The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Dave Thomas
Yakima Herald 

Denney off to quick start with Pippins

 

Sofia Jaramillo

OFF AND RUNNING: Former Goldendale High School Standout and Yakima Valley Pippin's slugger Lucas Denney takes a seat outside the dugout during a game against the Bend Elks last Thursday at Yakima County Stadium in Yakima.

YAKIMA - At first, Lucas Denney thought the worst part was the actual injury itself - a broken leg suffered a week before his senior season was set to begin at Seattle University.

Then he slowly came to realize that what actually hurt more was being forced to sit and watch his teammates, unable to be out on the field.

"It was devastating. I was going into my last year of (college) baseball so it was tough to hear that bad news," he said of the broken right fibula he suffered when the leg got caught under the other while sliding into second base.

That led to him spending two months on a one-knee scooter to support the leg, followed by a walking boot.

Despite the severity of the injury, the former Goldendale High standout never gave up hope he could get back on the field. When he finally realized it wouldn't be with his Redhawks, Denney opted to use his redshirt and, despite graduating in June, come back and play for Seattle next spring.

"I had high hopes to return when the league season started but I was still in a walking boot," said Denney, who was coming off a strong junior season in which he hit .277 and was named to the Western Athletic Conference all-tournament team. "That's when I came to the decision to take the safe, smart route and come back next season."

The only problem was he needed somewhere to start that comeback.

That's where Yakima Valley Pippins manager Marcus McKimmy came into the picture.

"I knew about Lucas since he was a freshman at Spokane Community College," said McKimmy, who was managing the Yakima Valley College team at the time. "I've followed his progression and it was a good fit for us when we learned he was available."

So, even though Denney had been idle for months, McKimmy and the Pippins gladly welcomed the left-handed hitting first baseman, who didn't hesitate to accept the offer.

"Coming to the Pippins is an opportunity that I'm blessed to have," Denney said. "I'm thankful to be out here ... having an opportunity to play baseball all summer."

And the Pippins are even happier now that they've seen the early results.

Denney, who joined the team on June 12 at Wenatchee, a day after Seattle's graduation ceremony, has had a quick impact, hitting a team-best three home runs in his first 18 games. Denney is hitting .298 (17 for 57) with five doubles, 11 runs and 12 RBIs.

"I'm happy with the numbers (so far) and the power numbers are cool because ... I'm still getting used the arm angles and pitch velocity again," he said.

For his part, McKimmy was confident that Denney would be able to contribute immediately because he knew from talking with the Seattle coaches just how hard Denney had been working.

"There's always uncertainty (coming back from an injury) but he had been full strength for a month at Seattle," McKimmy said. "He was working out with the team, he just had no at-bats to show for it. He was in game shape (when he got here)."

As Denney continues to regain his full baseball senses, he's also using this opportunity to improve as a power hitter.

"I've fallen in love with hitting the ball out of the park. That may not be the best thing, but there's nothing better than to see the ball launch off the bat and sail up and out of the park," he said, adding that improving in that area is not just physical.

"As I mature, I'm increasing my strength but also working on my mental approach," he continued. "I'm working on learning to work counts better and looking for my pitch. I want to minimize my strikeouts and that means getting into good counts."

Beyond the contributions at the plate, Denney is a valuable asset for Yakima Valley because, at 22, he's one of the older players on the Pippins.

"He's an upperclassman ... and with that comes a little maturity," McKimmy said. "I hope he continues to be a quality leader in the clubhouse."

That's something Denney is eager to provide, particularly as a West Coast League veteran, having played with Kelowna in 2014.

Andrew Christiansen

THROWBACK: Denney circa 2013

"I played my freshman year ... and the game was faster," he said. "Now, the game is starting to slow down for me and I'm looking forward to working the younger guys to help them adjust."

All these factors add up to a player that has gone from idled to important.

"I'm glad Lucas is a Pippin and this team is an investment in his future," McKimmy said. "He's a good kid and a really good fit.

"We wouldn't be where we are right now without him."

"It was crazy standing on one leg and thinking about chasing the ball around the field," Denney said. "It was a weird feeling but I never doubted I'd be back. The process just took longer than expected."

McKimmy and the Pippins believe it was worth the wait.

 

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