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Jennings County speedster in fast lane to Trine University

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Much can be said about Dani Kirchner’s baserunning abilities.

Stealing 89 bases in 97 attempts during her tenure at Jennings County says more than enough.

But when Trine University head softball coach Don Danklefsen saw her burst out of the dugout to second base during one of her games this past season with Jennings County, he knew he was grabbing someone special.

“She came out of the dugout like a bolt of lightning,” Danklefsen said. “She just doesn’t ever slow down. It was her demeanor and speed that got me attracted to her style of play.”

Kirchner will be taking her speed to Angola, where she will play for Trine’s softball team next season with an opportunity to start as a freshman at shortstop or second base.

“It felt like a home away from home,” Kirchner said. “The players reminded me of my teammates from my last four seasons at Jennings County, and I knew they were going to be a good team to play with.

“When I went up in September, I fell in love right away,” she said. “I loved the campus, teachers, players and coaches, and felt like it was the right school for me.”

Although she had made visits to Indiana University, as well as Butler and Kentucky, Kirchner preferred the small-town vibe in Angola.

“I had attended some camps at a couple schools, but felt like I connected more with Trine,” Kirchner said. “They had an amazing season this past year, and I’d like to help them improve their success.”

For Danklefsen, who coached the Thunder to a 43-6 finish last season, it was a lucky grab.

“I knew some schools were looking at her,” Danklefsen said. “In all honesty, I didn’t think we were going to get her. But she really enjoyed our campus and the players she got to be around.”

Kirchner took to Jennings County softball coach Kendall Wildey for advice, and Wildey gave his support to the decision.

“It’s a good fit for her,” Wildey said. “We both agreed that she had the best chance to start early there and a chance to make a big impact.”

“Wherever she was going to land, she was going to do big things. Her baserunning ability for us was phenomenal, and a lot of teams would’ve loved to have that talent.”

Kirchner’s speed and competitiveness were what caught Danklefsen’s eye this season.

“We knew she was a good baserunner,” Danklefsen said. “We have focused a lot on power for our team, but adding the speed she has could be dangerous for opponents.”

“She was just locked in every time she went out to play,” Danklefsen said. “She’s a super competitive player, and when she gets on the field you can tell she wants to win.”

While getting the starting role may prove daunting at first, Danklefsen said that Kirchner has the tools to succeed.

“Like anyone new to college softball, she has to focus on the little things,” Danklefsen said. “She has to learn the conditioning, how to read the ball and how to build her strength at shortstop.”

For Kirchner, it’s all a matter of training hard.

“I’m going to work as hard as I can to fill that spot,” Kirchner said of playing shortstop. “They graduated two really good players last season at second base and shortstop, so it gives me a chance to show how bad I want that role as a freshman.”

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