It was just the latest highlight in what’s been a banner season for the junior catcher, who was named the A-Sun Player of the Year — the first Owls player in program history to receive the honor — and is projected to be a top-20 pick in June’s Major League Baseball amateur draft.
On top of that, Pentecost is among the semifinalists for the Dick Howser Trophy as the nation’s best player and was on the midseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award, another similar honor.
“Being named the player of the year is a true honor,” Pentecost said from the A-Sun tournament in Fort Myers, Fla. “I had a good (regular) season, but didn’t know I’d get an award like that. I felt like I was in the running, because there are other guys who are having some good seasons, too, so I just feel blessed.”
Scouts also say Pentecost is blessed — with talent. Currently rated No. 17 among Baseball America’s top 100 draft prospects, the Winder native is considered a five-tool player who will only get better with more experience. An MLB.com mock draft called Pentecost the “best all-around” catcher and has him going with the 13th overall pick to the San Diego Padres.
“I don’t think too much about where I’ll land in the draft,” Pentecost said. “I just try to play hard every night, and if the scouts like what they see, then that’s great.
“Just to get the opportunity, and to be spoken about as a possible first-round draft pick, is exciting. It’s been a good season, but my focus is on helping the team win the A-Sun championship.”
That goal has eluded Pentecost the past two seasons, as Kennesaw State fell twice with the title on the line.
“We’ve lost the championship game the past two years and haven’t made it to the NCAAs,” Pentecost said, “so we’re ready. We’re playing some good teams in the tournament, but if we play well, we could easily make it to the (NCAA) regional, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Pentecost is definitely doing all he can to help the Owls, leading the team in batting (.426), hits (100), doubles (21), home runs (eight), walks (23), stolen bases (15) and RBIs (54). He also leads the nation in hits and is among the top 10 nationally in average, doubles and total bases.
Pentecost’s .426 average is a single-season record for Kennesaw State, and he holds the nation’s longest active hitting streak, which stretched to 36 games with his three hits Wednesday.
“The hitting streak just means that I show up to the field ready to play,” Pentecost said. “I try not to think too much about that either. No need to put any pressure on myself. Not thinking about it makes things easier. I just go out and do my job to help the team.”
At 6-foot-1 and 195 pounds, Pentecost believes his strengths are his ability to hit for average, along with his skills on defense. He’s also very durable, having started every game (55) for the Owls this season, a majority of them behind the plate.
“I put a lot of pride in my catching and helping the team offensively,” he said. “I think hitting for average is important because you help the team get runs in when you can do that.
“I credit my durability to showing up in the weight room. Lifting the right way helps prevent injuries. I also eat well and get a good night’s sleep, which helps, too.”
Taken by the Texas Rangers in the seventh round of the 2011 draft, after a standout career at Winder-Barrow High School, Pentecost kept his commitment to Kennesaw State and has seen his stock rise as a result. He batted .277 as a freshman, then improved to .302 as a sophomore.
“I didn’t have a great freshman year, but I got a lot of at-bats,” he said. “I played mostly every game, and that experience translated to my sophomore year. I was comfortable playing a lot.”
Pentecost really showed signs of what he was capable of last summer, batting .346 with six home runs and 29 RBIs in the prestigious Cape Cod League.
“Playing in the Cape really helped and has led up to what I’ve done this year,” he said.
Majoring in geographic information systems, Pentecost is willing to forego the rest of his education if he’s selected in the first round of next month’s draft.
Pentecost is in line to become the highest draft pick in Kennesaw State history. Former ace Chad Jenkins was taken 20th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2009.
“I’ve wanted to play professionally my whole life,” he said. “I can always come back to college if baseball doesn’t work, so I’m going if I’ve taken in the first round.”