Pennington shines for Trojans
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on May 18, 2007 2:43 PM
KINSTON -- The last time Phillip Pennington took the mound at Grainger Stadium he was a wide-eyed freshman pitching against the Kinston Indians in an exhibition game for Mount Olive College.
Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Atlantic Regional, the senior right-hander took the mound with a lot more on the line.
Making his first start since April 4th, Pennington showed no rust as the Charles B. Aycock grad held Virginia State to only one run in 62/3 innings to pick up the win in Mount Olive's 6-1 victory.
Against Virginia State, Pennington took the same approach as he did during his freshman year against the Indians.
"Those (Kinston players) looked huge compared to me and I was just trying to throw the ball over the plate, which was pretty much the situation tonight," Pennington said. "No one was going to hit it out of the ballpark so I just tried to throw it where my catcher wanted it."
A stiff breeze blowing in from center field and a drizzle that only increased throughout the game provided Pennington with an edge and some confidence.
Still though, Pennington was far from dominant in his performance as he recorded only one 1-2-3 inning.
Pennington relied on his off-speed pitches and dared Virginia State to hit the ball -- just as he did in February when he beat sixth-seeded Trojans for his first win of the season.
"They got themselves out when I threw strikes," he said.
Virginia State had its chances though.
In the first inning, Charles Monroe stood on third base with two outs after reaching via a lead-off walk. Pennington got out of the jam when Graham Wooten made a nice sliding catch to end the frame.
"I trust everyone out there," said Pennington. "If I leave (a pitch) up, there are guys out there who are going to catch it."
A walk and a hit had Pennington in trouble again in the third inning as runners stood at first and third with two outs.
Instead of relying on his defense, Pennington took charge and struck out Jason Jennings on three pitches to keep the game scoreless.
"I shouldn't have put myself in those situations, but I feel comfortable enough where I can get myself out of anything," Pennington said.
For the game, Pennington would strand eight Virginia State runners on the base paths.
"We just didn't get that timely hit when we needed to," said Virginia State coach Merrill Morgan. "We left a ton of people on base."
Mount Olive wasn't fairing any better with getting runs home as the game remained scoreless until the bottom of the third.
The lack of scoring didn't bother Pennington who was confident his teammates would give him a lead at some point.
"I had faith in our hitters," he said. "I wasn't worried at all."
Pennington improved to 4-1 with the win as he allowed one run on five hits, walked five and struck out two while giving the Trojans some much needed innings.
"To go as deep in the game as he did was outstanding because we needed him to stay out there as long as possible," said Mount Olive coach Carl Lancaster. "His breaking ball was sharp. He stayed in there and battled."
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