By IAN WILSON
The month of April, which traditionally ushers in Major League Baseball’s opening festivities, is a glorious time to reflect on.
Baseball has truly arrived at this point of the year. The rust of spring training has been shaken loose and games that matter are upon us.
Of course, college baseball is also in full swing during this period and diamond dynamos are hitting their stride. As the calendar flips to May, the competitiveness of the games will only intensify.
This chapter of Box Score Beauties provides a glimpse of some of the achievements of Alberta-born and trained baseball players who are excelling in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) – also known as JUCO – as well as in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).
Pitchers and batters from this province are doing Alberta proud, and we’re happy to highlight their accomplishments.
Calgary’s Corey Jackson has been putting up some ridiculous numbers for the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) conference-champion Bellevue Bruins. During his most recent outing, the former Okotoks Dawgs righthander registered 21 strikeouts in a complete game victory over Waldorf University. The senior now sits second in the NAIA in Ks, with 136 in 88 innings pitched. Jackson is also poised to set the single-season record for punch outs for the Bruins program. Through 15 games, he has a 7-3 record, one save and a 2.35 earned run average (ERA). The 5-foot-10 hurler has twice been named the NSAA Pitcher of the Week this year.
KLEP THROW MANIAC
Stony Plain product Colbey Klepper has also been stealing opportunities from would-be hitters by racking up 77 Ks through 53 frames for Lamar Community College in the NJCAA. The Absolute Human Performance-trained righthander has appeared in 12 games, eight of them starts, while putting together a 6-5 record and a 5.43 ERA.
Evan Wilde, of Airdrie, has taken a fascist’s approach to his mound work. The southpaw – who wears No. 25 for the Cloud County Thunderbirds in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference (KJCCC) – now has 66 strikeouts in 53.1 innings. He’s got a 4-2 record and a 5.06 ERA.
Another pitcher making short work of KJCCC batters is Graham Brunner. With 50 strikeouts in 49.2 innings, the Dawgs Academy graduate is averaging a punch out per frame. The lefty has a 3.99 ERA, a 6-2 record and a complete game through 11 appearances for Barton Community College.
Fellow Dawgs alumni Zach Demchenko is logging big innings for the Friends University Falcons in the NAIA. Of his 13 starts, three have been complete games, including a shutout. The Okotoks product has a 4.20 ERA, a 6-5 record, and 65 Ks in 79.1 innings this year.
THE CISCO KID
Lethbridge hurler Landen Bourassa has been dialed in for the University of San Francisco (USF) Dons of the NCAA’s West Coast Conference (WCC) in 2021. The best outing of his season came on April 23rd against Portland, when Bourassa struck out 16 batters and yielded just three hits during a complete game shutout. The 16 Ks tied a 75-year-old USF record. He now sits at 56 Ks, with a 5-2 record and a 3.55 ERA through 66 innings.
The performance helped earn the righthander a number of honours, including the WCC Pitcher of the Week, the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper National Player of the Week, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Pitcher of the Week, and the D1 Baseball/AstroTurf Player of the Week award.
RIGHT TOOLS FOR THE JOB
Evan O’Toole, who is originally from Nova Scotia and trained at Vauxhall Academy, keeps getting better and better. With the Iowa Western Reivers, the JUCO pitcher is a perfect 9-0 in his nine starts. O’Toole carries a 1.45 ERA and has struck out 46 batters through 49.2 innings.
Jaden Griffin, a Vauxhall Academy grad and former Lethbridge Bulls pitcher, has been doing fine work as a reliever for Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in the NCAA Atlantic 10 Conference. The lefty is 2-0 with a save in 19 innings. He also has 17 Ks and a 3.32 ERA this season.
AT THE DISH
Tristan Peters continues to rake for Southern Illinois University in the Missouri Valley Conference. The Dawgs Academy graduate has played 43 games for the Salukis and has scored 40 runs in that time. Peters is also batting .364 with a pair of homers, 39 RBI, and he is 14-for-15 on the base paths.
Vauxhall-coached slugger Damiano Palmegiani, meanwhile, is still swinging a big stick. In 51 games for the College of Southern Nevada (CSN), the infielder has 19 long balls, 65 runs, 62 RBI, 13 stolen bases and a .396 batting average for the Coyotes in the NJCAA.
For his efforts, the Surrey, BC native was named the Coyotes’ Male Athlete of the Year Award at the school’s athletic banquet on Monday.
THE GRANDY MAN
Shawn Grandmont has been tearing the cover off the ball all year. The Lethbridge infielder, another Vauxhall alum, has played 30 games for Northwest Nazarene University in Division 2 of the NCAA. In his 109 at bats, he’s picked up 36 runs, 45 RBI, eight round trippers, 20 stolen bases and a .339 batting average. He also has an on-base plus slugging (OPS) percentage of 1.109.
The University of Arkansas at Monticello is benefiting greatly from the production of Camrose infielder Dylan Borman. The 6-foot-5 senior has played 29 games for the Division 2 team, and is batting .330 with a 1.121 OPS. The former Lethbridge Bull is up to 29 runs, 34 RBI, and 12 homers on the campaign. Borman has helped the Weevils secure a spot in the Great American Conference Tournament.
Another power-hitter making noise is Dawgs Academy catcher Ayden Makarus, who is framing pitches at Louisiana State University Eunice (LSUE). In 32 games, the Okotoks product has 11 home runs, 42 RBI, 34 runs, and a .297 batting average.
Corner infielder Matt Coutney is turning some heads at the NCAA Division 1 level. The Wetaskiwin native has suited up in 40 games for Old Dominion University (ODU) and in that time has knocked out eight long balls while scoring 28 runs and registering 29 RBI.
Someone needs to tell Logan Grant that the numbers he’s putting up for the Bismarck State Mystics are a bit ludicrous. The freshman catcher and third baseman has a .470 batting average, a .550 on-base percentage (OBP), and a slugging rate of .855 through 27 NJCAA games. In addition, the Dawgs Academy pupil has six homers, 42 RBI, 33 runs and four stolen bases. Not too shabby.
The Alberta contingent with the Colby Trojans is moving the dial at the JUCO level, as well. Zach Olson, of Red Deer, has 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 34 contests, while Brayden Cust leads the team in runs scored, with 51 in 45 games. Cust, the pride of Cold Lake and Sherwood Park, also has 34 RBI, six long balls, a .372 batting average and a team-best 13 stolen bases. Infielder John Vulcano, another Vauxhall grad, has 11 home runs, 36 RBI, 37 runs, and a .398 average in 35 games.
Tyler McWillie is batting .385 with 10 homers, and 37 RBI, while also serving as a regular in the Trojans pitching rotation. A number of pitchers and batters from our province are key contributors in Colby’s lineup this year.
This is just a quick look at a few of the ball players who garnered our attention last month. If you spot worthy outings that we missed, please 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 our own social media accounts.