By IAN WILSON
The hits keep coming – along with the home runs, the strikeouts, the wins and the saves.
Welcome to the second edition of Alberta Dugout Digest.
This new feature appears every Tuesday during the collegiate baseball season in the United States and it examines some of Alberta’s top hitters and pitchers.
Each week, we check in on the best pitchers in five statistical areas, as well as the achievements of batters who excel in five hitting categories. Data is curated from the cbplayers.com website, which provides statistical information about Canadian baseball players in the U.S.
Without further ado, here’s a look at some our province’s best hurlers.
MAKING AN APPEARANCE
Calgarian Corey Jackson leads all Alberta pitchers in game appearances, with 32 innings of work in 19 games for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG). The former Okotoks Dawgs’ reliever is second in the Southern Conference in appearances and he’s put together a 4-1 record. He’s also struck out 42 batters in that time.
Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) product Tanner Dalton is next in line with 17 games of pitching experience for Sacramento State. Through 30 innings the senior student has K’ed 33 would-be hitters, picked up four saves and nabbed three wins – all while recording an earned-run average (ERA) of just 1.80, the lowest of any Hornets pitcher.
Trailing Dalton and Jackson are Calgary reliever Brady Wilson, of Taft College, and St. Albert starter Taran Oulton, both of whom have toed the rubber on 13 occasions this season. Wilson has picked up a save and struck out eight batters over 13.1 innings out of the bullpen, while Oulton has started 11 games, logging 74.1 innings and sitting down 67 opponents.
Rounding things out are Sherwood Park’s Scott Gillespie, with two saves and 10 Ks in 11.1 innings and 12 appearances for the University of Arkansas at Monticello (UAM) of the Great American Conference (GAC). Jackson Wark, meanwhile, has also pitched in 12 games – five of them starts for St. Louis University. The Prospects Academy graduate has a tidy 2.00 ERA, along with a 2-2 record and a save.
KNOCKOUT WITH A “K”
The strikeout race is led by William Woods University southpaw Oulton, who now has 67 Ks in 2019.
But former Vauxhall Academy student Josh Burgmann is right behind him with 64 strikeouts, and the Washington State sophomore has reached that number in much less time on the mound (55 innings and nine starts).
Wesley Moore, another Vauxhall Jets alum who is now with the Cal State Northridge Matadors, has racked up 47 Ks over nine starts and 53.2 innings pitched.
Wark’s 44 strikeouts for the Billikens of the Atlantic 10 Conference and Jackson’s 42 punch outs also put them near the top of the list.
Dalton’s four saves put him on top of the saves leader board, along with Indiana University Swiss Army knife Matt Lloyd, who has been an absolute beast at the plate and on the mound for the Hoosiers lately.
Chasing these relievers are Calgary right-hander Liam Sabiston, a PBA grad pitching in Division 2 of the NCAA for Eastern New Mexico University; Okotoks Dawgs Academy product Dallas Forno of Tabor College; and Blake Gallagher, another Vauxhall Academy pupil who is now closing games out for the Colby Community College Trojans. All three of these pitchers have three saves for their respective schools.
Four pitchers have each collected four wins on the year, including the aforementioned Jackson and Moore. The other two are Medicine Hat’s Nathan Stark, who has assembled a 4-2 record and a 3.86 ERA over six starts for the Colby Trojans, and Kyran Weemaels of Airdrie. Weemaels, a junior with the Cabrini University Cavaliers, is 4-0 in 35.1 innings on the bump and has a 1.78 ERA.
Another five pitchers have three wins, including Burgmann, Oulton, Dalton and Max Poole, a 6-foot-3 Fort McMurray righty who plays for the Mars Hills Lions in North Carolina. Poole has a 3-2 record through 26.1 innings, as well as an 8.55 ERA. Joining him in the three-win club is Vauxhall-schooled Reilly O’Rourke, who is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA for Minot State University.
When examining pitchers with at least 20 innings under their belt, we found a handful who were stingy when it comes to handing out free passes to first base.
Graeme Cherry of Millarville has issued just five walks in 21.2 innings on the mound for the University of Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagles. The Okotoks Dawgs Academy grad also has a 2-2 record and 16 strikeouts.
Another Dawgs Academy product, Andrew Asselin, has allowed only seven bases on balls in 23.2 innings for the Colby Trojans of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA).
In his 30 frames of NCAA Division 1 baseball, Dalton has granted eight walks while striking out 33 batters. Similarly, Weemaels has handed out eight walks and struck out 25 opposing hitters in his 35.1 innings pitched.
Poole, meanwhile, has issued 10 walks and struck out 18 batters over his 10 appearances, which include seven starts.
Switching gears, it’s time to see what the hitters have been up to. We’ll size up the leaders in home runs, on-base percentage (OBP), doubles, runs batted in (RBI), and runs scored.
Let’s start with an update on the long ball leaders, where a pair of Dawgs Academy alumni are duking it out for home run supremacy.
Bellevue University senior J.T. Patterson tied a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) record by hitting three home runs in back-to-back games recently. That helped push him to 14 home runs so far in 2019.
Lloyd is not far behind. The Hoosier has cleared the fences 12 times this season in Division 1 play. He’s helped drive a seven-game Indiana University win streak and the senior also earned high praise from head coach Jeff Mercer recently.
The home runs drop off after that, but PBA grad Dylan Borman, of Camrose, and Wetaskiwin-born Matt Coutney, who played for the Edmonton Prospects last summer, both have seven round trippers.
Coutney’s Colby Community College teammates are in the hunt, as well. Vauxhall Academy graduate Blake Gallagher has six dingers for the Trojans, while Tucker Zdunich, a Dawgs Academy alum from High River, has five home runs.
GETTING ON BASE
On-base percentage, which is tracked by recording a player’s hits, walks and times hit by a pitch over the course of his at bats, typically illustrates a batter’s ability to pair a keen eye for the strike zone with hitting prowess.
For this exercise, we required hitters to have a minimum of 100 at bats to qualify. That put Red Deer’s Cooper Jones, who trained at Vauxhall Academy, at the top of our list with a .487 OBP in 123 plate appearances. The freshman Southeastern Community College Blackhawks’ infielder also has a .374 batting average.
Right behind Jones is former PBA pupil Nick Ankermann of Lethbridge. The Eastern New Mexico University senior sports a .483 OBP in 110 at bats.
Closer Blake Gallagher, who patrols the infield for the Colby Trojans when he’s not pitching, has a .478 OPB through 103 at bats and his teammate Coutney sits at .475 after 130 trips to the plate.
Chasing those skilled batsmen is Westlock’s Austin Watamaniuk, who has a .469 OBP in 110 at bats for Benedictine College in Kansas.
ANOTHER RIB EYE, PLEASE
Patterson’s home run outburst has helped boost his RBI total to 49, well ahead of Lloyd, Jones and Coutney, who are all tied in second place with 37 runs produced.
Borman, a 6-foot-4 junior at UAM, trails the pack in fifth place with 28 RBI.
While the RBI leaders feature some familiar names, the best run-scoring players are also hitters who show up atop other categories.
Patterson is once again in the No. 1 spot, with 43 runs scored. He’s followed by Coutney with 38 runs, and Watamaniuk, the reigning Heart of America Athletic Conference Player of the Week winner, who has 36 runs.
Gallagher and Clayton Loranger – an outfielder with the Cloud County Community College T-Birds who played for the St. Albert Prospects and Sherwood Park Athletics – are tied with 34 runs on the season. Loranger will join several Cloud County teammates this summer in Edmonton when they play for the Prospects of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL).
Coutney is king when it comes to standing on second base after a hit. He has 14 doubles this year, along with a triple.
Six players are tied for second place, with 11 doubles. Borman, Gallagher, Patterson and Watamaniuk are among those hitters. The other two double threats are Oyen’s Gavin Logan, an Okotoks Dawgs Academy catcher who is framing pitches at Southeastern Community College, and fellow Dawgs grad Clayton Keyes, who also has four home runs and four triples with Central Arizona College.
EDITORIAL NOTE: The statistical leaders include players who are from Alberta or who trained at one of the province’s academies. Some of the player lists may be incomplete, however, so if you think we are missing anyone, please let us know by commenting on our social media channels or by emailing us at AlbertaDugoutStories@gmail.com