By IAN WILSON
It’s time once again to check in on the best hitters and pitchers from our province who have traveled south to play college baseball in the United States.
In this edition of Alberta Dugout Digest, we explore the batters who excel at cranking out home runs, triples, and runs batted in (RBI), along with the leaders in slugging percentage and batting average.
We also examine the pitchers who have done the best job of preventing home runs, the strikeout leaders, the win collectors, the earned-run average (ERA) masters, and those hurlers who are great at keeping hits to a minimum.
Data is curated from the CBplayers.com website, which provides statistical information about Canadian baseball players in the U.S.
Now that we’ve told you what’s on deck, let’s get started. Batter up!
FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SLUGGER McBATT
Slugging percentage, which is calculated by adding up a hitter’s total bases and dividing them by plate appearances, measures a player’s ability to hit for power. Extra-base hits (doubles, triples and home runs) give batters an edge over singles hitters when it comes to slugging.
We required hitters in this category to have a minimum of 125 at bats to qualify for the leader board.
Out in front is former Okotoks Dawgs infielder J.T. Patterson, who has posted a .753 slugging percentage through 158 plate appearances for the Bellevue Bruins of Nebraska.
Colby Community College Trojan Matt Coutney, who squared off against Patterson as a member of the Edmonton Prospects in 2018, is next up with a .694 percentage through 42 games.
Indiana Hoosier Matt Lloyd – a roommate of Patterson’s last summer in Okotoks – comes in at third with a .664 slugging rate.
Calgarian Clayton Keyes, another Dawgs Academy product, is next in line with a .567 percentage at Central Arizona College.
Meanwhile, the pride of Westlock, Austin Watamaniuk, is rocking a .552 slugging percentage through 125 at bats for the Benedictine College Ravines in Kansas.
BETTER THAN AVERAGE
Moving on to our look at batting average, we’ll keep the 125 plate appearance minimum in effect.
Watamaniuk is in top spot with a .392 average in 32 games of National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) play.
Coutney, who has stepped to the plate 144 times in 2019, is batting .389, and Patterson – the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) Player of the Week – has posted a .373 average over 47 contests.
Sitting in fourth place is Red Deer’s Cooper Jones, a Vauxhall Academy product now playing for Southeastern Community College. Jones is racking up hits at a .336 pace.
Rounding out the top five is Vauxhall Academy grad Tyler Scott. The middle infielder from Calgary, playing for Bryan College, has 159 at bats and a .333 batting average.
Legendary home run hitter Hank Aaron, who clubbed 755 Major League Baseball (MLB) long balls, once described the triple as “the most exciting play in baseball.”
Even Hammerin’ Hank had an appreciation for the combination of power, speed and hustle that is the triple.
Keyes, who attended Bishop Carroll High School in Calgary, has put those attributes together this season. The former Arizona Diamondbacks’ draft pick has four home runs, nine stolen bases and four triples in 41 games for the Vaqueros in 2019. No Alberta player has more triples than the speedy outfielder, but a pair of hitters are right behind Keyes.
Jacob Bouzide and Soren Graversen – who are also Dawgs Academy grads – both have three triples on the season. Bouzide is batting .333 for the Colby Trojans, while Graversen has 22 RBI for the Indian Hills Falcons.
Trailing them are a trio of players with a pair of triples each. They include Watamaniuk, Scott, and Northwest Nazarene University junior Shawn Grandmont, who also trained at Vauxhall.
Alberta’s home run race is still being led by Patterson, who is now up to 16 dingers through 47 games. He’s tied for seventh in home runs in the NAIA.
Lloyd, meanwhile, has 13 homers for Indiana University and is tied with Hoosier teammate Cole Barr for the lead in that offensive category in the Big Ten Conference.
Coutney’s nine long balls have him in third place, while Dylan Borman – who honed his skills at Prairie Baseball Academy (PBA) and played for the Lethbridge Bulls last summer – has eight homers. Borman is now a junior at the University of Arkansas at Monticello.
Blake Gallagher, an infielder and relief pitcher for the Colby Trojans, has smacked six home runs in 2019. Gallagher is a Vauxhall Academy alumnus.
Four batters are tied with five home runs, including Sturgeon County’s Matt Quartel, High River outfielder Tucker Zdunich, Dawgs Academy grad Ryan Humeniuk, and Calgarian Russell Strilchuk.
TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT
Producer credits go to some familiar names in the RBI category.
Patterson sits comfortably ahead of the pack, with 59 RBI, while Jones is next in line with 43 RBI in 45 games.
Coutney is creating runs at an RBI-per-game pace, with 42 in 42 games.
Lloyd’s 40 RBI put him in fourth place on our list, but in first place in the Big Ten Conference. Borman sits in fifth with 33 runners plated in 32 contests.
THE ARMS RACE
Baseball watchers are great at celebrating the home run, but preventing baseballs from clearing the fences is a skill worth acknowledging, as well.
On that note, we switch over to the pitching side of things and the first category we put under the microscope is the fewest home runs allowed (with a minimum of 25 innings pitched).
Three pitchers – Lethbridge right-hander Tanner Jesson-Dalton, St. Albert’s Jackson Wark, and Airdrie’s Aidan Orsted – have combined to allow zero home runs in 2019.
Jesson-Dalton has kept everything in the ballpark during 32 innings of work for Sacramento State, Wark has pitched 43 homer-less frames for St. Louis University, and Orsted has gone 25.2 innings without allowing a round-tripper at Douglas College.
Two other stingy pitchers are Calgarian Brandon Desjardins and Reilly O’Rourke, who have only allowed one home run each this season. O’Rourke, a senior at Minot State University who previously suited up for the Vauxhall Jets, has pitched 43 innings for the Beavers.
Desjardins pitched for the Fort McMurray Giants in 2018 before logging 27.2 innings for Bellevue University this season.
GOING ON STRIKE
The strikeout race is a duel between Vauxhall-educated Josh Burgmann, who has 73 Ks for the University of Washington Huskies in 61 innings, and St. Albert southpaw Taran Oulton, who has watched 71 batters walk back to the dugout in 81.1 innings for the William Woods University Owls.
Burgmann is second in the Pac-12 Conference in strikeouts.
Wark, meanwhile, has 52 punch outs for the Billikens, followed by Vauxhall Academy alum Wesley Moore, who has 48 Ks in 57.1 innings with California State University at Northridge.
Corey Jackson, who played for the Okotoks Dawgs and graduated from Dawgs Academy, has 42 strikeouts in just 34 innings pitched.
Former Medicine Hat Maverick righty Nathan Stark also has 42 strikeouts. The McCoy High School grad has pitched 33.2 innings for the Colby Trojans.
FOR THE WIN
Two pitchers – Stark and Airdrie’s Kyran Weemaels (Cabrini University Cavaliers) – have posted five wins this season.
Another four keepers of the mound have four victories apiece, including Oulton, Jesson-Dalton, Jackson and Moore.
Pitchers don’t like walking batters and they really don’t like seeing them get hits. With that in mind, we look at those pitchers who have compiled a resume of at least 30 innings of work and list which of them allowed the fewest hits thus far in 2019.
Jesson-Dalton has worked from the mound for 32 innings and surrendered 19 hits, while Stark has given up 20 hits over 33.2 innings pitched.
Jackson has yielded 30 hits in 34 frames, and O’Rourke has also kept hits to a minimum, letting batters get 36 in his 43 innings. Weemaels has permitted 38 hits on his watch, during 41.1 innings of throwing baseballs towards home plate.
Some familiar names are at the head of the class when it comes to ERA.
When looking at pitchers who put in at least 30 innings of work, Jesson-Dalton posted the lowest ERA at 1.69. Not far behind is Weemaels, a former PBA pupil with a 1.96 ERA.
Wark’s ERA sits at just 2.09, while Burgmann’s is at 3.10 over 10 starts. O’Rourke’s ERA currently clocks in at 3.56.
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