Hannah Kelley has worn many hats for Davenport Assumption's softball program the past four years.

She has pitched. She has played second and third base. She spent some time as an outfielder early in her career.

That versatility caught Northern Iowa's attention. 

Kelley, a senior-to-be and the reigning Mississippi Athletic Conference player of the year, gave a verbal commitment to the Panthers on Saturday.

"When I talked to them, it wasn't one set position where they will have me play right now," she said. "They see me pitching a little bit, a utility player.

"I love that role because it gives me the ability to play in any situation."

Kelley has been attending UNI's softball camps since eighth grade and developed a relationship with coach Ryan Jacobs. 

This past winter, the Panthers told Kelley they had interest in the Class 3A first team all-stater.

After a junior season in which Kelley batted .409 and drove in a team-high 58 runs along with sporting a 19-1 pitching mark and 0.41 ERA, Kelley received a call from UNI about two weeks ago to come up for a visit. 

"This season did a lot for me," said Kelley, whose Knights won 44 consecutive games and the program's first state championship. "They were interested in me during the winter, but on my visit, the coaches showed they were really invested in me."

She was on the Cedar Falls campus Friday and an offer was extended. Kelley also had offers from Division II Minnesota State-Mankato and junior college powerhouse Kirkwood Community College. 

UNI grabbed her heart.

"When I went on my other visits, I liked a lot of those places but I felt like there was something more out there," she said. "When I went on my UNI visit, it really felt like home."

Kelley went home Friday night, talked it over with the family and called Jacobs with her decision Saturday. 

"It was such an amazing feeling," Kelley said. "It was like a weight was lifted off my shoulders to get that offer and finally commit.

"Up until yesterday, I really didn't know what I was going to do about college."

Kelley has been a steady two-way performer for the Knights since stepping into the starting lineup as an eighth grader.

She batted .358 in her first season, saw that number hike to .383 as a freshman and .431 last summer. She is 60-11 during her career in the pitching circle. 

"Hannah Kelley is one of the best players in the state," Assumption coach Ron Ferrill said earlier this summer. "There are so many things she brings to a softball team with her pitching, her hitting, her defense and competitiveness."

Softball has been Kelley's passion since she was little. 

After starting in T-ball, she was in Little League softball by age 8, AAU and then starting for the high school team. 

She dabbled with volleyball and basketball, but has concentrated on just softball the past couple of years.

"I just need to continue to improve and can't ever get stagnant," she said. "I need to focus this offseason on getting stronger."

She'll also be reunited with high school teammate Emma Valainis, a catcher who enters UNI's program this fall. 

"That's going to be awesome," Kelley said, "to play with Emma for three more years."

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Prep sports editor, with emphasis on covering the Mississippi Athletic Conference and Iowa area high schools. I've been in sports journalism for 17 years, the last five at the Quad-City Times.