The junior left-hander, with 21 appearances as a freshman and 15 as a sophomore, is one of those key performers on a deep pitching staff that Ole Miss head coach Mike Bianco can turn to this season.
“Matt had a good summer up in the Cape, and I thought he pitched really well this fall,” Bianco said. “It seems like things are starting to click for him. I know he’s excited about the season.”
Denny, a Jackson Academy alum, said he’s learned that consistency is the key to whatever success he can have.
“Even in the summer (in Cape Cod), I got in a routine and stuck with it,” said Denny, whose brother, Will, and father, Billy, both played football at Ole Miss. “That’s something I’d struggled with the previous two years, getting in a routine and sticking with it. And being comfortable every time out there. I’m just trying to be more consistent.”
Denny, according to Bianco, has made progress and is an important part of the pitching staff.
“Matt’s been in the program for a couple of years now, and he’s seen some success and he’s struggled at times,” Bianco said. “That’s a part of growing and getting better.”
As a veteran of the program, Denny is also looked to as one of those with the experience that can make a difference.
“As far as being a leader, a lot of guys on the team respect him,” Bianco said. “He’s a guy that went with us to Omaha. He’s a guy that’s waiting to have his year.”
Denny is hoping this season can indeed be that year.
“I feel good. I’m really happy about this year and through the fall,” he said. “I had a lot of confidence coming off the summer. But mainly the big thing for me is being consistent. I feel like I’ve done that throughout the fall.”
As a freshman in those 12 appearances, Denny posted a 2-1 record with a 2.14 ERA. He allowed 10 runs but only five of them were earned. He gave up 13 hits, struck out 23 batters, and walked only six two years ago.
Last year as a sophomore in those 15 appearances, Denny’s numbers weren’t quite as strong with a 4.20 ERA, allowing seven runs, all earned, on 16 hits with five walks and 11 strikeouts.
Denny said year three is another new start for him, although he has that experience to call on every day.
“It’s my third year. I feel like a junior. My body feels like a junior, but time-wise I feel like I got here yesterday,” he said. “People talk about how fast it goes and it really does. So many players have come and gone since I’ve been here. Some are older and leave. Some get drafted and are gone.”
Denny, at 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, is in great shape. Ben Fleming’s regimen makes sure of that. Denny, like the program, is into the second year under Fleming.
"I weighed 215 when I got here (as a freshman). Now I weigh 230,” Denny said, looking more fit than when he weighed less. “I carry 230 fairly well. Nobody guesses I weigh 230.”
If he has a good season, his name could come up in the draft in June. But that’s not on his mind all that much.
“I have thought about it,” he said. “Everybody wants to get drafted. I came here to play and go to the next level. If the opportunity arises, I’ll pursue it.
“But I love this place. When it comes down to it, baseball’s going to end one day," Denny continued. My main focus is trying to get a degree. The ball’s gonna stop rolling one day. When it does, I’ve got to have something to fall back on.”
But for now, a better season personally in which he contributes even more and a repeat by the team of the trip to the College World Series are among the goals.
“Everybody has that feeling of ‘Hey, we did it once. We can do it again’ this year,” said Denny of the trip to Omaha. “To be able to do that at the school I’d always dreamed of playing baseball at is unreal. It’s unbelievable. And I’d like to do it all over again.”
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