Paige Bankston is living the dream.
Ever since she was a kid she has been drawn to the sport of softball.
The 2023 Newberry High School graduate played varsity volleyball for a couple of years, but her passion was on the diamond.
“I tried out lots of different sports, but softball is the one I wanted to stick with, and I wouldn’t want it any different,” said Bankston, who played softball for four years with the Panthers.
That dedication paid off as she signed with St. Petersburg College this past February.
“She means a lot to this program and her teammates,” Newberry coach Ed Johnson said. “She was a constant at the top of the batting order and solid up the middle defensively.”
She gave her new team, the Titans, a preview of what might be ahead.
This past season as a senior, Bankston finished second on the team with a .473 average and 41 runs scored. She finished with 35 hits, nine doubles, one triple and one home run.
That lone home run came in her last home game ever at Newberry, a 3-run shot against Hamilton County (Jasper) on April 21 in what would end up being her favorite high school sports moment.
“Paige was always a leader for this program,” Johnson said. “Last season while out with an injury she remained present and became sort of an assistant coach to help the younger players improve.”
She helped lead the Panthers (15-9) to a Class 1A playoff appearance this past spring by driving in 35 runs and she sported a .662 slugging percentage. Bankston, who had a .606 on-base percentage, also finished with a .926 fielding percentage as the team’s shortstop.
Among her achievements was being named to the FACA’s All-State Team, FACA’s All-Academic Team, and she was named to the FACA’s All-Star North team.
“She’s a fierce competitor and a student of the game, and that dedication to the game has allowed her the opportunity to continue her academic and athletic career,” Johnson said.
Her favorite quote is from Coach Johnson, “Let’s go compete, we have nothing to lose.”
Bankston has many fond memories of playing in the blue and gold.
“I’ll remember my teammates, coaches, and our fans the most,” she said. “It’s really special to have different people from the community come out to support us. But most of all I’ll remember the second family I gained while playing softball at Newberry. Everyone had each other’s backs no matter the situation which made playing with my teammates so easy.”
Bankston will continue her education and athletic career at St. Petersburg College in Clearwater, pursuing a degree in health science.