Several local talent was chosen in the 2018 Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft, highlighted by the first ever Central Baptist College player to be drafted.
Shortly after receiving National Athletic Intercollegiate Association All-America honorable mention honors, CBC junior pitcher Ben Madison was selected in the ninth round as the 256th pick by the San Francisco Giants.
Madison led the NAIA in strikeouts his sophomore and junior seasons, striking out 129 during his sophomore season and 172 in his junior season.
His 172 strikeouts broke the previous school record. He also led CBC in earned-run average with a 2.70 ERA, opponents batting average (.176) and was the co-leader in wins with six.
He is expected to sign and report to rookie ball or Class A ball.
The University of Central Arkansas had three players drafted, with senior pitcher Tyler Gray being drafted in the seventh round to the Kansas City Royals.
Gray was selected last year by the Minnesota Twins much later in the draft, but decided to return to UCA for his senior season.
He helped lead the Bears to a 32-25 record overall and a Southland Conference Tournament appearance this season.
Gray broke school records, striking out 15 in a game, breaking the single-game record and striking out 284 batters for his career, passing Matt Whitaker’s 269.
Gray finished this season with a 6-2 record, a 3.32 ERA and UCA’s first player to earn SLC Pitcher of the Year honors.
He finished his career with a 19-10 record, a 3.38 ERA in 268.2 innings of work, including six complete games and two shutouts.
His seventh round selection is the highest of any Bear.
Gray’s teammate Hunter Strong was also selected by the Kansas City Royals, but was picked a day and 18 rounds later.
Strong’s selection solidified the Bears having two selections in back-to-back years. Ty Tice and Gray were selected last year.
Currently, the junior outfielder from Sheridan has a career .328 average, while hitting 11 home runs and driving in 114.
Strong saw an uptick in production from his freshman year, where he finished with a .270 (batting average)/.351(on-base percentage)/.401 (slugging percentage) slashline, including two home runs and 22 RBI to slashing .351/.433/.514 with four home runs and 47 RBI.
He finished his junior season, slashing .338/.424/.519 with five home runs and 45 RBI.
The Royals weren’t done selecting Bears as junior catcher William Hancock was selected in the 31st round.
This marked just the second time three Bears were selected in one draft since 2013.
Hancock, a Little Rock product, currently is hitting .263 for his career.
He has seen a slight uptick in power, going from zero home runs in his freshman season, to two during his sophomore season and five in his senior season.
Hancock was the primary backstop for the Bears, helping call games for pitchers that led to a team 4.25 ERA, which was fluctuated by a couple high-scoring, short outings by a couple pitchers.
Conway-native and current Southern Arkansas University junior pitcher Nick Starr was selected in the 19th round by the Cincinnati Reds.
Starr graduated from Conway High in 2015 before attending Connors State, where he graduated in 2017.
In his lone season with the Muleriders, he appeared in 18 games, finishing with a 2-2 record, a 3.77 ERA in 31 innings.
He also recorded six saves for SAU, while striking out 46 batters to walking 15. He held opponents to a .237 batting average.