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Denning averaging over 15 strikeouts per 9 innings for Legion team

Corsica pitcher Deric Denning throws a pitch in the second inning of a game against McCook/Miner Thursday in Corsica. (Nick McCutcheon)

CORSICA -- Deric Denning has made a habit of sending opposing batters back to the dugout baffled through the first half of the 2014 Legion baseball season.

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Denning, who will play basketball and baseball for Mount Marty College next season, has struck out 70 batters through 41 innings in six starts for the Corsica Legion team.

"Baseball is not something you can work on a whole lot during the offseason with the winters in South Dakota," Denning said. "It's been just maturing and knowing what you need to do to get better."

His top performances during the 2014 season came in back-to-back starts in June. He struck out 20 batters in nine innings against Chamberlain on June 17, which followed a 17-strikeout performance in seven innings against Wagner on June 10.

In a game against McCook/Miner Thursday in Corsica, Denning struck out 14 batters over nine innings in a 2-1 win.

"I've always been a strikeout pitcher, but when you have 20 strikeouts in a game, it kind of takes you back a bit," Denning said. "When you are locked in like that, you throw the ball and each time you know it's going to go where you want it to."

So far this season, Denning has an ERA of 4.07, with a record of 4-2 on the mound for Post 274 (4-8). He is averaging 15 strikeouts per nine innings. All four wins for Corsica have come with Denning on the mound.

Post 274 coach Bob Bamberg said it is never easy to take Denning out of a game late, as he always wants to finish what he starts. Denning said if he gets himself into trouble on the mound, he trusts that he can get out of it.

"I want to be that guy to finish and the competitor in me thinks that I give the team the best chance to win," Denning said.

Bamberg said Denning is a leader in the dugout, adding the team feels comfortable that Denning is going to be strong when he takes the mound.

"He's a gamer," Bamberg said. "If we are close in the game, he always wants to get in there and pitch, but I do have to control how many innings he throws."

Bamberg has seen Denning throw harder this season than in the past. Denning said he has put in time in the weight room to get stronger, helping his velocity.

Denning, who also played football for Mount Vernon/Plankinton in high school, plays for the Legion team in Corsica as his hometown of Mount Vernon does not have a Legion squad.

The recent graduate said he committed to play in college for Mount Marty due to the opportunity to play both baseball and basketball for the Lancers.

"I felt like the best opportunity to play both sports was at Mount Marty," Denning said. He also considered playing baseball and basketball at Dakota Wesleyan University.

When he's not playing for Post 274, Denning hits the field for the Mount Vernon amateur baseball team, which is managed by his father, Eric Denning. Deric does not pitch for the Cardinals due to his commitment to the Post 274 team. He does plan to come back to Mount Vernon next summer after college baseball to play for Mount Vernon during the amateur season.

Post 274 edges McCook/Miner 2-1

The Corsica Legion baseball team topped McCook/Miner 2-1 Thursday in Corsica.

Post 274 was led by Denning with 14 strikeouts over nine innings. Denning allowed one unearned run on three hits and walked six.

Nick Blom finished with two hits including a double, while Allen Muilenburg and Tanner VanGendren each added an RBI in the win.

McCook/Miner was led by Tyler Cleveland with a double.

Corsica (4-8) is off until regionals against an opponent to be determined Wednesday in Parkston.