Henning standing tall atop Hawks’ order

Senior batting .645 in final season

Chris Caporale, sports@wolfrivermedia.com


Leader Photo by Chris Caporale Shawano Community High School senior Saige Henning watches a pitch miss the strike zone. Her power and discipline at the plate have allowed her to reach base in 70 percent of her at-bats.

During her senior season, Saige Henning somehow figured out how to become an even better hitter.

After leading her Shawano team and the Bay Conference in both batting average and home runs last season, she has topped that performance this season.

“Last year, obviously, I didn’t hit as good,” Henning said. “I think I’m seeing the ball a lot better this year.”

With one regular-season game remaining, on Friday against Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln, Henning has a .645 batting average and six home runs, which ties her total long balls from last season.

With her six doubles and four triples, her slugging percentage sits at 1.161, which means she averages a single per at-bat on the year.

Shawano head coach Brian Johnson, who has been coaching for over 20 years, hasn’t seen a season like Henning’s.

Her combination of power and plate discipline, which has resulted in nine walks and just four strikeouts all season, has all but left Johnson in amazement.

“What she’s doing this season is out of this world,” he said.

As the leadoff hitter for the Hawks, Henning has reached base on 70 percent of her plate appearances and is a big part of getting the offense going. She has scored a team-high 33 runs to go with 23 runs batted in.

“My parents always tell me that if I hit good, then the rest of the team seems to hit good,” Henning said. “So it’s a lot of pressure to go up there, see the first pitches, and then come back and tell my team what I see.”

Henning, who plans to attend Brigham Young University-Idaho next fall to study physical therapy, has struck out just one time in the conference season, as Shawano (15-6, 10-4 Bay Conference) finished with the third-best record in the league.

In conference games, the senior outfielder has a .744 average, nearly .200 points better than the next-highest batter, Seymour’s Raven VandenLangenberg.

“It’s a major thing to have good plate discipline because you see a lot better pitches then,” Henning said. “And then you’re able to get the pitch that you want to drive.”

Opponents have tried throwing outside pitches to Henning, one of her few weaknesses at the plate. That has also helped improve her swing to the opposite field.

“This year, I’ve been able to wait back on it and try to drive it to right,” Henning said.

The Hawks, who start postseason play as a No. 4 seed Wednesday in the regional semifinal against No. 5 Marinette, are looking to make a deep run with Henning atop the lineup.

A victory on Wednesday would likely mean a rematch with Seymour, which Shawano defeated twice this season, for the regional championship.

It could be up to Henning to come up with a play to keep the season alive.

“The least I want to do is be a regional champion. It would be nice to go all the way to state, but if that doesn’t happen, I’m proud of how my team has done so far,” Henning said. “And I hope just to keep going.”