From being named conference player of the year last spring to making a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies, JMU redshirt senior infielder Hannah Shifflett does it all.
Her JMU career has already seen first team all-conferece and player of the year nods in 2022 — but Shifflett still has one more year with expectations she’s set even higher.
Shifflett grew up in North Garden, Virginia, about 50 miles southeast of Harrisonburg, where she was raised in a sport-oriented family. Her father played baseball and slow pitch softball before Shifflett and her siblings were born. Her brother Joshua and sister Kristen also grew up in the baseball and softball worlds. From Shifflett’s seventh grade to her sophomore year of high school, Kristen played softball at Radford, coached by JMU’s head softball coach Loren LaPorte.
“I’ve kind of been around the softball world my whole life,” Shifflett said. “I got to see the Division I level from a very young age, which I think was very beneficial to see the dedication, the drive that my sister and her teammates had. I eventually kind of realized, like, ‘That’s something that I want to do.’ It helped me from a young age realize what it takes and the work that you have to put in. You can’t just hope for it and have it just fall into your lap.”
When it was time for Shifflett’s college decision, she chose JMU because she knew it was the “top dog” softball program in the state. Combined with the proximity to North Garden, JMU was an easy decision, Shifflett said.
LaPorte said when it came time for her to coach Shifflett, she had to find a different perspective for her than what she did with Kristen.
“Hannah is so much younger than Kristen, and I think she had to figure out that she was not Kristen,” LaPorte said. “That’s hard to do when you have a sister that is very successful. But Hannah had to find her own path, and she couldn’t try to be her sister because that’s not her personality. It’s so funny because they have a lot of similarities, but they also have a lot of differences in what drives them and how you have to motivate them.”
During her time at Radford, Kristen was not only named both the Big South and VaSID State Player of the Year in 2010 but had plenty of records to go along with her titles including 41 home runs and 178 total runs. In 2011, Kristen was drafted by the Chicago Bandits, a National Pro Fastpitch team. So far through Hannah’s career as a Duke, she has 65 runs and 20 home runs total.
While Shifflett had Kristen to look up to growing up, at JMU she now has graduate infielder Hallie Hall as her partner in crime. The two were roommates their freshman year and, now after being teammates for five years, their friendship has grown unbreakable, Hall said.
Shifflett and Hall went on their official JMU visit together. Then, after their families sat together at a JMU football game and continued to get to know one another. Hall said that as the two families and girls continued to talk, they both thought it was a good idea for them to room together, and the rest was history.
Hall and Shifflett visited Mr. J’s Bagels in Harrisonburg on Fridays last year, Hall said, just to catch up with each other’s busy lives outside of softball.
“It was just, like, the most easy and genuine friendship that I’ve had,” Hall said. “We just complement each other so well as friends that there’s never a dull moment, really. We’re laughing, we’re cooking, we’re working out together. Even though I’m from Illinois and she’s from Virginia, we always find a way to connect.”
Hall said Shifflett is a “great baker and a great cook.” She said Shifflett makes great taco soup and that when she drives to visit Shifflett, she already has a container packaged with all of the toppings and fixings ready to go and waiting for Hall.
“She wants to get to know you,” Hall said. “It’s always just so that she can learn more about you so that she can understand you better. That’s one of the things that I truly appreciate.”
Also off the field, Shifflett was listed on the CoSIDA Academic All District team and has made the Dean’s List in at least one semester each year she’s been at JMU. But on the field, Shifflett is a different person. She hates losing, no matter whether it’s a competition in the weight room, playing baseball or anything involving beating someone else’s numbers, Hall and LaPorte said.
“She’s a competitor, she loves to compete, she loves to win,” Hall said. “Just in all facets of life, she’s trying to win and be the best that she can be.”
Shifflett was named conference player of the week in March 2022, after she broke JMU’s record with three home runs in a single game against George Mason in a 9-0 win. Shifflett was also named First Team All-CAA and CAA Player of the Year.
Shifflett continues to grow, LaPorte said.
“She’s matured, but she’s always stayed within herself.” LaPorte said. “She’s been the person, you know, as far as her values and what she believes in, she’s never changed since day one. I think she’s well respected on the team because she doesn’t try to be someone she’s not. She knows who she is, and I think our players kind of look up to that.”
Now with Shifflett’s final season approaching, her main goal is to become an All American. According to the Extra Inning Softball rankings, Shifflett is listed as one of the top 20 first basemen in the nation and 97th best player in the country based on Softball America’s predictions.
“All-American is my goal, but within that, I would like to carry the player of the year into the Sun Belt,” Shifflett said. “I know that the Sun Belt is a tough conference, so I’m not going to knock down any of their players. But ultimately, that’s my goal. I like to be at the top of my conference in terms of first team.”
But besides those goals for herself, Shifflett said she’s also trying to focus on the memories she’ll be making during her final season for the Dukes.
“Obviously, I want to win games. But at the end of the day, you’re not gonna remember who I beat on this day,” Shifflett said. “I’m gonna remember who I talked to in the dugout or what memories we made in the hotel. So while the wins and losses are important, so are the memories and the bonds that you can put on your team.”
Shifflett and JMU have been preparing for the Dukes’ first games coming up Feb. 10-12 against Chattanooga, Indiana State and College of Charleston in the Charleston Invitation in South Carolina.
“I wouldn’t be here without the team or the coaching staff. I wouldn’t have chosen to be here a fifth year if I didn’t truly love where I was and what I was doing,” Shifflett said. “I’m glad that I decided to come back.”