Denning and Morris Named NFCA All-Pacific Region
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Two members of Utah's softball program have received recognition from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association for their outstanding play in 2021 by being named to the All-Pacific Region team, it was announced today by the NFCA. Sophomore Haley Denning was named to the first team in the utility/non-pitcher category and sophomore Halle Morris was named to the third team in the utility/pitcher category. It is the first all-region honor for both, and Denning's first-team recognition is the first by a Ute since U.S. Olympic Team member Hannah Flippen earned three consecutive first-team honors at Utah from 2015-2017.
"I couldn't be happier about the news today with two more award winners for our crew," said head coach Amy Hogue. "Halle Morris does so many different things for our team and she is invaluable to us. I love that there is an award in our region specifically designed for players like her. A true utility player and a well-deserved award. Haley Denning is no longer a hidden gem. She was all Pac-12 and now first team all-region, which is right where she belongs. With three seasons of competition left on her clock there will be many more accolades to come."
Denning showed great versatility and outstanding talent in 2021, starting all 55 games either in the outfield or at shortstop, and led the Pac-12 in hits (75) and stolen bases, ranking nationally 5th and tied for 11th, respectively, in those two categories. She also led the Utes in batting average (.391), runs (46), triples (5) and multi-hit games (23). Denning's five triples ranked 15th in the NCAA.
The 31 stolen bases by Denning, the Utes' leadoff batter, were the most by a Utah player since 2001. She started 31 games in left field before injuries to teammates at other positions necessitated her shift to shortstop, where she started 23 games, in addition to one start in right field. Denning also hit two doubles, walked twice and drove in eight runs.
Morris proved to be one of Coach Hogue's most versatile and indispensable players in 2021, playing both third and first base, serving as the DH, and providing solid pitching as both a starter and reliever. She started 22 games at third base, four at first base, 10 as the DH and made 36 pitching appearances, including eight as a starter.
Her 36 appearances were the most of any pitcher, and she produced the lowest ERA among all of Utah pitchers (4.20), with 34 strikeouts in 86.2 innings pitched. She had a record of 4-4 and pitched one complete game. Two of her best outings came in earning wins against Pac-12 foes Arizona State and California. In the win over 14th-ranked ASU on April 2, Morris started and pitched into the sixth inning and allowed just three runs while scattering seven hits to set up Utah for the 6-4 win. At Cal on April 10 she came on in relief with Utah trailing 2-1 in the fourth inning and allowed just three hits and one run over the final four innings in the 4-3 win. At the plate, Morris hit five doubles and four home runs among her 29 hits and drove in 24 runs, fourth-most on the team.