In a season full of eye-popping numbers for sophomore Erik Sabrowski, the two-way threat delivered his finest performance of 2018 – and perhaps of his career – last week against the Hutchinson Community College Blue Dragons.
During the March 8th seven-inning affair, the lefty powered his Cloud County Community College T-Birds to a 3-0 victory in dominant fashion. Of the 21 outs recorded with Sabrowski on the mound, 18 of them came via strikeout.
“That’s called firing on all cylinders … it was one of the best, if not the best, performances I’ve seen on the mound at this level,” Cloud County head coach Eric Gilliland said after the game.
Ian Wilson, of Alberta Dugout Stories, followed up with Sabrowski – a product of Prospects Academy in St. Albert who also played for the Edmonton Prospects last summer – to talk about his record-setting game. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: Let’s dive right in to what your own school called “arguably the greatest seven-inning game pitched in Cloud County Community College baseball history.” Was that the best game you’ve ever pitched?
A: I hold some WMBL playoff pitching performances of the last two years – 2016 versus Okotoks and Medicine Hat, and last year versus Medicine Hat – with high regard, but I think this one tops them thus far, based on how I felt and the outcome.
Q: How were you feeling before the game? Did you have a special feeling about this one, or was it just a normal game day?
A: To me it was just another game day. I try to not overthink specific outings too much. That is usually when I manage to find myself in a bit of trouble.
Q: Your 18 strikeouts set a new school record, topping the previous mark of 15 Ks by Tom Johnsen in 1990. Take us through the game a bit. Obviously things were going well, but generally speaking were you blowing guys away with straight up gas, were you hitting your spots perfectly, or was it a good combo of both of these things?
A: I was just able to key in on if a Hutch hitter was sitting in versus off, fastball versus offspeed the first time through the order and made adjustments as I went along.
Q: You struck out the first seven batters before giving up a double in the third inning. Before that first hit did you allow yourself to think about the no-hitter/perfect game you had going?
A: Yes, I totally jinxed it. I thought to myself, ‘how cool would it be to K all nine to start the game,’ and I blew it.
Q: Did the double help you to refocus and get to a spot where you could go out and dominate the rest of the game?
A: The mindset didn’t really change. The batter (who hit the double) was battling pretty well. He put together a good at-bat, I think it was the ninth pitch of the at-bat that he hit. I didn’t get too worked up about it, just tipped my cap and focused on the next batter.
Q: Coach Gilliland said that you made some adjustments on pitch selections and sequences heading into Thursday’s game, resulting in “the perfect mixture” of all of your pitches. Tell us about that – what kind of adjustments were you trying to make and did you think you’d see such immediate results?
A: I had run into trouble in previous outings by showing my off-speed too early in the game. Situations where no one had been able to hit the fastball yet, but I was throwing breaking balls that allowed the hitters to get a little more comfortable in the box. The last two outings I’ve had (against Garden City and Hutchinson) I have really tried to attack from the first pitch, trying to make batters uncomfortable by going right at them and only make changes to the pitch selection if needed.
Q: You limited the Blue Dragons to three base runners and threw 75 of your 106 pitches for strikes. Did you know near the end of the game that you struck out 18 batters? Did you feel dominant?
A: I knew I had K’d quite a few, but didn’t realize it was 18 until someone mentioned it. Above anything else, I felt pleased with how I executed the majority of pitches I threw.
Q: At the end of the game, what emotions were you feeling?
A: I was excited that we were able to start the series with a win. The first game is important to set the tone.
Q: Hutchinson had a preseason ranking of No. 7 in the country. How good did it feel to have success against such a good team?
A: The part that felt the best was that I was able to do my job for the team. Regardless of who I am throwing against, I hold myself to a pretty high standard and expect to perform every time I step on the mound.
Q: So far this season you’ve got a 3-1 record, with 2 complete games and 49 strikeouts over 23 innings. Why are things going so well for you this season and why do you think you’ve been able to K so many batters?
A: I’ve experienced a bit of an increase in velocity, consistency-wise. So that, combined with quality location has helped. It has still been a work in progress, I have had a couple poor outings, so hopefully this is the start of a new trend.
Q: At the plate, you’re also excelling. You’ve hit five home runs, posted a .356 batting average, and recorded 23 RBI in 18 games. What is working so well at the plate and how are you able to balance pitching and hitting so successfully?
A: Carrying over some confidence that was gained this summer (in the WMBL) has been a large part of how things have gone thus far. I really enjoy both aspects of the game, so I wouldn’t say I am balancing the two, more just having fun and enjoying both pitching and hitting.
Q: Before the season, we profiled the Prospects Academy players at Cloud County and it seems like all the St. Albert guys are contributing in a significant way. How much does it help to have those familiar faces with you south of the border?
A: With baseball being such a big team game, it really is awesome to have tenured teammates that know you so well. It’s exciting to see them be successful and adds a little motivation for you to be the best you can be as well.
Q: Not sure if you’ve been paying attention to the ReMax Field discussion, but Prospects owner Patrick Cassidy has sounded the alarm about redevelopment plans in the area and the possibility that the ballpark could be torn down. Roberto Alomar has since written a letter in support of a ballpark district to Mayor Don Iveson and Edmonton’s mayor has responded. Can you just tell us what ReMax Field means to you? Any fears over the possibility of losing the ballpark?
A: I’ve been frequenting the location for as long as I can remember. Me and my dad have gone to games there since the days of the Trappers. I know it was an amazing feeling for him to come and watch me play on the field that has hosted many future and former stars. I think the field is a part of Edmonton’s identity and that it should be cherished as such.