By IAN WILSON
If you’re scanning the strikeout leaderboard for Levi Abbott’s name, check at the top before working your way down.
The 6-foot-3, right-handed pitcher for the Lethbridge Bulls leads the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) in Ks, with 66, through his first 43.2 innings of work this summer and his other statistics have not suffered during his eight appearances.
The Vauxhall Academy grad is coming off a successful season at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York. In his freshman campaign with the Golden Griffins, Abbott went 2-1 with a 4.64 earned run average (ERA) and 19 Ks in 21.1 innings.
Those numbers have only improved since he joined the Bulls.
We caught up with Abbott to pick his brain on the summer he’s having in the WCBL for a segment we like to call 3 UP, 3 DOWN.
Here’s what he had to say:
1. You’re having a very good season with Lethbridge and you’re currently leading the WCBL in strikeouts. You’ve also had a number of outings where you posted double-digit strikeouts. What’s been your secret in terms of dominating batters via the strikeout this summer?
I have always been a fastball/curveball pitcher, but as I started college I realized that three pitches is almost necessary to be successful. I have since developed a slider that has been the reason for the multiple strikeouts.
2. The other pitching stats also look good for you. You’ve got a 4-2 record with a 2.88 ERA. Sometimes pitchers sell out a bit to get the strikeout but it seems like you’ve got a well-rounded arsenal going. How do you balance trying to ring guys up with your overall game management and your pursuit of a win for the team?
It comes down to when I need a strikeout and the count. The first pitch of the at bat is usually a challenge pitch to get weak contact and let the defence work. If I get up in the count 0-1 or 0-2, then I begin to go for a strikeout.
3. Have you set any goals for yourself this WCBL season and, if so, what are they?
The main goal I have set for myself this season is to win a ring. The second goal is to develop a decent changeup for college. It’s hard pitching in summer ball when you want to work on things but also want to win. It’s been hard developing the changeup this summer. Instead of throwing a changeup 0-2, I could go to a slider which I have more confidence in. It’s been a rollercoaster this summer but the changeup will come.
1. You wear No. 4 for Lethbridge and you also wore that number for the Vauxhall Jets. Is there a significance or importance with that number for you? If so, why did you choose that number?
The only significance is that I’ve worn that number for a long time. It feels comfortable and the number feels like it’s a part of me.
2. You studied at Vauxhall Academy. A number of players from there played with you at Canisius College, and there are also some former Jets on the Lethbridge roster. What does it mean to you to have some familiar faces in the locker room and on the field?
It is awesome, and a very cool experience. After Vauxhall, you tend to believe you won’t see the guys for a long time. So, getting the opportunity to live with two Vauxhall guys for another couple years and having a summer with them is incredible.
3. Talk a bit about playing in the WCBL summer for your hometown team. What’s it like to get back into some stadiums with fans in the stands? What does that do for your game experience?
Without fans the game isn’t the same. The energy the fans and team bring is what drives me to succeed more and to compete.
EXTRA INNINGS QUESTION:
Q: An opposing batter gets a hold of one and goes yard on you. He follows that up with a bat flip … do you tip your cap to him, talk trash to him as he rounds the bases, plunk him next at bat or respond in some other way?
Trash talking him would never get you anywhere. All it does is fire up the opposing team. The best solution is to hopefully get to face him again and get a strikeout.