By IAN WILSON
They are sending stitched orbs into outer space and painting corners.
No, they’re not NASA scientists or artists.
We’re talking about Alberta’s baseball players who are lacing up their cleats for college teams in the United States.
This latest edition of Box Score Beauties offers an overview of player performances south of the border. From the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) to Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), athletes born and trained in Alberta are excelling at the plate and on the mound.
Here’s a look at some of the players who are experiencing success:
Damiano Palmegiani – a 2018 draft pick of the Toronto Blue Jays and a Vauxhall Academy product – continues to be the big man on campus at the College of Southern Nevada (CSN). Through 31 games for the Coyotes, the infielder is the most prolific Canadian college home run hitter, cranking out 13 long balls. The other numbers also look good for Palmegiani, who has 40 runs batted in (RBI), 42 runs scored, 11 stolen bases, a .376 batting average and a 1.417 on-base plus slugging (OPS). Oddly enough, he also leads Division I of the NJCAA in the hit by pitch statistical category, having been plunked 19 times already. (Ouch!) Palmegiani currently sits at No. 3 on the Canadian Baseball Network’s projected MLB 2021 draft list.
Soren Graversen, an Okotoks Dawgs graduate who has eight round trippers through 26 games for William Penn in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), is batting .410 with 35 RBI, while slugging .859 on the season.
Another Dawgs alum, catcher Ayden Makarus, is batting .315 with seven homers and 29 RBI for the Louisiana State University Eunice Bengals.
Outfielder Zach Olson only played 15 games for the Colby Trojans of the NJCAA last year before the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to his season. The Red Deer native, who has signed on to play for the Sylvan Lake Gulls of the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) this summer, recently reached the 15-game mark for the Trojans this year. The stats from the two years show consistency in Olson’s game. In 2020, he batted .326 with 14 runs, six home runs, and 17 RBI. So far this year, he’s sporting a .341 batting average with 15 runs, 15 RBI and seven long balls.
Shawn Grandmont put the cherry on top of a very productive month by collecting some accolades. The former Vauxhall Jets slugger recently received Great Northwest Athletic (GNAC) Conference Player of the Week honours, and he was named the West Region Player of the Week for March 22-28 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers of America (NCBWA). The Northwest Nazarene University senior leads the Nighthawks in RBI, with 33 in 20 games; stolen bases (15); and slugging percentage (.797). He’s second on the team in home runs, with six, and batting average (.419).
Tristan Peters, the 2019 WCBL batting champion, received a nod as the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week earlier in March. The Okotoks Dawgs star, now a sophomore outfielder with Southern Illinois University, is batting .410 with 24 RBI and eight stolen bases in 22 games. He also has two bombs this season.
Meanwhile, former Lethbridge Bulls star Riley Jepson keeps mashing for the University of Texas at Tyler in the Lone Star Conference. The 6-foot-4 senior has five homers, 26 RBI and a .349 average in 23 contests.
Nova Scotia hurler Evan O’Toole – who studied at Vauxhall Academy – has been dominant in the NJCAA for the Iowa Western Reivers. The 6-foot-3 righthander has made four starts, picking up wins in all of them. In 23 innings, he’s struck out 23 batters while posting a 2.35 earned run average (ERA).
Zach Demchenko is already up to eight starts for the Friends University Falcons in the NAIA, where he’s put together a 4-2 record, while posting a 2.73 ERA through 52.2 innings. The Dawgs Academy product has 39 Ks and three complete games on the year and has not logged under five innings in any of his mound appearances.
Keep an eye on Colbey Klepper, a righthander with Lamar Community College. That’s Klepper with a “K” – or rather 56 Ks in 35 innings. The Stony Plain pitcher has made eight appearances and registered a 3-4 record, along with a 5.14 ERA in NJCAA action.
Calgarian Corey Jackson has also been sitting down batters at an impressive clip. The former Okotoks Dawgs player has racked up 73 strikeouts in 10 starts and 60 frames for the Bellevue University Bruins in the NAIA. Despite the workload, which includes a trio of complete games, Jackson has managed to keep runs off the board. He has a 1.80 ERA and a 4-2 record.
This is just a quick roundup of some of the baseball players who caught our eye in March. This feature is not intended to be all-encompassing – it doesn’t include every hit or each inning pitched, but it does provide some highlights. If you notice some strong performances that we missed, please feel free to email us at AlbertaDugoutStories@gmail.com and we’ll do our best to spotlight deserving players moving forward.
We encourage you to watch for Alberta-related players through @CollegeBaseba12 on Twitter, as well as the social media accounts of the Okotoks Dawgs, Vauxhall Academy, Prairie Baseball Academy, the WCBL and, of course, Alberta Dugout Stories.