GREENFIELD — If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
That’s what Jason Stewart said he believes whenever the idea of moving his star third baseman, Morganne Denny, down in the order from her customary No. 2 spot comes up in conversation.
“I hit her 2 last year to get her as many at-bats as possible,” the Greenfield-Central head softball coach remarked. “A kid like that who can get you a run or three runs potentially every single at-bat, you have to get her as many swings as you can. You’re talking about one of the best hitters in the state.”
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Third best in home runs overall in Indiana last year, to be exact. As a junior, Denny, an IPFW signee, blasted 11 shots over the fence, tying Lebanon’s Jessica Weaver and Plainfield’s Kiah Ferrell — who have both since graduated.
Denny finished first in the Hoosier Heritage Conference in homers and was only two away from tying the state leader, Plainfield’s Ashton Slone, at 13.
Fourth in batting average at .526 in the conference, Denny’s median was a career-high after hitting .511 as a freshman and .440 her sophomore year. She drove in a single-season best 36 runners and scored 42 runs in 111 plate appearances to push her career batting average to .489 in 305 at-bats.
Can she get better?
“I think she can as scary as that sounds,” Stewart said. “That’s the kind of potential the kid has.”
In 2016, Denny lived up to her projections and earned All-Hancock County Player of the Year honors, along with an ICGSA Third-Team All-State selection. With 21 career home runs, 92 RBI and 35 doubles, including 11 last season, she has only struck out 15 times in three years. She whiffed a career-low four times and worked 16 walks.
She plans to continue the same trend in her final go-around as she looks to improve upon her team’s 17-10 record in 2016 and chase down a potential second sectional title in three years.
Recently, Denny, who was named All-HHC last season, spoke with the Daily Reporter about her goals, collegiate future and senior season.
You’re projected to hit second again this year. Is that where you are most comfortable as a hitter?
For now, I’m pretty comfortable being in the top of the lineup because I’m kind of used to it. I feel like starting the first inning helps me kind of get warmed up a bit better. Seeing the pitchers more rather than waiting a while to see them is where I prefer to be.
Not leadoff though, right?
Oh, no. I don’t like leading off (laugh).
After last season’s success, do you feel like you have to live up to those numbers going into your senior year?
You always have to go in and see if you can do better than you have in the past, but for now, it’s more about trying to focus on helping the team more than myself. I’m usually thinking about what I can do for the team more than worrying about my individual records because records are mainly rewards for hard work. I feel like if I keep working hard, then maybe I’ll break some records or maybe be just as good as I was last year.
How much do you carry the team’s 5-1 loss in the sectional finals last year against Pendleton Heights with you into this season?
It was a tough loss. Throughout the game, we were doing pretty good. We were up (1-0), but I feel like we could have done better. Our hitting was off that game. We weren’t getting many hits as a team, so I feel like this year, we need to focus more on being prepared and getting those key hits.
The team finished third in the HHC at 2-5 last spring. How difficult will it be to maybe make a run at the title this season?
I feel like anything can happen in the conference. My sophomore year, we won it. Then last year, we still had the same people, but we only got third. I feel like we have to treat every single game the same. Last year, I think we picked and chose the games we wanted to play hard. If we go in and play every game like it’s our last, I think we’ll do well in the conference.
How at ease are you now after signing your National Letter of Intent this past winter to play at IPFW?
It’s actually a pretty big relief. When you sign that letter of intent, it basically means you did it, and you finally got to where you want to be. That’s what I felt that day. I actually made it, and I made a lot of people proud that wanted me to pursue my dream of college softball. That was a pretty good day for me, one of the best days of my life, signing that letter.
I’m sure it makes you even more excited to get to the next level?
I can’t wait for college softball. I’ve been dreaming of this since I was really little, so it’s a dream come true. I’m really excited about it.
As a senior group, what’s the goal you want to achieve this year?
Right now, I know I want to win sectional. That’s already a given. Basically, I just want to make this season one to remember. Us seniors, we want to leave everything out on the field. I’ve grown up with some of my teammates for a very long time, so I feel like it’s up to us to take this team far and be leaders. We should cherish this moment because this is our final year. Some people aren’t playing college softball, so this could be their last season to play the sport that they love. I just want to make good memories and have fun.