CONWAY — The University of Central Bears had their 11th Major League Baseball draft pick in the past eight years on Thursday night when junior pitcher Gavin Stone got the call from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Stone, from Lake City, was the 159th overall pick in the fifth round of the condensed 2020 MLB after going 3-1 with a miniscule 1.30 earned-run average in UCA’s recent season that was shortened due to the coronavirus.
Stone, a 6-foot-1, 175-pounder who played at Riverside High School, tossed just the third no-hitter in school history against Southeastern Louisiana on March 6. He recorded 31 strikeouts and walked just six batters in 27.2 innings and ranked in the top six in the Southland Conference in every starting pitching category.
Stone was also a two-time SLC All-Academic selection who finished his UCA career with a 9-6 record and a 2.42 ERA. Stone, who was UCA’s closer in 2019, added six career saves and 109 career strikeouts over 100.1 innings.
Stone is UCA’s third-highest MLB draftee in school history, and highest since 1992. He is the 23rd Bear to be selected in the MLB Draft since the first in 1967. Stone, the seventh UCA player taken since 2017, is the first UCA player in history to be drafted by the Dodgers’ organization.
“It’s a really big day for our program, having a Top 5 round draft pick,’ said UCA head coach Allen Gum. “And as far as Gavin, man it’s been fun to watch him develop, seeing his dedication and his hard work. And it’s great to see it pay off because he really put the time in, just worked his can off be it in the weight room with Coach (Alex) Fotioo, and with (pitching) Coach (Nick) Harlan doing a tremendous job, he and Gavin both working together. It was a great relationship.’
Gum said the ceiling is sky high for Stone.
“It was fun to see how he just kept getting better and better. And I still think his best days are way out in front of him. I think he’s going to be in the big leagues quicker than a lot of people think. Because even from where he ended (the season) to where he’s at now, he just kept working out and getting better, throwing bullpens. I think his last bullpen he was sitting 95-97 (mph). And his two-seam (fastball) just got better and better.’
The Dodgers will be getting an all-around complete player in Stone, according to Gum.
“The thing with Stone was he always put his team first. He just wanted to help his team win,’ he said. “A really, really great teammate. Those are the things we’ll remember about him for a long time. If he makes it to the big leagues, or he doesn’t, I’m going to remember how good a teammate he was. He’s just a joy to be around, he’ll make you smile everyday.
“I tell you what, the Dodgers got a very mature, emotionally stable young man. There are just so many plusses with him. He’s just scratching the surface. I’m just proud I got to coach him.”