April 29, 2005
By Belinda Zamora
At the start of the 2005 baseball season, UCLA was in need of a lead off hitter. After losing eleven players to graduation and the Major League Draft, the Bruins were looking for someone who could fill the void at the top of the lineup. Sophomore left fielder Will Penniall has stepped up to the plate and has been hitting there ever since.
Penniall is currently third on the team with a .282 batting average and leads the Bruins with ten stolen bases in 13 attempts. He is tied for first on the team with three triples and his 35 hits are good for second on the squad. While Penniall's offensive numbers are stunning, his defensive statistics are equally impressive. He has posted a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage with 53 putouts while remaining errorless in the outfield.
After redshirting in 2003 and playing in only 14 games with the Bruins last season, Penniall has embraced his roles as both a starting left fielder and lead off hitter. He has set the tone for the rest of the team by getting on base, taking pitches, and working the opposing pitchers. The switch-hitting 21-year old has reached base in 20 of 53 leadoff at-bats this season and has also contributed a team-high three sacrifice bunts through 37 games.
Much of Penniall's success on the diamond comes from his positive attitude toward the game - the La Canada, California, native simply strives to model himself after the hard-nosed athletes he has grown up watching.
"I wouldn't say I model myself after anyone specifically, just someone that tries to play hard and aggressively," he explains. "Someone who plays the right way and prepares the right way."
His attitude toward the game and his aggressiveness on the field are characteristics that were instilled in him from his parents, David and Jane Penniall, both UCLA Alumni. Will's father, David, is a former Bruin outfielder. The senior Penniall played for the Bruins under former head coach Gary Adams in 1975 and 1976. During the 1976 season, he set a new UCLA record with 38 stolen bases; the record stood until 1994 when future big leaguer Dave Roberts swiped 45.
Leading their respective teams in stolen bases is not all the Penniall father-son team has in common; the "strong, silent, hard-nosed competitors" both played two seasons under Adams, who coached the Bruins for three decades.
"The first year I coached at UCLA Dave was on my team and the last year I coached at UCLA Will was on my team, "Adams said with a laugh. "It's amazing how similar they are - except for the fact that Will is a switch-hitter. Will might even be a bit faster but Dave was very savvy on the base paths and got great jumps and that's why he held our stolen base record for so long. Will certainly has the potential to steal as many bases as Dave did, though. They're both quiet competitors who lead by example."
If given the opportunity, Penniall would continue to play baseball at the professional level.
"If that's an option, I'd do it for sure," Penniall said. "But, that's a long way away. A lot of stuff has to happen for that to work.
"I just definitely want to graduate and then if I can keep playing baseball I would certainly love to."
With Penniall's positive attitude, notable statistics, and aggressive approach to the game, there is a good chance fans will be seeing him play baseball for years to come.