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Former North star looks to find spot on college squad

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Denisa Brooks batted .462 this season, runs from home to first in less than 3 seconds and is an honor student and model citizen.

But about six weeks from the start of classes at most colleges, the recent Columbus North graduate and third-team All-State selection is still without a place to play softball next season. Brooks hopes to land a scholarship but realizes that might not be possible at this late stage.

“It is tough if you wait until your senior year,” said Jerry Burton, who retired as North coach at the end of the season. “They’re working on players now that are sophomores. The longer you wait, the harder it is to get a scholarship. Hopefully by your junior year, you have a good idea of where you’re going.”

Brooks has been invited to join the team at Lincoln Trail College in Illinois and has talked to the coach at Indiana Wesleyan University when she attended a camp there. But unless something materializes in the next three weeks, she is leaning toward trying to walk on at Indiana University.

“Obviously, Denisa has a talent to play,” Burton said. “I think Denisa could play Division I. She is a gifted athlete with a lot of softball skills. There are teams that are looking for that quality of a player, but unfortunately for Denisa, most of those schools have filled those spots.”

Last weekend, Brooks played with her travel team, the Indiana Stingers, in the state tournament in Westfield. This week, they’re in Aurora, Colorado, for a showcase. The Stingers’ final tournament this summer will be the Midland Magic Showcase from July 18 to 20 in Springfield, Illinois.

Joe Witten, who coaches former North catcher Shelby Lucas at IU-Southeast, said recruiting and scholarships usually come down to a numbers game.

“It’s tough,” Witten said. “It depends on how the coaches structure their money. They’re searching for freshmen and sophomores in high school trying to get verbal commitments.”

Witten said IU-Southeast only has about 3½ scholarships for softball to divide among players. He said a school like IU has about 11 or 12.

“The difference is money,” Witten said. “We try to look at it as an economic investment. They only way something would surface is if somebody would transfer at the last minute and they were a scholarship player.”

That’s why many players at smaller schools are on academic scholarships.

“We use the classroom like a springboard to earn the money,” Witten said. “We’re investing in their education as a career.”

After batting .370 as a junior, Brooks led the Bull Dogs with a .462 average, five triples, eight stolen bases and 34 runs scored this season in earning All-Conference Indiana honors. She had a .947 fielding percentage at second base.

“There are kids that hit really well that don’t necessarily make All-State or All-Conference,” Burton said. “Denisa has improved quite a bit. This was her best year.”

“I think it was probably my best season so far,” Brooks said. “This was only my second year (hitting) from the left side, so it was nice to see that working on it finally paid off.”

If Brooks ends up going to IU, she’ll attend a meeting in August about trying out for the softball team. She wants to play, even if only pinch-running for the first couple of years.

“I don’t know if I’d have a spot,” said Brooks, who plans to major in psychology. “Speed-wise, probably, but it depends on who’s there at the time and the situation. It all depends on who’s there and who is graduating at your position and stuff like that.”

Brooks led North to a 17-11 season as a senior. The Bull Dogs fell to eventual Class 4A state champion Bloomington South in the sectional finals.

“I think it went pretty well,” Brooks said. “I don’t think we could have asked for a much better season, except to go farther at the end.”

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