With a stroke of a pen, Rye Neck senior Ryan Pennell made his dream official November 16, surrounded by friends, family, teachers, and coaches in the high school library. The star baseball player signed his national letter of intent to attend Elon University in the fall of 2010.
“It’s such a great feeling, especially with everyone here,” said Pennell, who will receive a scholarship to the Division 1 school in North Carolina. “But it’s hard to describe exactly. The past four years have been some of the greatest of my life. I’ve had a lot of fun and so much support, and I still have one more year to finish.”
The Elon Phoenix – two-time regular season South Conference champions – are getting a player who was consistently dominant as a junior. The southpaw tossed five no-hitters en route to finishing 9-0 with a 0.44 ERA. He struck out a Section 1-best 136 batters, and allowed just 10 hits all year. In nine of his 10 starts Pennell fanned at least 11 batters. He was at his best May 13 against Blind Brook, striking out 21 of the 23 batters he faced in a no-hitter. No slouch with the bat either, Pennell hit at gaudy .456 clip.
The Panthers’ head coach, Tyler Slater, said at the press conference that Pennell’s greatest attributes don’t appear in box scores. “When this process started, the colleges were inquiring about Ryan’s character more than his ability,” said Slater. “All coaches feel they can make a player better, but character is something you can’t change. I felt awkward when speaking to them, because I couldn’t think of a negative thing to say about him.”