By PETE MOLLICA
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- Now a former Youngstown State University pitcher, Brad Hennessey is anxiously awaiting word on his baseball future.
The Toledo native was drafted in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft by the San Francisco Giants last week and waiting for a contract and an assignment.
Hennessey, who was a pitcher and an infielder for the Penguins for the past three seasons, was the 21st player selected in the draft, surprising the 6-foot-1, 180-pounder who prepped at Toledo Whitmer High.
"There were rumors that I might go in the first round, but I didn't think it would be the Giants," Hennessey said. "St. Louis, Cleveland and Detroit all expressed considerable interest in me and I thought one of those teams would take me."
Not that he's disappointed.
Oregon trail: "I expect to be hearing from them shortly," he said. "They told me I'd probably be assigned to Oregon.
The Giants' farm team in Oregon is in the Salem-Keizer area in the Northwest Rookie League.
"I was definitely surprised to be picked 21st," he said. "I didn't expect to go that early. My mom was downstairs with the Internet and I heard some screams. I'm definitely ecstatic about it."
Hennessey was used primarily as a pitcher this season as the Penguins posted a 24-30-1 record.
He finished the year 6-5 with a 4.06 ERA in 16 games (12 starts) with five complete games and two shutouts.
He set the school record for strikeouts in a season with 126 in 882/3 innings, including a stretch of 26 frames in which he gave up only one unearned run.
Honors: Hennessey was named Co-Pitcher of the Year in the Mid-Continent Conference and was a first-team all-conference selection. Baseball America ranked him as the 62nd best prospect in the draft.
Hennessey said focusing solely on pitching helped him to become more complete on the mound.
"Scouts all along were telling me I needed to bag the shortstop [possible] as soon as possible," Hennessey said.
"I like my slider at lot," he said. "I can locate that pretty good. I can work my fastball in and out. I still got a lot to learn.
"My velocity jumped a little more once I concentrated on just pitching and I developed the slider over the summer in the Great Lakes Summer League and it became my best pitch."
Potential: Dick Tidrow, the Giants' vice president of player personnel, said taking a player converted from another position does involve some risk, but the organization is encouraged by Hennessey's potential.
"The danger is that they don't develop as you might have expected," said Tidrow. "We think he's going to increase his velocity and control with his other pitches.
"He's got a lot of natural ability and some good pitches right now, and with more experience he should really improve."
In two years as a part-time shortstop with the Penguins, Hennessey hit .342 with 53 hits, 34 runs scored and 19 RBIs. His career pitching record was 6-10.
He had a career-high 14 strikeouts against Southern Utah and became the first YSU pitcher to throw a complete game shutout in five years.
Hennessey was disappointed with how the Penguins' season unfolded.
"We didn't really have a strong defense and offense," he said. "I'm glad to be able to move on and not have to deal with it again. It was a tough situation.
"Right now I just want to get signed and get going," he said. "I'll finish college eventually."