Following The Dream

When Ole Miss offered Matt Denny a spot in its baseball program, the senior from Jackson Academy jumped at it. After all, as Denny said, it's a dream come true.

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"My dad (Billy) played football there. My brother (Will) is there right now playing football," said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound left-handed pitcher. "I've spent a lot of time in Oxford. It's always been like a second home for me. I've loved going up there for baseball and football. I just have so many family ties that when they offered, I wasn't turning it down."

He did turn down Mississippi State in the process. But that wasn't a surprise, not with as many Ole Miss ties as Denny has. Austin Peay State also offered. He had talks with Tennessee, Clemson, Samford, and UAB.

Denny said he'd like to have the opportunity to hit as well as pitch in college.

"I've been hitting well in high school," he said. "If I show I can hit in practice, then they're not going to hold a pitcher off if he can hit. They'll give him the opportunity, just like they did Matt Tracy last year."

He's had a successful summer playing throughout the South.

"I had a really good summer," Denny said. "I went to Oklahoma and played for Team Mississippi in the Junior Sunbelt Classic. Then I went to Meridian and played with my district in the State Games. In early July I flew to Atlanta to play with the Texas Sun Devils. I played three weeks straight with them, two in Atlanta, and one in Ft. Myers, Fla. I was really happy with the whole summer."

The Sun Devils were loaded with future Ole Miss baseball players. In addition to Denny, on the squad were Gavin Cecchini, Cameron Dishon, Stryker Trahan, and Ty Hensley, commitments for the Class of 2012. Also Sam Smith, who arrived in Oxford this month as part of the Class of 2011, played in an 18-year-old tournament with the Sun Devils.

"It's an awesome feeling," said Denny of playing with all the Ole Miss commitments or signees. "When we all get there, it will be fun. We've gotten to know each other pretty well, and they are all great guys who love the game of baseball. We've got a lot in common."

Matt Denny

Denny had a stellar junior season at Jackson Academy in the spring. He was 10-0 on the mound with a 2.19 ERA. He had 101 strikeouts. At the plate Denny batted .467 with 12 home runs, had 16 doubles, recorded 53 hits, and had 56 RBI.

Denny was named MVP of his JA team and also won the best offense award. He was first-team All-Conference in the Mississippi Association of Independent Schools, the North AAA Player of the Year, and Co-Player of the Year in the entire MAIS.

He was named an ESPN Underclass All-American and named first-team All-State by the Clarion-Ledger.

Denny, who also plays linebacker on the football team as well as and some defensive tackle, said baseball's become his sport, unlike his father and brother.

"Growing up, I always had a baseball in my hand and never wanted to put it down," he said. "I was dragging around a plastic ball and bat when I was 1 or 2. When I got older and me being a lefty, once I started growing and developing and my velocity picked up, I knew it was baseball for me."

Denny's fast ball is currently 84-88 mph. He also has a changeup and a curve ball.

"I need to work on locating my changeup and getting it down in the zone and also getting more movement on that. I know in high school sometimes you aren't playing the best competition and you don't need your changeup. You can just blow a fast ball by them. And also I'll be working on holding the runners on better.

"I've always been a two-sport player, and a two-way player in baseball. I feel the more I work on my pitching I can get my velocity up, hopefully to 88-91. That would benefit me more, especially pitching in the SEC. That's the best baseball talent you're going to see."

Denny, who turns 18 on Sept. 23, said it's a great feeling knowing he was able to say "yes" to a decision to play for the Rebels.

"I just love the school and love the baseball program," he said. "It's always been a dream of mine to step on that field and be an Ole Miss Rebel baseball player. So I'm extremely happy to have that opportunity."

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