.....Advertisement.....
.....Advertisement.....

PREP BASEBALL: Pennington becomes an ace for E'town (4/26)

-A A +A
By Chuck Jones

By CHUCK JONES cjones@thenewsenterprise.com ELIZABETHTOWN — The Elizabethtown Panthers lost a big chunk of their pitching staff after the 2008 season as Sean Bouthilette and Ryan Lutz graduated and Chris Gohman didn’t come out for the team after having shoulder surgery in the offseason. Elizabethtown’s pitching staff was going to have to be rebuilt, but the Panthers had a good starting point in Erin Pennington, who was the only pitcher with a postseason victory on his resume. “I knew as a senior I was going to have to step up,” Pennington said. “The big wins Sean and Ryan got last year, someone else was going to have to get this year in order for us to be successful.” Pennington has been that pitcher for the Panthers. Entering Friday’s games, the senior right-hander was 4-0, including wins over district foes Central Hardin and John Hardin. Pennington also had recorded a save. “I think I pitch better in bigger games,” Pennington said. “I focus better and I pitch better in bigger games.” Through 28 2/3 innings, Pennington had a microscopic earned run average of 0.73. He had given up just three earned runs. Pennington had registered a team-high 29 strikeouts. “He’s the one guy that had some experience,” Elizabethtown coach Don Pitts said. “He was a real solid pitcher for us last season, but he’s really improved. He’s gotten more confidence and I think that’s helped him a lot.” Pennington has a three-pitch arsenal – fastball, curveball and changeup. Last year, he said he relied on certain pitches too much, but that hasn’t been the case this year. “Right now, every pitch has been effective,” Pennington said. “Every pitch has been working unlike last year. I made a few mechanical adjustments. The pitches are crisp and they're working a lot better. “That's a good thing,” he added. “I know if it’s a 3-2 count or even a 3-1 count, I can throw any of my pitches for strikes.” Pitts and his coaching staff expected Pennington to give the Panthers a huge lift on the mound. What’s been a little unexpected is Pennington’s hitting. Pennington was hitting .333 with two doubles and one homer. He had four runs scored and five runs batted in. “We always thought Erin had a lot of potential, but he hadn’t produced as well as he’s capable of,” Pitts said. “This year, things have gone in the opposite direction. He worked hard and things are paying off for him. “Last year we could get by without him in the lineup,” he added. “This year we have to have him hit. We talk about our seniors stepping on. We count on our seniors to do that and he has done that for us.” Pennington, who plays first base when he’s not on the mound, said the reason for the change is a different approach at the plate. “Last year the work I put in didn’t transition well to games,” Pennington said. “I was struggling a little bit and I’d tense up at the plate. This year I’m relaxing at the plate. I’m relaxed and I’m just seeing the ball and hitting the ball. It’s 100 percent better.” Things couldn’t be better for Pennington these days. He plans on going to Western Kentucky, where he wants to major in television production with a minor in marketing. In a recent awards ceremony, Pennington had a Christian music video place in the top five. He also has won other awards for sports broadcasting and politics, but music videos are where his passion lies. “Erin is a great kid; he comes from a great family,” Pitts said. “He’s not going to sulk or pout when things don’t go his way. You can tell a lot about a kid’s character by that. He’s going to do all the right things away from the field. You know you’re not going to have to worry about anything with Erin.” Pitts also doesn’t have to worry about the pitching staff thanks to Pennington’s emergence. Chuck Jones can be reached at 505-1759