On July 10, 2017, the ETSU Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that former Stony Brook associate head coach Joe Pennucci has been named the new head coach of the Buccaneers’ baseball program.
Through four seasons at the helm, Pennucci owns a 98-74 record. Last season, the ETSU concluded with a 24-25 record and a 13-16 mark in league play. The Bucs had a 12-3 record in 2020 before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, the Bucs set a new program record with seven home runs in a game, defeated Clemson and starting pitcher, Landon Knack set the program record with 16 strikeouts in a game. In 2019, Pennucci’s squad finished with a 34-21 record, marking the best record for the program since 2011. Furthermore, the 2019 team set new a Thomas Stadium record with a 22-9 home record — among the best home records in the nation.
Since Pennucci arrived in Johnson City, the SoCon has named All-Conference teams in three of the four seasons (2020 not awarded due to COVID-19). Pennucci has had 12 players received All-SoCon postseason accolades. Additionally, three individuals have broken single season or career pitching records with Pennucci at the helm: Landon Knack — career ERA (2.13), Hunter Loyd — fewest hits/9 innings (7.12) and Nathanial Tate — K/9 innings (10.36).
Since coming to Johnson City, Pennucci has defeated Tennessee three times and Clemson once for four Power-5 wins.
“This is such a wonderful opportunity to be a part of this university and baseball program,” Pennucci said at his introductory press conference in 2017. “I want to thank President Noland, Dr. Richard Sander, Scott Carter and the entire administration. I am looking forward to getting to work, and I am excited to jump in with both feet.”
Pennucci previously served as recruiting coordinator at Stony Brook in 2017 and helped guide the program to multiple NCAA Regionals over the last 12 seasons – including a trip to the College World Series in 2012.
Former ETSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Richard Sander said Pennucci was the right fit for ETSU when hiring him in 2017.
“Joe Pennucci personifies the work ethic and commitment to excellence that we have developed at ETSU,” Sander said. “He has been one of the key ingredients in developing a mid-major program that has had incredible success. Advancing to the College World Series plus numerous appearances in the NCAA Tournament demonstrates the type of success that accompanies Coach Pennucci.
“When I talked to head coaches and those who understand mid-major college baseball, they said Joe Pennucci is a star and is going to do great things. The word is he is a tireless worker, an incredible recruiter, a dynamic relationship builder and a great baseball man. When the ETSU family and the entire Northeast Tennessee community meet Coach Pennucci, they will quickly understand why ETSU baseball is in great hands. Joe is going to fit into the ETSU athletic department perfectly and I have no doubt he will take us to the next level of success in baseball.”
Following a 28-25 record in his first season, the skipper brought national prominence to the Bucs in year two. On March 25, ETSU received six votes for the USA Today Top 25 Coaches’ Poll and remained among the voted teams for two weeks after jumping to a 22-6 record halfway through the campaign.
Furthermore, Pennucci helped ETSU cap its third straight winning season in 2019 for the first time since ETSU completed winning seasons 1981-83.
Under Pennucci's watch, the ETSU pitching staff had the 11th lowest ERA in the nation at 3.48 — led by senior ace Micah Kaczor at 2.13 to rank second in the Southern Conference. Kaczor ranks second in ETSU history for single season ERA and third in career ERA (3.42). The current career ERA is upcoming senior Landon Knack at 2.60, who Pennucci signed for 2019 out of Walters State Community College.
In that 2019 season, Pennucci swept three straight opponents for the first time in ETSU history, opening the season with three-game sweeps over Iona, Wagner and LIU-Brooklyn. ETSU also won its first seven series with a 19-2 record in that span, taking two of three from Georgia State in Atlanta and Georgetown in Johnson City while sweeping both NJIT and SoCon rival Western Carolina at home.
Among his marquee wins that season, Pennucci and the Bucs defeated No. 23 Tennessee at Knoxville in a 6-5 thriller. The win marked ETSU's first victory over a ranked opponent since 2014 while also giving the Bucs their third straight victory over Tennessee when playing in Knoxville.
ETSU turned in a winning record in Pennucci's debut year, finishing 28-25 overall with an 11-13 mark in conference play. Pennucci's squad racked up over half its wins away from home, going 14-12 in true road contest coupled with two neutral site wins.
The first year skipper added signature victories to his resume last season, knocking off the Tennessee Volunteers twice in Knoxville and defeating teams such as Tulane, Memphis, Marshall, UNCG, Samford and Florida Gulf Coast. The team also swept a key non-conference series against Winthrop, who won the Big South regular season championship the previous season.
Under Pennucci's watch, a plethora of individual records, milestone and league-leading marks were set last season. Among those accolades, senior Chris Cook finished among the conference leaders with a .364 batting average and broke the ETSU all-time hits record in his second to last career game. Cook finished the season on a 12-game hitting streak, passing the record of 307 set by Paul Hoilman in 2011 to finish with 310...79 of which came this past season.
In his two seasons, ETSU has had five first team all-conference selections, two second team selections, one all-tournament selection and four all-freshmen.
Prior to ETSU, Pennucci spent 12 seasons at Stony Brook and six as the Associate Head Coach of the Seawolves, having been promoted from assistant coach in August 2012. He also served as the team's recruiting coordinator and had been instrumental in the program's skyrocketing success.
Since Pennucci arrived prior to the 2007 season, Stony Brook has been to four NCAA Regionals in his tenure, including returning to the NCAA Regional in 2015 after claiming the America East title. Pennucci was also instrumental in the Seawolves' memorable run to the 2012 College World Series when Stony Brook won a school record and NCAA-best 52 games.
In addition to the four America East tournament titles Stony Brook has earned since Pennucci joined the staff, the team was also dominant in the conference regular season with a combined 107 wins over the past six seasons.
Pennucci has shown that he can recruit and help develop players who can play at the next level as Stony Brook has seen 32 student-athletes selected in the MLB Draft or signed professionally during his tenure, including three current Major Leaguers (Tom Koehler, Nick Tropeano and Travis Jankowski). The Seawolves also saw a record seven players drafted in 2012, which included the program's first-ever first-round selection in Jankowski.
Over his 12 years at Stony Brook, the Seawolves have had a national player of the year, seven All-Americans, and seven freshman All-Americans. Stony Brook has also taken home a combined 14 America East Player, Pitcher and Rookie of the Year awards, including five of the last seven rookies of the year.
Pennucci's recruiting class of 2009, which included Jankowski, was re-ranked by Baseball America as the fifth-best recruiting class in the entire nation.
In addition to his duties as recruiting coordinator, Pennucci also worked with hitters and was responsible for overall team defense. In 2015, Stony Brook's defense ranked among the nation's best with a .978 fielding percentage. In 2012, the Seawolves ranked in the top 10 in the nation in nine offensive categories including batting average, scoring and hits and were 10th in fielding percentage after leading the country in the category in 2011. In 2010, the team also was sixth in the nation in batting average and 30th in fielding.
Prior to his time at Stony Brook, Pennucci served as the associate head baseball coach and recruiting coordinator for the Dominican College Chargers in Orangeburg, N.Y. for two seasons. The Chargers won two conference championships and received an NCAA Regional bid in 2006 after posting a 42-19 record. Pennucci helped the Chargers win 69 games in two seasons and mentored two student-athletes who went on to be selected in the MLB Draft.
Pennucci started his college playing career at Garden City Community College in Kansas. After one season at GCCC he played three seasons at Dana College in Blair, Nebraska where he was an all-conference catcher.
Pennucci grew up in Loveland, Colorado where he attended Loveland High School. He coached for four seasons prior to his collegiate career. He graduated with a psychology degree from the University of Northern Colorado and earned his Masters of Arts liberal studies from Stony Brook University. Pennucci and his wife, Dori, have a four-year-old daughter, Anabelle.
What others are saying about Joe Pennucci:
Stony Brook head coach Matt Senk: “ETSU has gotten themselves an absolute all-star in Joe Pennucci. Joe is intelligent, hardworking, passionate and detail oriented. To go along with that, he has a baseball acumen and people skills that are off the chart. Without question, Joe Pennucci is the right man to lead ETSU baseball to future success.”
VCU head coach Shawn Stiffler: "This is an outstanding hire. Joe is a proven winner, developer and recruiter. His teams will play with great energy and discipline, because that's what Joe exudes. He will have a clear vision for the trajectory of ETSU baseball.”
Old Dominion head coach Chris Finwood: “Joe Pennucci is an outstanding hire for ETSU. He is a proven winner who has demonstrated the ability to evaluate, recruit and develop talent at an elite level during his time at Stony Brook. Most importantly, Joe is a great person, mentor and leader who will take great pride in creating strong relationships with his players from the East Tennessee community. The future of ETSU baseball is bright with Joe at the helm.”
Florida Atlantic head coach John McCormack: “Joe is a rising star in college baseball. His track record for putting together winning ball clubs is well documented. ETSU is getting a great man to lead their program and he will make every Buccaneer student and alum proud of the way he runs the baseball program. It’s a good day for the Bucs.”