The University of Central Arkansas Bears signed nine baseball players during the early signing period, including four in-state prospects.
The newest Bears include: pitcher Cole Johnson from Fordyce; catcher Justin McCarty of White Hall; infielder Joey Pinney from Little Rock; outfielder Wesley Hoover of Conway; outfielder Travis Able of Leawood, Kan.; outfielder Grant Maxey of Jenks, Okla.; pitcher/outfielder Riley Echols of Collierville, Tenn.; outfielder Carson Dowdle of Argyle, Texas, and catcher Charles Deckard of Blue Ridge, Texas.
"We are very excited about the athletic ability of this signing class,’ said UCA head coach Allen Gum, who led the Bears to their first Southland Conference Tournament appearance last spring.
Help on the mound should come quickly from Fordyce right-hander Johnson. "Cole Johnson is a strong, athletic kid with a power arm," said Gum. "Along with a 90 (mph) fastball he does an even better job competing, and getting outs."
McCarty is one of two catchers signed by the UCA staff to replace starter Travis Snider and backup this year’s expected starter Michael Mariatta. "Justin is a big, strong, 6-foot-6 catcher," said Gum. "He is a player who has come to our camps and we fell in love with. He is a tremendous athlete behind the plate. His ability to receive, block and throw are very special."
Pinney comes to UCA from Central Arkansas Christian and can play either of the corner infield spots. "He has a special ability to change a game with one swing. Joey is one of the top hitters in the state this year because of his ability to have power to all fields," said Gum.
Hoover returns to Conway from Northeast Texas Community College. "He is everything we are looking for in an offensive player," said Gum. "He gets on base consistently, he is very aggressive in stealing bases, he plays hard in the outfield, and he is a great teammate. We see Wesley stepping in and being an impact player."
The second catching recruit is Deckard, who is transferring from North Central Texas Junior College. "Charles is a very good left-handed hitting catcher," according to Gum. "He is extremely quick behind the plate and throws with a great amount of accuracy. As a hitter Charles has the ability to drive the baseball to both gaps very consistently."
After this season, the Bears will lose several talented outfielders so the newest class includes four newcomers. Able comes from Rockhurt High School and the Building Champions summer program in Kansas City. "Travis is a switch hitting outfielder who is profiled as a big-time player," Gum said." He has the ability to hit, run, and play defense at a very high level."
Maxey is an outfielder at Jenks High School. "Grant fits everything we look for our program," said Gum. "He is a disciplined hitter who takes his walks but also is very aggressive and doesn’t miss his pitch when it shows up. He can hit to all fields with power."
Dowdle is an outfielder who played at Liberty Christian High School. "Carson has what we call game-changing speed. He gets on base a high amount and when he does he has the special ability to steal bases and put pressure on the defense," said Gum. =
Echols is a 6-foot-3 outfielder/right-handed pitcher from Harding Academy and the Memphis Tigers summer program. "Offensively he has the ability to be a threat and drive the ball to all fields. On the mound. He is a very athletic pitcher who consistently works around 90. He does an excellent job competing on both sides of the plate. With his size, frame, and athletic ability we think his ceiling is very high. He has a chance to be a very special player for UCA."