Denison seniors are headed to Murray State College
With their last days of high school approaching, Denison seniors Hunter Manning and Bri Baggett found the same future location to continue their athletic careers.
They both chose Murray State College, located in Tishomingo, Okla., as the next stop after closing out their final seasons competing for DHS.
Manning will pitch for the Aggies baseball program while Baggett is joining the Lady Aggies golf team.
Manning chose the junior college program over Austin College, Iowa Wesleyan, Arlington Baptist and Principia College, which is in Illinois.
"I had a lot of offers from some different schools. I knew I had a chance to play in college and it was about finding the right spot," he said. "The coach's big thing is the relationship with the players and they do a good job of getting guys to bigger programs."
Manning went 5-4 this past spring with a 2.76 earned run average and 66 strikeouts against 14 walks. He had several strong starts, including allowing a run on three hits against District 10-5A champion The Colony and a three-hit shutout with six strikeouts and no walks in a Senior Night victory over McKinney North to help keep the Jackets' playoff hopes alive going into the final week before Denison finished sixth in the district standings.
"At the beginning of the year I felt a lot stronger," Manning said about his improvement over the summer. "I think that benefited the velo increase and with my conditioning throughout the year."
As a junior, Manning's debut on the varsity was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic but he did go 3-1 with 15 strikeouts in 20 innings before the season was halted.
Murray State finished 29-27 overall and went 16-13 in conference play this past spring. The Aggies lost their first two contests at the National Junior College Athletic Association Region II Tournament.
Van Alstyne’s Chandler David was on the roster during last season's shortened schedule for the Aggies before signing with Odessa College.
In 2019 the Aggies went 29-25, tied for second in the conference standings and ranked as high as 13th in NJCAA II rankings. Murray State won the region title in 2018 and went 32-18 overall.
The program's biggest success came when it won the 2013 NJCAA Division II National Championship in its first trip to the World Series, ending with a 46-22 record. It returned to the World Series in 2017.
"That type of success excites me," Manning said. "I want to go up there and win a World Series."
Even though Baggett didn't start playing golf until the eighth grade, she knew it was something she wanted to continue with down the line.
"I've always wanted to play in college. I felt like I would get more of a chance at a smaller school," she said. "It's a really nice college and I really like the program. It's close enough to home but just far enough away."
During her junior season is when Baggett felt like her game took a big step forward.
"From freshman to sophomore year, I didn't play very good but then I kicked it into gear," she said. "It's a team sports but it's more of an individual sport so I just try to focus on me and how I can get better since that will end up helping the team."
Murray State had two players qualify for the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament after their performances at the Region II Tournament.
In 2019, the Lady Aggies had a pair of All-Americans and finished fifth in the team standings at the NJCAA National Tournament, the best-ever showing by the program.