The Gladiators' senior right-handed pitcher/first baseman signs to play for the Warriors of the Northwest Athletic Conference

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Gladstone's Shaye Pinner (seated) had the support of family, friends and coaches on Wednesday when she signed a letter of intent to play college softball at Walla Walla Community College.Gladstone High School senior softball pitcher-first baseman Shaye Pinner received athletic scholarship offers from two junior colleges.

One was from the Walla Walla Community College Warriors of Walla Walla, Washington., which is about a 4-hour drive from Gladstone.

The other was from the Eastern Florida State College Titans of Melbourne, Florida, which is about as far away from Gladstone as you can possibly get and still stay in the continental United States.

Guess which one she picked?

Pinner made her decision official Wednesday when she signed a letter on intent in front of family, friends and coaches to play for Walla Walla coach Justin Speer's Warriors of the Northwest Athletic Conference.

"I've always wanted to continue playing softball, because it's definitely my favorite sport," Pinner said. "To have a team that wanted me to come and play for them, that felt really good.

"Plus, I love the coaches that I've met, and everyone on the team is really nice. It just seems like a good place to be."

Pinner, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, plans to major in biology and has aspirations to become a physician's assistant.

So, how seriously did she consider Eastern Florida's offer?

"I really liked what they had to offer," Pinner said of the Titans. "I talked to the coach a lot and he gave me an offer that was a lot like Walla Walla's offer, but it was just too far away."

Walls Walla offered Pinner an opportunity to continue working with Warriors pitching coach Tom Mauldin, who serves as a consultant to a number of Northwest small colleges.

Mauldin, who attended Wednesday's signing ceremony, said he first spotted Pinner when she was on a recruiting trip to College of Idaho in Caldwell, Idaho, and asked her if she would be interested in working with him.

"We hit it off and I saw the potential that she had to escalate rapidly, which she has," he said. "When I get quality athletes to work with, it's easy. And with Shaye, you get the focus, you get the energy … she is just great to work with."

Mauldin said the philosophy behind Walla Walla's recruiting process puts an emphasis on players with high character, high academics (minimum 3.4 GPA), and high softball ability.

"We identified 13 players this year, and 10 signed and we have an 11th who plans to walk-on," he said. "The average GPA of the players that we have signed is 3.77, including three with 4.0 GPAs.

"Shaye is a high-character, high-caliber individual and her softball pitching is getting better and better all the time. Her rise is outstanding, her change is wonderful, and her slider is probably going to be her fastest pitch. I predict in two years, she's going to be throwing in the mid-60s."

Pinner is expected to play a bigger role on the mound for Gladstone this spring than she played in recent seasons, when she mostly toiled in the shadow of Madi Mott, the former Class 4A Pitcher of the Year who is now a freshman at North Idaho College in Couer d'Alene.

"It was kind of nice to have Madi in front of me and give me something to work toward," Pinner said. "I think we're going to be pretty good this spring.

"It's just nice to have my college decision set and not have to worry about where I'm going to go next year."

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