“A year like no other.”
It was a common refrain heard in 2021, as the shock of COVID-19 pandemic in early-2020 made way for a shift to life closely resembling “normal.”
For baseball fans, it has meant a slow return to the stands to watch their favourite team play. For many of the players, it meant getting back onto the field again for the first time in months.
READ MORE: 2020 ADS All-College Team
2021 saw a full slate of college games and many young Alberta products made their presences felt. A few hitters flirted with or surpassed a .400 batting average, while others brought those fans to their feet with thundering home runs or highlight-reel catches. On the mound, pitchers came ready with fresh arms and new pitches in their arsenal to rack up strikeouts and wins.
After doing so in 2020, we combed through boxscores and statistical breakdowns at schools and across divisions around the United States to narrow down a list of the top performers from the 2021 college baseball season.
Catcher – Ayden Makarus – Okotoks
The first of a few repeat winners, Makarus followed up a superb opening season with Louisiana State University-Eunice with a fantastic freshman campaign. The Dawgs Academy grad hit .291 on the season with 12 home runs and 47 runs batted in, as the Bengals won their seventh National Junior College Athletic Conference (NJCAA) Division II title. Makarus was particularly good in a 22-5 rout of Nunez Community College on April 15, where he went 2-for-3 with two home runs and seven RBI.
First Base – Matt Coutney – Wetaskiwin
Talk about picking up where he left off. Coutney was steady as could be for Old Dominion University after a couple of solid campaigns at Colby Community College. The 6-foot, 210-pound Wetaskiwin Composite High School product followed up a great start to 2020 where he hit .288 by hitting .282 in 2021 with ten home runs and 38 RBI. The St. Francis Xavier baseball product also became a more patient hitter, drawing 30 walks and picked up 16 multi-hit games. Like Makarus, Coutney had a two-home run game on April 3 against fellow Albertan Peter Hutzal and Marshall University. He finished the day going 3-for-4 with three RBI in an 8-0 victory.
Second Base – Ty Scott – Calgary
Heading into his senior season at Bryan College, Scott wanted to leave an impression and he certainly did that. In his fifth season with the Lions, the Vauxhall Academy of Baseball alum hit .350 with eight home runs, 36 RBI and 16 stolen bases, all either matching or surpassing personal bests. While he spent the majority of his time at shortstop, he made a few appearances at second as well, while always hitting in the top third of the order. Amongst many multi-hit games, Scott’s best outing was a two-homer game in a 4-3 loss to Tennessee Wesleyan on March 13.
Third Base – Shawn Grandmont – Lethbridge
Yet another repeat member of our All-College Team, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Grandmont once again took his game to another level as he rounded out his college career with Northwest Nazarene University. The Vauxhall grad finished the year with a .315 batting average to go along with ten home runs, 58 RBI and 23 stolen bases. The biology major had a few standout performances, including four stolen bases in the season opener against College of Idaho. He also had a two-homer, six-RBI game against Montana State-Billings on March 13 and a five-RBI night against Saint Martin’s on April 30. Grandmont was named to a First-Team All-GNAC honouree, leading the region in RBI and triples and top-five in several other categories.
Shortstop – Dylan Borman – Camrose
There’s a reason the University of Arkansas-Monticello had Borman in the middle of the batting order. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound infielder opened up the season with a home run and two RBI in a win against Northwestern Oklahoma and never looked back. He finished the year with a .338 batting average to go along with 16 round-trippers and 40 runs batted in. The senior had two two-homer games (April 10 versus Ouachita Baptist and May 7 against Southwestern Oklahoma) while he had a six-RBI game against Oklahoma Baptist on April 24.
Outfielder – Brayden Cust – Edmonton
There was no way the speedy Cust was going to be able to replicate his .468 batting average from 2020. But the Colby Community College Trojans freshman certainly gave it his best effort, finishing 2021 with a .368 average. The 6-foot-3, 170-pound outfielder also hit eight home runs, drove in 41 runs and stolen 17 bases. Cust’s season impressed many around the Jayhawk Conference, who named him an honorable mention for All-Conference recognition, and he was also selected as a Gold Glove winner, committing just one error in 104 chances. Cust had a four-hit game against Garden City Community College on February 26, then a two-homer game against Barton Community College on March 18, among many solid performances.
Outfielder – Soren Graverson – Calgary
He admits he had a rough first season with William Penn University, but he was zoned in when he came into the 2021 season and it showed. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound outfielder hit .330 with nine home runs and 42 RBI in 44 games for the Statesmen. The Dawgs Academy product had a great opening weekend by hitting three home runs while driving in eight in three games (February 22-23). He had a trio of three-hit games during the season and three games where he registered four RBI, as William Penn finished the season with an overall record of 33-18.
Outfielder – Zach Olson – Red Deer
The second Colby Trojans outfielder to make the list, Olson was not a friend of baseballs around the KJCCC. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound righthander was able to build off his strong COVID-shortened rookie campaign, where he hit .326 with six homers and 17 RBI, to hit .297 with 14 home runs and 35 RBI. Olson burst onto the scene early in the year by hitting three solo jacks in a 15-13 slugfest against Garden City on February 27. His most productive outing came in a 21-5 romp over Pratt Community College on April 10, where he went 2-for-3 with a home run and five runs batted in.
Designated Hitter – Logan Grant – Chestermere
Whatever awards were available to Logan Grant, he seemingly won them and rightly so. The freshman infielder and catcher was a star for the Bismarck State Mystics, hitting a fantastic .423 with eight home runs and 58 RBI in 37 games. He was one of three Mystics to be named to the Mon-Dak All-Conference Team and the NJCAA Division II All-Region XIII Baseball Team for his efforts. Grant, a product of Dawgs Academy, was as steady as they came on the field, picking up several multi-hit games and seven games where he drove in four runs. What might be the most impressive statistic might be his strikeout total, as he was K’d just 12 times during the season.
Pitcher – Corey Jackson – Calgary
Much like Grant, Jackson brought a lot of hardware back from college. The Bellevue University Bruins ace was an All-NSAA First Team member, an NAIA Second Team All-American and was named the NSAA Pitcher of the Year. And who can blame the judges? In 17 starts, Jackson went 9-3 with a 2.43 earned-run average. The Bruins workhorse also made one relief appearance where he picked up the save. All-in-all, he set the school record for strikeouts in a season with 176. On nine different occasions, Jackson struck out ten batters in a game, including a whopping 21 in a complete-game 11-6 win over Waldorf on May 1.
Pitcher – Cohen Achen – Calgary
Quite possibly the comeback story of the year, Achen had numerous hurdles he had to jump over to pull off the season he did. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound righthander first had to battle back from being hit in the face by a comebacker while he was pitching at Big Bend Community College. He faced issues returned, so he transferred to Lindsey Wilson College, where he began the 2021 season in the bullpen. Achen was quickly turned into a starter, where he finished the season with a 5-0 record in seven starts, posting a 2.38 ERA in 13 appearances, striking out 54 batters in 64+ innings. For his efforts, the Babe Ruth Calgary product was named the Mid-South Conference Freshman of the Year and Second Team All Mid-South Conference.
Pitcher – Landen Bourassa – Lethbridge
It’s probably fair to say that the last few years have been a rollercoaster ride for Bourassa. In his first start for the University of San Francisco of the 2019 season, he felt something go wrong in his elbow and he needed Tommy John Surgery. He came back with solid numbers to start the 2020 season, only to have the pandemic grind things to a halt. For the first time in three years, the Lethbridge-born senior was able to put a full season together in 2021, and he was steady as they came, going 7-4 in 15 starts with a 2.88 ERA. He struck out 75 batters in 97 innings, issuing just 24 walks. Bourassa was rewarded for his efforts by signing his first professional contract with the Winnipeg Goldeyes, where he continued to succeed by going 4-0 with a 2.63 ERA in eight starts.
Several of these athletes were also named to the Canadian Baseball Networks All-Canadian Teams. Several players who trained here but weren’t born here, like Dawgs Academy grad Tristan Peters and Vauxhall Academy of Baseball product Damiano Palmegiani, are among those who were named to those teams. All are worthy of celebration, so check out those teams when you get a chance!
As always, we love hearing from you. Any of these performances stand out as the best to you? Any that we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below or on our social media channels.