Longhorns catcher picks Pima | AspenTimes.com

Longhorns catcher picks Pima

Tucker Hinchliffe tags out a Roaring Fork runner at home April 3 in Carbondale. (Jordan Curet/Aspen Times file)

BASALT ” Basalt catcher Tucker Hinchliffe is taking his game to Tucson, Ariz.

The senior, the 3A Western Slope player of the year and first-team all­state selection, recently decided to attend Pima Community Col­lege this fall. He turned down an offer from Divi­sion II Mesa State in Grand Junction and a late push from in-state Lamar Community College.

“I think it was better for me to go to a two- year college and develop, and move up on the radar in the next few years,” Hinchliffe said Thurs­day. “I enjoy the place, and I like Arizona.”

Hinchliffe said playing college ball in Arizona had always intrigued him. He first heard about Pima while visiting Mesa and Scottsdale com­munity colleges during spring break. He went to Tucson, met Aztecs coach Edgar Soto and practiced with the team.

The experience was intimidating, Hinchliffe admitted.

“I was out of my league a little bit playing with 19- and 20-year-olds, and they were all really good,” he said. “I’m hoping I can put in the work and develop to get to that cal­iber. The coach told me I need some work, and I may not be a first-year starter, but he said he’d be willing to work with me.”

While Hinchliffe was leaning toward Pima from the start, a late proposition clouded his decision. Lamar coach Scott Crampton con­tacted Hinchliffe two weeks ago and offered the catcher the starting job for next season. Crampton had learned about Hinchliffe during talks with Mesa State coach Chris Hanks, who figured it was best for the catcher to play at a two- year pro­gram where he didn’t have to com­pete with upperclassmen.

The idea was enticing, Hinchliffe said, but familiarity ultimately won out.

“I would’ve loved to go down there and start, but I don’t know any­body, and I don’t think I would enjoy it down there,” said Hinchl­iffe, who hasn’t ruled out attending Mesa State in two years if he doesn’t garner interest from Division I pro­grams.

He decided to follow friends and Basalt graduates Colin Matheney, Pat Redfern and Chris Ruiz to Tuc­son. The choice became final when the four recently signed a lease for their first apartment.

Hinchliffe will head to Pima in two weeks to try out with other prospects. Then, his future ” play­ing time and possible position changes ” will be clearer, he said.

“The coach said that the worst­case scenario is that I’ll redshirt,” Hinchliffe said. “I’m excited. Hope­fully I can play a few games before I go down.”

Hinchliffe last played competi­tively May 27 in the 3A all-star sen­ior games in Broomfield, where he helped the Slope top opponents from the Frontier and Patriot leagues. He was 2-for-2 with three RBIs in an 11-2 win over the Frontier League.

Basalt could not generate enough interest to field a team this summer, so Hinchliffe is hoping to play with squads from Eagle or Glenwood Springs. In the interim, he continues to work out with his dad when he’s not lifeguarding.

In 16 games for the Longhorns this spring, Hinchliffe batted .511, collected 22 hits, drove in 26 runs, stole eight bases and hit five home runs ” two in a doubleheader against Gunnison on the final day of the regular season. Basalt was one win away from making the 3A state tournament for a second consecutive season.

Basalt coach Rick Ryan (who is good friends with Hanks, with whom he played with on all-star teams in high school) initially pushed for Hinchliffe to go to Mesa State. Ryan believes his catcher’s most recent successes are just the beginning.

“He not only has the talent, but he still has so much of an upside,” Ryan told The Aspen Times in May. “He can learn and can be as good at the next level as he was for us.”

Jon Maletz’s e- mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com

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