CARMEL — Morganne Denny doesn’t believe in excuses. Even when the Greenfield-Central standout slugger had every right to fall back on them this season, she deferred.
Her never surrender mentality was one of the many reasons she patrolled third base Saturday afternoon as a South All-Star during the Indiana All-Star Classic in Carmel.
Nothing is insurmountable the IPFW recruit emphasized — especially pain.
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At less than 100 percent this spring after spraining her ankle during the preseason, Denny played most of her 29 games for Greenfield-Central, essentially on one leg. Though, the numbers hardly reflected her limitations.
In her 30th contest and final prep performance at Cherry Tree Elementary School, Denny and New Palestine’s Elisha Barker shined to help the South All-Stars earn a series split against the North in the annual showcase doubleheader.
The North All-Stars won the first game 9-8, while the South scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth en route to a 5-1 victory.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great privilege to play with the top 40 players in the state, so I enjoyed it,” said Denny, who had her left ankle wrapped in a brace and medical tape.
Denny finished the two-game series 1-for-3 with a clutch one-out single in the second game as the South mounted their decisive fourth-inning rally.
Her hit through the infield followed a two-run home run by South All-Star Sierra Gilmore of Northeastern, who was named the doubleheader’s most valuable player.
“I just let it not bother me anymore. I play through it,” Denny remarked on her season-long injury. “It is my back foot, so there’s less power there, but I didn’t let it stop me. I pushed through my pain.”
This season, her tunnel vision led to the most productive season in her four-year career at Greenfield-Central. Denny finished with a .500 batting average and posted single-season career highs in runs (43), RBIs (42) and home runs (14).
She concluded her high school career with a .491 average and set the school’s single-season home run record (14), career home run record (35) and broke the mark for career hits (198).
She was named First Team All-State in Class 4A/3A as a senior by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association, who conducted the All-Star games.
“That hit (in the fourth) basically means I was good enough to play here and against these great pitchers,” Denny said. “It was a good feeling.”
It was an ideal conclusion to a journey that began this season with Denny wearing a boot when off the field for a month, followed by continuous ice treatment as she “gutted it out,” Greenfield-Central head coach Jason Stewart said. “She’s the toughest kids I have ever seen.”
Her grit, along with her teammates, pushed the Cougars to 23 wins this year, the program’s second sectional title in three years and ended a seven-year regional championship drought. Greenfield-Central reached the Bedford North Lawrence Semistate, losing to eventual state runner-up Avon in the semifinals.
“(Today) is kind of a sad but happy moment. I’ve always wanted to play college ball, so I’m excited for that, but it’s kind of sad to leave the seniors (at Greenfield-Central) that I’ve played with for a long time,” Denny said. “I’m happy I was able to leave my mark at Greenfield, knowing I did my best there.”
Barker shared Denny’s sentiment, wrapping up a “whirlwind” month after leading the New Palestine Dragons to their fourth state title in program history with a 13-6 win against Kankakee Valley in the 3A title game on June 10.
“It was an honor to be nominated and to experience this,” Barker said. “It definitely is different than high school because you have the best of the best here. It was just amazing to go up against that type of competition.”
Barker went hitless for the South All-Stars, but the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University recruit wasn’t concerned with stats. The opportunity to continue the program’s rich tradition in the showcase was reward enough.
The 13th all-star in the past 14 years, Barker picked up the torch where Issy Hoyt left off last summer as a South All-Star. The year prior Adie Lorsung represented the Dragons in Carmel.
“That tradition is something New Pal holds in high regard. It’s great to be part of that,” Barker said. “I’m honored and humbled to compete here.”
Barker earned her spot with 22 wins this season as the Dragons’ ace. The team rolled to win 23 straight games and captured the school’s first softball state title in eight years with a single-season record 31 victories. The team shattered state records for most home runs in a single season, runs batted in, runs scored, hits and at-bats.
Saturday was the perfect ending for Barker, who was named the 3A state title game’s mental attitude award winner and Second Team All-State in 4A/3A.
“I’m extremely humbled by all of this,” said Barker, who pitched one inning in the first game on Saturday. “I was really excited and shocked. There are a ton of people that could have been here, and I was one of the top players, which is huge in the state of Indiana. Last week, we were winning the state championship and all that, then it’s been on to this. It’s been non-stop crazy but a really good crazy.”
Penn head coach Beth Zachary was announced as the 2017 ICGSA Coach of the Year during the doubleheader. Plainfield’s Ashton Stone was honored as the 2017 Indiana Miss Softball recipient.
“(These games) are a huge reflection to see where everyone has come from and is now. It just makes you wonder, what can you accomplish in your future? It’s unlimited,” Barker said.