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Armed to Succeed: Stevens’ Tenney Healthy, Ready to Throw

  • Tenney, center, and her teammates reached the NHIAA Division III state chamiponship game last tspring, and they have high hopes for 2013. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Tenney, center, and her teammates reached the NHIAA Division III state chamiponship game last tspring, and they have high hopes for 2013. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens’ Danielle Tenney stretches with her softball teammates following yesterday’s workout in Carr Gymnasium. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Stevens’ Danielle Tenney stretches with her softball teammates following yesterday’s workout in Carr Gymnasium. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Stevens senior Danielle Tenney, 18, is giving her softball coach pause to think about whether she should pitch or play infield this spring. (Valley News - Libby March)

    Stevens senior Danielle Tenney, 18, is giving her softball coach pause to think about whether she should pitch or play infield this spring. (Valley News - Libby March) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Tenney, center, and her teammates reached the NHIAA Division III state chamiponship game last tspring, and they have high hopes for 2013. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Stevens’ Danielle Tenney stretches with her softball teammates following yesterday’s workout in Carr Gymnasium. (Valley News - Libby March)
  • Stevens senior Danielle Tenney, 18, is giving her softball coach pause to think about whether she should pitch or play infield this spring. (Valley News - Libby March)

Claremont — Just about this time last spring, the Stevens High softball team was having its first scrimmage of the year in Lebanon. Early in the game, the Cardinals’ Danielle Tenney maneuvered into position at second base to glove a Raider ground ball.

When she planted her right foot, she knew right away that something was wrong with the knee.

“That was the worst day of my life,” the senior recalled yesterday.

Tenney tore her right anterior cruciate ligament. Surgery soon followed.

While torn ACLs are unfortunately somewhat common among athletes, for Tenney this followed a first operation for a torn meniscus on a girl whose eyes brighten and the smile widens just when she thinks about softball.

“Gosh, I love softball,” she said.

She loves softball so much that she has played on an American Softball Association team each summer since she was a seventh-grader, most recently for the New England Hardliners out of Nashua, playing approximately 30 games each year.

Tenney was an honorable-mention all-state player as a sophomore two years ago, and huge things were expected from her during her junior season. Then there was that ground ball at Lebanon. She did manage to return to the team for the second half of the season and hit a home run in the NHIAA Division III championship game loss to White Mountains, a season which her coach, Missy Nichols, said she batted around the .500 mark.

Not once during the season did she strike out.

“I rehabbed like crazy to get back to that team,” said Tenney. “Dr. Houde (orthopedic surgeon John Houde) was amazed at how quickly I recovered.”

Tenney has always had crazy numbers as a hitter, and there is a reason for this. “When I was younger, the coaches kept telling me to hit the ball on the ground,” she explained. “Then I went to AB Athletics in Nashua, and it changed my life.

“It was awesome there. They worked on my mechanics and how to hit through the ball. They taught me things about softball I had never known before. We had some double plays last year I couldn’t have turned those if I had not gone to AB athletics. They would tape me and show me what was wrong and then correct it. It was just wonderful there.”

The softball teams at Stevens have won 29 games in the last two years, riding the powerful arm and bat of Alyssa Nichols and others, coming so close to winning the school’s first state championship in any sport since the 1989 boys soccer team. And there is a lot of hope again this year, and a lot is riding not only on the bat of Danielle Tenney, but on a right arm that delivers a high-velocity pitch and a changeup that she says she likes to throw. “I once threw four changeups in a row and got a strikeout,” she said.

“She also has good speed, fields her position well and throws strikes,” added Nichols.

Whether to pitch Tenney or play her at second base is a tough call for the Stevens coach.

“Second base is a vital position in softball, and Danielle really likes to play the infield,” said Nichols.

“That’s true,” said Tenney. “But I will do what is best for the team.”

What Nichols is most concerned about is keeping Tenney healthy and her booming bat and slick glove in the lineup. Nichols said that Tori Maslan has some mound capabilities and could be a starting pitcher.

“I don’t know just yet,” said Nichols. “We’re still trying to figure things out.”

Nichols does know one thing about her senior star. “I would like to see Danielle be the shining light of this team,” Nichols noted, “because all she went through with the injuries.“

Notes: The Cardinals will join seven other squads for an all-day preseason jamboree at Newport High School April 6. Stevens will play Sunapee at 9 a.m., Springfield at 11 a.m. and Con-Val at 1 p.m. Fall Mountain, Hartford, Windsor and the host Tigers fill out the field. … Stevens returns to open its regular season at Newport on April 8.