February 3, 1999
Sophomore pitcher Chad Pennington played numerous roles when he took the mound for last year's College World Series team, but this year he has been given just one -- starter. And Pennington couldn't be happier.
"I really enjoy being a starter," said Pennington. "I like seeing the hitters from the beginning, and being able to be one of the top three starters is awesome."
Primarily a middle reliever, Pennington also became a starter and closer when needed during the 1997-98 season.
He didn't mind his various roles last year, but said he was hoping to be named a starter after the June draft claimed all of last year's starting rotation, Ryan Mills, Phill Lowery and Richy Leon.
"I kind of hoped to be starting this season, just because I have been starting my whole life," said the 20-year-old Pennington.
First-year pitching coach John Pawlowski said his experience is a valuable asset to the Sun Devils.
"The biggest thing he brings is experience. He is a hard worker and has developed a structure on and off the field. This team has confidence in him, especially in big situations."
As a freshman, he made six starts and recorded three saves in 22 appearances to finish with a 7-2 record. In 75 innings, Pennington compiled a 4.20 ERA, third best on the Devil pitching staff, and allowed only 64 hits.
Pennington held opposing batters to a .229 average, the lowest of any Sun Devil pitcher making at least 10 appearances last season. He totaled 87 strikeouts to just 35 walks.
Following five months of rehabilitation on his elbow this summer, Pennington pitched 4.1 innings in his first game this season, giving up eight hits and four earned runs in 17-4 win against the University of Utah.
"I came into the first game, got the first start of the year and I came out pretty strong," said Pennington. "Coach (Murphy) had me on a pitch count to make sure my elbow didn't do anything it wasn't suppose to."
Pennington, a native of Hamilton, Ohio, recorded his first win this season at Hawaii-Hilo. He is 2-0 after three starts, posting a 1.47 ERA in 18.1 innings allowing 21 hits, four runs, and three walks while striking out 22.
So far Pennington is doing what he has wanted to this season.
"I just want to go out there and pitch, but of course winning is always welcomed."
In one day at regionals, Pennington recorded a save against Wichita State and a win over Oklahoma State. His performances earned him a selection to Midwest Regional all-tournament team.
The 5-foot-11 pitcher picked up a win in relief against Florida State at the College World Series, allowing no runs and five strikeouts in 3.1 innings.
Pennington's College World Series experience was a memorable one, but then being on top is something he is used to. He appeared in the 1991 Little League World Series and the 1997 Connie Mack World Series; both times his teams came out victorious.
"The College World Series, Little League World Series and High School Championships were all overwhelming. It is a great feeling to be a the top of every level of the game."
This past summer, Pennington retreated to where it all began for him -- the West Side Little League complex -- when Butler County in Ohio proclaimed June 20 "Chad Pennington Day." Not bad for a sophomore in college.
"It was nice. I got to go to the Little League park and give a speech to the little leaguers," said Pennington. "And being able to have them look up to me; it was just a great feeling."
How does he see this season shaping up?
"The College World Series is always a goal, but it is a whole different team, different year and we are just looking to see what this season brings."
Pennington said with so many new faces the team needed time to get to know one another, and the first road trip to Hawaii did just that.
Even though the righthander favors starting to other roles, he has proven he is dedicated to the team by playing a variety of roles at any given time.
"Any role they (coaches) give me, I would be happy take it."