By IAN WILSON
With the summer season behind them, many Alberta baseball players have headed south for a year of college play in the United States.
While these athletes are settling in – hitting the books, spending time at the gym and running around the ball diamonds for practices and exhibition play, as the weather permits – we thought this was a good time to look back at the footprint of Alberta players who attended American colleges and universities during the 2018 season.
A quick thanks to Kevin Wall, who runs the Twitter account @CollegeBaseba12 – which tracks Canadian baseball players attending U.S. post-secondary schools. He provided a statistical breakdown to Alberta Dugout Stories that served as the foundation for this article.
SCHOOLS OF HARD KNOCKS
The schools tracked by Wall are part of six different associations, including:
- California Community College Athletic Association (CCCAA)
- National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)
- National Collegiate Athletic Associaton (NCAA)
- National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA)
- Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC)
- United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA)
These associations represent junior colleges and three different levels of college baseball – Division 1, Division 2 and Division 3.
This year, there were 94 players from 26 different Alberta cities and towns rostered to 60 schools – 35 of those were in the NJCAA, 29 played in the NCAA, 23 suited up in the NAIA, four were in the NWAC and another three pulled on the ball caps of CCCAA teams.
The breakdown by class year included 35 freshman, 23 sophomores, 26 juniors and 10 seniors.
The most popular landing spots for Alberta players included three Division 1 programs and one Division 2 school in the NJCAA. Cloud County Community College hosted five players from the Edmonton area, while Colby Community College was also home to five Albertans. Another five people from Wild Rose Country went to Williston State and four went Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.
Accounting for the fact that several players suit up at more than one position, there were 44 pitchers, 31 infielders, 18 outfielders, nine catchers and three utility players.
Eight players on school rosters did not play, due to injury or because they were redshirted – which means they were held out of college competition so they could develop their skills and extend their playing eligibility for an additional year.
On the mound, 43 pitchers representing 33 schools made 436 appearances – 159 of those were starts – while working 1,253 innings. Those Alberta pitchers punched out 1,157 batters, collected 91 wins and recorded 32 saves.
At the plate, 52 batters from 40 schools stepped into the batter’s box 5,653 times in 2018. Collectively, they went yard on 168 occasions and amassed 1,088 runs batted in (RBI).
Whatever the St. Albert Minor Baseball Association (SAMBA) and Prospects Academy coaches are teaching their pitchers, it seems to be working.
Erik Sabrowski, a draft pick of the San Diego Padres, led all Alberta pitchers in strikeouts this year. The St. Albert product racked up 117 Ks for the Cloud County T-Birds over 12 starts and 66 innings. The left-hander also picked up seven wins and posted a 3.14 earned run average (ERA).
Another hurler from St. Albert, Jackson Wark, led the way in starts – with 16 for the St. Louis University Billikens – and finished tied for wins with Taran Oulton (guess where he’s from?) who both collected nine victories. Oulton’s 81 strikeouts and Wark’s 80 punch outs were also the second and third best among Alberta pitchers.
Other notable starting pitching performances came from Lethbridge’s Landen Bourassa, who made 14 starts for San Francisco, nabbing eight wins and striking out 61 batters while recording a 3.02 ERA, as well as from Nik Cardinal (72 strikeouts, 14 starts, four wins) and Bryce Oriold-Fraser (75 strikeouts, 15 starts, three wins).
Another Lethbridge product, Prairie Baseball Academy product Tanner Jesson-Dalton, was a boss in the bullpen. The 6-foot-3 right-hander led all Albertans in saves, with 10 for Sacramento State University. Meanwhile, he also K’ed 43 batters over 41.2 innings and posted a 3.02 ERA.
Okotoks Dawgs Academy graduate Matt Lloyd was next in line with seven saves. Lloyd also had four wins, 22 strikeouts and a 1.54 ERA over 23.1 innings for Indiana University.
The Alberta bats also did damage this year.
The Okotoks Dawgs duo of J.T. Patterson and Justin King put up the best power numbers. Patterson’s 16 home runs were tops and his 56 RBI were fourth best among Albertans. King led the way in RBI with 60 and his 13 homers were good for second place.
Wetaskiwin-born Matt Coutney was the province’s most lethal hitter, producing a .431 batting average over 52 games, while smacking 12 long balls and 54 RBI.
Kobe Hyland had the next best batting average (.386) and Jaxson Hooge placed third with a .382 rate of hitting success. Hooge, who played for Tabor College and won a Western Major Baseball League championship with the Medicine Hat Mavericks this summer, also hit nine home runs and belted 57 RBI.
Meanwhile, two of the pitching standouts – Sabrowski and Lloyd – also appeared on the hitting leader board.
When he wasn’t striking out hitters, Sabrowski was taking opposing pitchers deep. He belted 11 homers and had the second highest RBI total with 58. The 6-foot-4 former Edmonton Prospect hit .355 over 172 at bats.
Lloyd was also on double-threat duty for the Hoosiers. He went deep nine times and drove in 41 of his Indiana teammates.
Alberta players made their mark on the college baseball world in 2018 and they’ll be back at it again next year.