Pinney gets taste of UCA life at All-Star game

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Joey Pinney pitches in last week’s high school All-Star game. Chad Matchett

Joey Pinney’s past met his future last week at the Arkansas High School Coaches Association All-Star Week activities.

Pinney, the Central Arkansas Christian pitcher-infielder, was on the winning side in the All-Star doubleheader at the University of Central Arkansas, where he’ll play for the Bears next year.

“Those two days showed me UCA was the place,” Pinney said Monday. “I was sold on (UCA) when I signed, but those two days made me love it even more. The coaching staff, being up there with them, I felt like I was one of theirs. Especially the way the program went this year, it’s going to be a great four years.”

UCA won the Southland Conference Tournament this spring and advanced to the Starkville Regional, where the Bears lost to Mississippi State, at press time about to face UCLA in the national championship series in Omaha, Neb.

The baseball games were among the first scheduled during All-Star Week, so Pinney and his mates had an abbreviated experience. Still, he said, it was all positive.

“I got to meet a lot of new people and hang out with some great players,” he said. “The coaches were fun. All around, it was a great time.”

In the first game, won by the West, 2-1, Pinney played third. In the second, a 6-1 decision, he pitched the third and fourth innings and picked up the win.

Pinney (and Travis Byrne, who is walking on) will join former Mustang Bryce Biggerstaff at UCA. Biggerstaff, a pitcher, signed with Southern Arkansas out of high school but transferred to Conway when coach Allen Gum moved to UCA.

CAC coach Ryan Stauder said he was pleased to send his players to Gum.

“He has an ever-growing track record of success everywhere he’s been,” Stauder said. “I like the way they coach, their approach. He has done a good job with everybody. Bryce, especially, has blossomed as a starter, so I feel good about both of those guys developing in that program as baseball players and young men.”

Pinney was in eighth grade on Mustang Mountain during Biggerstaff’s senior year, so he is looking forward to playing on the same team as his fellow CAC alum.

“It definitely helps knowing that Coach Gum got Bryce to where he is today,” he said. “I’ve talked to him and been around him a while.”

Pinney, who, when he wasn’t pitching, played more at shortstop than his favored third as a senior, said he expected to play more first and third with the Bears. Stauder, though, said he hoped he would get a chance to pitch.

“I think he could develop and be a good pitcher,” he said.

Pinney had opportunities to play at Dallas Baptist and Southeast Louisiana, but he said once the offer came from UCA, he was set. His older brother, Ted, also played for the Bears “back in the day.”

Pinney has two more week-long tournaments this summer for the East Coast Grays, in Memphis and Atlanta, before moving in at UCA in mid-August. He said he anticipated studying biology there in hopes of becoming a dentist.

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