brother played baseball, so I just wanted to be like him. My parents signed me up when I was three, and I played baseball until I was about 10, and that’s when I started playing softball,” Castleberry said.

Head Coach Stephanie DeFeo said Castleberry is “an all-around player.”

“She’s clutch, very steady on defense, she made some extraordinary plays last weekend and her freshman year was phenomenal,” DeFeo said.

Mercer turned out to be a perfect fit for Castleberry, who started being recruited early in her high school career.

“I came on a visit to Mercer and I just liked how small it was, and I wanted to stay kind of close to home so my family and friends could come watch me when we’re here. I just loved the atmosphere, the energy, all the people that were here,” Castleberry said.

Through the first 11 games of her return this season, she has made 11 starts and boasts a .310 batting average with two doubles and three RBIs. Her level of consistency means that Mercer fans can expect more of the same throughout the rest of the season.

“She’s just been very steady. She makes the routine plays, she steps up at the plate when we need a big hit. I just think she’s going to have a great year,” DeFeo said. “She’s really gritty, and I love players like that.”

However, her impact as a teammate may be even more important than her on-field production.

“I love my teammates. I love each and every one of them,” Castleberry said. “We’re just coming out and having fun every single day.”

“(Danielle) was one of the best teammates when I was recruiting her,” DeFeo said. “She’s a strong leader, and she has really good game sense. I think her being back on the field brings the entire team to a new level,” DeFeo said.

Castleberry also does her best to energize her teammates while on the field.

“I try to bring the energy every day, get my teammates hyped up if they need someone that day to pick them up,” Castleberry said.

Despite not being able to play last season, Castleberry enjoyed fulfilling this role in one of the team’s signature wins.

“When we beat Georgia last year, that was a lot of fun. Even though I wasn’t in the game, it was fun to be out there playing my role, picking people up, keeping the energy going,” Castleberry said.

Now that she’s back, Castleberry is ready to lead her team to success in the Southern Conference. But no matter what happens on the field, one thing is for sure: she’s going to enjoy every moment.

“Personally, I want to make the all-SoCon team,” Castleberry said. “Team-wise, obviously I want to win the conference tournament. I want a ring.”

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