It’s about a 13-minute drive from where Payton Hannah played high-school baseball to where he’ll play college baseball. That’s one reason the recent Nixa High School graduate picked Drury University.
“I like that it’s close to home and the coaches were really nice, so I thought it would be a good fit,” Hannah said after signing his letter of intent to play for the Panthers, who play their home games at U.S. Baseball Park in Ozark.
Drury coach Soctt Nasby and assistant coaches Chris Gammon, Logan Hughes and Eric Peterson were also a big draw for Hannah, who was a standout infielder and pitcher for Nixa.
“The coaches were super honest and straight-up,” Hannah said. “They made you feel at home and I really liked that.”
Hannah earned First Team all-Central Ozark Conference as a utility player this past season and was also named to the all-Class 5 District 11 team. He was an all-COC Second Team honoree as an infielder his junior year.
“Payton is one of our top pitchers. He’s one of our top hitters, too, for that matter. He did a good job all year,” Nixa coach Jason Daugherty. “He hit over .300 this year. He hits for some power to the gaps, can run well and throws strikes with all his stuff. I think he’s going to be a very good addition to Drury. I know they really like him a lot and I think they made a good choice.”
Daugherty, in his first year as Nixa’s head coach, feels like Hannah made a good choice, too.
“I think he’ll be successful there,” Daugherty said. “He’s a pretty good student, too, and a good athlete and I think he’ll help that baseball team out.”
He’s capable of playing any position and isn’t sure where he’ll end up on the Panthers’ lineup card.
“I’ll probably just play in the infield. But wherever they need me, I’m willing to play there,” he said.
Hannah is one of two Nixa seniors to sign with Drury for next season. Teammate Jack Sanders, a pitcher and first baseman for the Eagles, signed his letter of intent on the same day as Hannah.
“He’s been one of my best friends since third grade,” Hannah said. “I’m just excited that he’s going to be on the team with me.”
Drury’s roster also includes former Nixa pitcher Joey Dopp, who just completed his freshman season with the Panthers.
Hannah said he’s currently undecided on his academic major.
“I’m not really sure yet, but something in the educational field would be nice. Coaching would be fun. I’d possibly look into that,” he said.