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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Pennington brings experience, hot bat to Omaha for Aggies

Photo by Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

June 9, 2017: Texas A&M Aggies Baseball vs Davidson Wildcats in the NCAA Division 1 Super Regionals. Photos by Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. — From the practice he went through Thursday afternoon at Millard West High School to the tender, juicy filet mignon he ate that night at Sullivan’s, the events leading up to the 2017 College World Series are familiar to Walker Pennington.
After all, the senior outfielder got the chance to go to Omaha his freshman year as a member of the TCU Horned Frogs.
It is rare that a team making its first appearance in the CWS since 2011, as Texas A&M is, would have someone with CWS experience on its roster, but that is exactly what Pennington gives the Aggies.
“It’s kind of weird because we ate at the same restaurant last night that we did my freshman year and practiced on the same field,” Pennington told The Battalion after Friday’s team practice. “Some of those memories start coming back and I guess I have experience on what the crowd and atmosphere is like.”
Pennington did not get on the field in 2014 when the Horned Frogs made the trek to Omaha, but he gained valuable experience that he has been able to share with his A&M teammates, none of whom have played at such a high level in their respective careers.
“None of us have played here. Growing up some of us have been here to watch games but that’s about it,” starting pitcher Corbin Martin said. “Just to have a guy like that with experience and for him to bring it to us and teach the younger guys is special. He just said to go out there and have fun, enjoy it and play your best baseball because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”
Said third baseman George Janca: “He knew his way around a little bit. We went out walking yesterday and he was kind of giving us the rundown on what was going on, what the best spots to eat were and everything like that. It’s good to have a guy on the team that’s had some experience here.”
Arguably more important than Pennington’s CWS experience, though, is the emergence of his bat in the postseason after a nearly season-long slumber. Pennington battled a vicious, nagging eye problem all season that blurred the vision in his left eye and left his batting average hovering around .200.
With his vision clear once again, Pennington has been translating his factory-built right-handed stroke into more consistent contact and more production in the middle of the Aggies’ lineup. He is hitting .375 in A&M’s last three games, all victories, including a three-run moonshot he hit late in the clinching Game 2 win over Davidson that all but cemented the Aggies’ path to Omaha.
“One of the biggest things about Walker is that he’s got the best attitude probably on the planet for a baseball player,” said senior centerfielder Nick Choruby, one of Pennington’s closest friends on the team. “He didn’t have the senior year that he wanted for the most part, but it turned out now to be great. A lot of guys would have just given up, but Walker was always right there being a great teammate, being a great leader for us, and he’s been awesome.”
Pennington possesses a certain clutch element, too. He has a penchant for making big plays, both at the plate and in the field. His go-ahead three-run home run in last year’s SEC Tournament gave Aggieland its first taste of Pennington magic. He also made a few critical diving catches in left field down the stretch in 2017 and hit a massive game-winning homer at LSU earlier this season that several players point to as the turning point of the Aggies’ season.
“It’s always nice to have a guy that’s a senior playing at his very best at the end of the year,” said assistant coach Justin Seely. “Walker brings an element to our team in terms of his looseness and his ability to get big hits in big spots and he can play great defense. It’s obviously a huge thing for us to have him.”
Martin has played with Pennington for the past two seasons and agrees wholeheartedly that he always seems to come up big when his team needs him most.
“Walker is one of those guys that never gives up,” Martin explained. “He’s never going to complain if he’s not playing and when he gets a chance he never looks back. He’s someone you want on your team — he’s a big-game player and it’s awesome for us that he’s coming around at the right time.”
“He can hit the ball a long ways and I’ve seen him do it multiple times. He’s a guy you don’t want to face, especially in a big part of the game. Just to have an X-factor like that and for him to step up like he has, that’s big-time.”
Seeing an elite talent like Pennington, who entered the season as the Aggies’ cleanup hitter, struggle for most of the season was tough for A&M, but it’s safe to say he’s finding his groove in the biggest games of the season.
“I’ve been saying it all year that he was going to come back at the end of the year and be great for us,” Choruby said, “so here he is and I think he’s going to have a great tournament.”
Pennington, for his part, is just happy to be back in Omaha. He has been an offensive juggernaut his entire life, including at San Jacinto Junior College in 2015 when he hit a whopping .420 with 13 home runs and 65 RBI to lead the Gators to the JUCO World Series.
He was not able to repeat his offensive output in his senior season, but a reminiscent Pennington said he is content with his career and happy that he could be a part of the Aggie team that made it back to the CWS for the first time since 2011.
“Coming to Omaha twice, I didn’t expect that to happen,” Pennington concluded. “Honestly, I’d trade coming to Omaha for having a couple good years in college. You don’t remember your college stats, you remember your experience, the journey that we’ve been on through this postseason run and all the good times we’ve had on the road. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

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  • June 9, 2017: Texas A&M Aggies Baseball vs Davidson Wildcats in the NCAA Division 1 Super Regionals. Photos by Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics

    Photo by Thomas Campbell/Texas A&M Athletics
  • Walker Pennington is greeted by the entire A&M dugout after launching a three-run homer in the ninth against Davidson.

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