Thursday, July 4, 2019
Highlands Alum Breaks Out for Denison Softball
But the 21-year-old 2016 Highlands graduate became one on the field in a big way with a break-out junior season for the Denison University Big Red softball team. Denison started for the first time this season and batted a team-high .400 (42-for-105) to go with five home runs, 23 runs batted in 23 runs scored. The five home runs tied the team lead. Dutcher landed a spot on the All-North Coast Athletic Conference Second Team.
Denison is located in Granville (Ohio). The NCAA Division III school is located 35 miles east of Columbus.
In Denison's doubleheader sweep of Ohio Wesleyan on April 20, Dutcher went 4-for-6 with five RBIs, three runs scored and a home run. She captured the NCAC Player of the Week award of her time at Denison as a result.
"Through the relationships I have with my team, we were just so close this year," Dutcher said. "I would do anything for those girls. I feel like I'm finally hitting my potential as an athlete. It was fun and exciting to start this year and have a great year. I had my place on the team and knew what I wanted."
Dutcher played first base her first two seasons at Denison and came into the game when the starting first baseman pitched. But she moved to third as a junior. Dutcher had not played third base since her freshman or sophomore year at Highlands. Dutcher led Highlands to two 9th Region crowns in 2014 and 2016.
"I was kind of nervous because I hadn't played it in a while," Dutcher said. "But as the season progressed, I really found confidence in my arm and skills so that was pretty fun."
Denison finished the season 22-14 overall including 11-5 in NCAC play. Denison lost to DePauw (Greencastle, Indiana) in the double-elimination NCAC Tournament. Denison had a tournament in Virginia Beach cancelled because of rain. Tiffany Ozbun is Denison's head coach.
"I think that we definitely had a really challenging season," Dutcher said. "I think we started off pretty well. I think our confidence was like a big thing that we struggled with in the beginning. I think we all have the necessary skills. We're all really good athletes obviously. We've been playing for so long. After our Spring Break trip, I think that we really started to realized we can do this. We had the skills to push through the tournament. I know the tournament didn't go how we wanted."
Some athletes struggle with the speed of the game the first season after high school. But Dutcher ventured to Granville knowing she had to earn time on the field.
"Really the atmosphere of being on your own is such an issue because no one is going to hand this to you. Obviously, the best are going to play and I think just that whole mindset of, 'Work Hard then you Play Hard' is a big thing for me," Dutcher said. "Going into it, I think we all think we're going to play. Just adjusting to the girls, adjusting to college really helped a lot. You have to rely on other people to help you in the game. You're doing it because you love (the game)."
Dutcher is majoring in Biology and minoring in Psychology. Dutcher admitted she struggled that first semester.
"There's no one there telling you to do anything because you're on your own," Dutcher said. "I think I've adjusted better every year. That's usually how it goes. It is pretty hard to adjust to the academic and sports life because sports really does take a lot of your time. That really does help because you have to get your work done in order to play. It really teaches you how to become an adult."
Dutcher did not know any of her teammates going there. But she has her way of earning the trust of her teammates and coaches. Denison loses five seniors.
"I really feel like I try to make the freshmen feel welcomed," Dutcher said. "I think that gets a lot of respect because I'm here for the girls and I'm here to create relationships that we can have forever. That's what drives me to do well and do my part on a team so we can be as successful as possible."
Dutcher said she will work on her confidence in the off-season. She said she has good chemistry with Denison shortstop Emilie Fisher.
"I have the necessary skills to perform at my best and really focus on the little things," Dutcher said. "In the grand scheme of things, the little things are what's going to matter and drive us to go far in the tournament. I'm having a great time."
Denison has had success in the past. Since the tournament's inception in 2001, Denison owns six NCAC Tournament titles, which is the most of any team in the NCAC. Denison also owns an NCAC-best 16 NCAC Tournament appearances. Denison's last tournament title came in 2012.