SITTING in the bleachers at Hall of Fame Stadium, Rusty Denney found himself dreaming. He was watching the Women's College World Series and cheering for Virginia Tech this week, but he was thinking of his daughter. She played softball, practicing hard and showing promise. Was she good enough to make it to Oklahoma City one day? It's an unanswerable question. Adrianne Denney died a year and a half ago, an unexpected tragedy that brought her parents to an unexpected place. Rusty and Julie Denney never intended to be in Oklahoma City this week. Never expected to be wearing Virginia Tech maroon and orange, either. But a pitching performance for the ages sparked a chain of events that led the Denneys from Casey, Ill., to Knoxville, Tenn., to Ann Arbor, Mich., all the way to Hall of Fame Stadium. A place that has been a field of dreams for many has become a place of healing for Rusty and Julie Denney. "You've got to dream,” Rusty said, "or you won't survive.” Adrianne Denney started playing softball when she was only 5 and knew she wanted to be a pitcher by the time she was 8. She spent hours and hours practicing. She took pitching lessons. She went to camp. But most of all, she pitched to her dad in the driveway. Together, they drilled her mechanics and increased her velocity and refined her skills. Success followed in summer ball. There were state titles and national tournament appearances, one that even brought the family to Oklahoma. Adrianne played in Tulsa, but then, the team traveled to Oklahoma City to see the bombing memorial. "Mom,” Julie remembers Adrianne saying that day, "this is not something people should come to lightly.” Adrianne had a seriousness about her. How else to explain how she excelled in everything she tried? She was an honor student, an accomplished singer and a standout pitcher. As a high school freshman, she threw seven no-hitters and led her team to the state championship game. Having been clocked at 65 miles per hour, it only seemed like a matter of time before colleges would take notice. One morning, not long after that 2006 state championship game, Adrianne told her parents that her right arm felt cold. Doctors eventually determined that she had thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition that causes nerve and artery problems in the shoulder. It's a condition that has affected several Major League Baseball players, including Hank Blalock and Kenny Rogers. Adrianne had surgery, but the problem returned and required a second surgery. While in the hospital recovering from the second surgery, Adrianne suffered an aneurysm. She went into cardiac arrest and died on the operating table. "You never think it's going to happen to you,” Rusty said. "You wonder how you survive.” Julie and Rusty tried to be strong for each other, but they found it difficult to lean on each other when both were struggling to stay on their feet. Even this spring, as a second softball season without Adrianne ticked away, Julie and Rusty struggled. Then a few months ago, they happened to see Virginia Tech's game against the U.S. Olympic Team on television. They watched in awe like the rest of the softball world as Angela Tincher retired one Olympian after another and recorded the unlikeliest of no-hitters. The Denneys were intrigued by Tincher and went online to read more about her. They found a story that told how Tincher and her father, Denny, spent hours and hours practicing in the driveway. The Tinchers' story was their story. Rusty decided to write them a letter, just to tell Angela that he knew how hard she had worked, but he never could find the words. So, when the NCAA Tournament field was announced, Rusty and Julie decided to drive seven hours to Tennessee to watch Virginia Tech. Eventually, Julie summoned the strength to introduce herself to Angela's parents. She told them about Adrianne, how she'd practiced with her dad in the driveway, how she'd poured herself into the sport just like Angela. A connection was made. "I think we tugged at their hearts,” Rusty said, "and they comforted ours.” Julie said: "We weren't going to stay, but then, they beat Tennessee and they were like, ‘You have to stay. You're our good luck charm.' ” Rusty and Julie stayed for the rest of the regional games, then went to the super regional games at Michigan, then came to the Women's College World Series. Even as the Virginia Tech family embraced them, buying them Hokie gear and getting them family-section seats, Rusty and Julie questioned their presence. "What are we doing here?” they asked each other this week as they sat in another hotel room in another faraway place watching a team they hardly knew about three months ago. "Why are we doing this?” The girls remind Rusty and Julie so much of Adrianne, her bouncy blond hair and her sparkling blue eyes. The games make them wonder what might have been. This has been a painful journey. But along the way, there has been healing. The Denneys reached out for help, and the Hokies embraced them. And even though Virginia Tech's run at the Women's College World Series ended on Saturday, their legacy will remain. "They don't know what they did for us,” Julie said. "Just for them to be good to us, to visit with us was good.” Rusty and Julie Denney are part of a team again.