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Hogan Denny leadoff HR jumpstarts Mooresville as Pioneers book first state title appearance

MOORESVILLE — A hanging breaking ball, a perfect swing and a 30-second jaunt around the bases was exactly how Mooresville catcher Hogan Denny envisioned Saturday's IHSAA Class 4A semistate final starting.

Denny joked with teammates before the game he was going to start the game with a leadoff home run. Then he identified a breaking ball leaving Avon pitcher Wyatt Pennington's hand during his first at-bat and did not miss it. Denny sent the ball 300-plus feet over the left field wall and as he rounded the bases, he took time to soak in the moment.

Soaking in the atmosphere, knowing that he was playing in front of his home fans at his home field for the final time. Soaking in the idea of being part of the first Mooresville team to play for a state championship. Denny knows the job isn't done, but after leading the Pioneers to a 7-2 victory over the Orioles, the IU commit can't help but think about how his fairytale senior season is playing out.

"It's wild," Denny said with a smirk. "Just looking around seeing how many people were here. I don't know the last time if we've ever went to state. ... I'm just so thankful. All of our hard work. I'm so proud of our team. We fought together all year, we stayed together, and we just came out here and played."

Denny's home run jumpstarted the Pioneers, and the four-run first inning proved to be more than enough run support for Mooresville's pitching staff. After Denny's home run, younger brother Tyler Denny reached base on an error and came home on a wild pitch. Brendin Oliver drove in one with a single, and Liam Delp plated Mooresville's fourth run of the inning with a ground out.

Indiana Gatorade Baseball Player of the Year Hogan Denny finished 3-for-3, with two stolen bases. Tyler Denny and Deklan Thompson added two hits each.

After pitching the final inning in Mooresville's 11-inning semifinal win over New Palestine, Oliver got the start against the Orioles. The Cincinnati commit started to show signs of wearing down in the fifth as Avon turned two hits and an error into two runs. Despite the shaky fifth, the Pioneers needed more work from their starter. The elder Denny threw 126 pitches against the Dragons earlier in the day, making him ineligible to pitch against Avon. Nearing 100 pitches heading into the sixth, Oliver gutted out his final inning on the mound, striking out the side and stranding a runner on first base. Oliver finished with 11 strikeouts over six innings.

"We knew the game plan coming into this game," Oliver said. "An 11-inning game against New Pal, great team, tough team. They didn't really beat themselves, so we had to use up a lot of pitches. Having me coming in going six innings meant a lot to our team.

"Brendin gave us absolutely everything he had," added Mooresville coach Eric McGaha. "He pitched his guts out."

Sophomore Hudson DeVaughan struggled with his control against New Pal, but with Denny unavailable vs. Avon, the Pioneers needed the Alabama commit to get the final three outs of the game. DeVaughan struck out the first two batters he faced before an error and a Miguel Correa Jr. single put two runners on. Every pitcher on Mooresville's staff had confidence throwing a hard-breaking slider, and DeVaughan went to the pitch with two strikes, freezing Carson Foxen for the final out of the game.

"They're a very good team and definitely tough to play from behind against those guys," Avon coach Troy Drosche said. "We're really good when we can get up on somebody and keep pressing offensively. They just got up on us and we couldn't recover."

Mooresville (31-3) advances to Victory Field to face Lake Central (24-9) 8 p.m., Saturday at Victory Field.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Hogan Denny leads Mooresville baseball to first IHSAA state final