Penny, who stands 6-3, also considered Clemson, Virginia, South Carolina and a number of other area schools. Yet, for him, the opportunity to be a part of the Tar Heel program stood above the rest.
"I am really thrilled with the opportunity to come play for Coach Fox and the coaches down there," he said. "It is going to be a great experience for me to come and play for one of the top programs in the nation. I feel really blessed.
"They have been in the [College] World Series the past couple years and now are probably one of the top baseball programs in the nation and one of the top public schools in the nation as well," he added, noting that he aims to study in the medical field – possibly pharmacy. "To get a degree from there would be great."
According to Penny, one of the key factors in choosing North Carolina was the Boshamer Stadium renovation. "That is one of the main things on my decision - having the weight room right there and your dorm real close," he said. "It is a $25 million project - it is going to be great."
Penny has been part of a talent-laden pitching staff at South Caldwell. Madison Bumgardner signed with UNC two years ago and opted to turn pro after being selected No. 10 overall by the San Francisco Giants. Last year, team ace Jimmy Messer followed suit in signing with UNC and was drafted by the Oakland A's, but chose to enroll in Chapel Hill and will be a freshman this coming season for the Tar Heels.
South Caldwell won a state championship in 2007 and advanced to the fourth round in 2008 behind the strength of the pitching rotation. "Madison Bumgardner, Jimmy Messer and Cody Penny," stated South Caldwell coach Jeff Parham. "I have been blessed and fortunate to have a great pitching staff."
Penny compiled an 8-1 record on the mound as a junior, with a 1.01 ERA and 79 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched.
According to his coach, Penny's top junior year highlight was one of his postseason performances. "It would have to be his shutout against Mount Tabor in the second round of the playoffs," Parham said. "They had been playing really good baseball and we beat a good club that night."
Penny is rated a Top 20 prospect in the state of North Carolina by Impact Baseball and he checks in on Perfect Game's national rankings at No. 226.
"I throw a fastball - both a two- and four-seam, curveball, changeup, slider and throw a knuckle curve that has become my out pitch," Penny said of his repertoire on the mound.
However, as talented as Penny is on the mound, he has also been a key contributor at third base and shortstop. "He means a lot to our team - especially on the mound," Parham said. "He is a tough competitor on the mound with a will to win. We also need his bat as well - he hit .405 for us as well [with 4 home runs] last season. He is the type of kid that we are glad that he is on our team - he brings a lot for us, not just as a pitcher."
Penny is looking forward to the competition for playing time upon the start of his college career next year. "You always want to be a weekend starter," he said of his goals. "There are a lot of talented upperclassmen there. You always want to strive to be as good as you can - as a first-year player you want to be able to push the people above you in order to make the team better."
Like the pitching stars that preceded him at South Caldwell, Penny's likely to be selected at some point during next spring's Major League Baseball draft. And for him to sign with a pro team he said it'll take a more than substantial signing bonus. But Penny's focus right now is on his senior season at South Caldwell and a college career at North Carolina -- especially after he experienced a taste of life in Chapel Hill during his official campus visit in October.
"I went to the Connecticut football game - the fan base was great and everyone was wearing Carolina Blue and the guys on the team made me feel welcome," Penny said. "I stayed with Jimmy Messer and we got to go down to Franklin Street. I can't wait to get there."