By IAN WILSON
The Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) has unveiled its selections for the 2022 All-Star Game at Seaman Stadium in Okotoks.
It’s a talented pair of rosters that will suit up for the league’s East and West Divisions, which will take the field for a full slate of baseball festivities – including a Home Run Derby – on Saturday, July 23rd.
Let’s take a closer look at each lineup and examine the squads by position, as well as by who is representing each WCBL club from Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Four pitch framers are at the ready for the West All-Stars. British Columbian Jordan Bach has been excellent for the Fort McMurray Giants, where he’s hitting .343 with 29 RBI, 10 doubles and four steals in 35 games, while Jimmy Costin (.333 average, 23 RBI, 28 runs, four homers, 28 games) has put up great numbers for the Brooks Bombers.
The other two backstops available include Roger Riley, who is batting .375 with 27 runs, 19 RBI and 11 doubles in 27 games for the Lethbridge Bulls, and the Seaman Stadium faithful will cheer on Jacob Morrow (.308 average, 22 RBI, 16 runs in 21 contests) of the Okotoks Dawgs.
Okotoks head coach Mitch Schmidt and bench boss David Robb will have much to discuss about how best to utilize their West All-Star lineup. Those decisions will include who draws in for infield duty and at which position they’ll play – the options are enviable.
They’re very familiar with first baseman McCoy Pearce (.383 average, four homers, 26 RBI in 27 games) and shortstop Brendan Luther (.356 average, 10 stolen bases, 24 RBI, 36 runs), who both came over from the Edmonton Prospects to play for the Dawgs this year. Pearce represented the Bombers in the 2019 WCBL All-Star Game and participated in the Home Run Derby – will he take more hacks in the long ball contest this time around? Luther, meanwhile, often bats atop the Dawgs lineup. Will he be the leadoff hitter for the West All-Star crew?
Middle infielder Nick Gravel is a proven veteran who does a bit of everything for the Bulls. He’s hitting .285 with five swiped bags, 18 RBI and 30 runs in 32 games this year.
Shortstop Ethan He has a .308 batting average and three round trippers for the Sylvan Lake Gulls, while Charlie Towers, who plays short for the Giants, has 23 runs and five stolen bases in his 32 games played.
Both Matt Wolff (.357 average, five homers, 29 runs in 33 games for Brooks) and Jordan Phillips (.324 average, nine steals, eight doubles in 27 games with the Prospects) are also comfortable playing in the outfield.
Seven outfielders have been given the thumbs up for the West All-Star squad.
Among them are Lethbridge slugger Brad Goodwin (.311 average, three homers, 15 runs in 18 games), who has also picked up a pair of wins out of the bullpen this summer, and Fort Mac’s Reiss Calvin, who is batting .341 with 25 runs in 34 games for the Giants.
Strathmore product Kaden Zarowny is a former Dawg who is taking flight in Sylvan Lake. With the Gulls, he has 18 runs, 18 RBI, seven swipes, four long balls and a .307 batting average in 26 matchups.
Caleb Feuerstake is one of the best hitters in the WCBL. During his 27 games with the Prospects, he is batting .398. Feuerstake also has 20 runs, 12 stolen bases, nine doubles and two round trippers.
Another baseball basher to keep an eye on is Drew Mackie. He’s played 31 contests for the Bombers and produced a .336 batting average, eight stolen bases, 21 runs and 18 RBI in that time.
Of course, the home crowd will save their loudest cheers for Micah McDowell and Noah Geekie of the Okotoks Dawgs. McDowell, an Oregon State University (OSU) player, has been a catcher’s nightmare since joining the WCBL circuit. In 16 games, he has 14 stolen bases, 14 runs and a .375 average. Geekie is also barreling up baseballs – in 28 games, he’s hitting .361 with 10 swiped bags, 19 runs and 18 RBI.
The West All-Stars have 15 hill toppers lined up to stifle opposing batters.
The top three strikeout leaders in the WCBL are on this team: Sylvan Lake’s Josh Tucker (5-0, 2.17 ERA, 68 Ks in 41.1 innings) and Ty Boudreau (4-3, 2.95 ERA, 52 Ks in 48.2 innings), as well as Fort McMurray’s Luis Martinez-Gomez (1-1, 2.43 ERA, 51 Ks in 37 frames). Boudreau tossed a no-hitter for the Gulls earlier this summer.
Some other starting pitchers who could take the mound include Japanese righthander Wataru Murakami (4-1, 2.28 ERA, 41 Ks in 43.1 innings for the Prospects); 6-foot-5 Steven Hospital (4-1, 0.60 ERA, 24 Ks in 30 innings for the Gulls); and Vancouver’s Joe Sinclair (2-2, 27 Ks in 31.2 innings with the Bulls).
The Dawgs will be well represented by ace lefty Graham Brunner (6-0, 2.77 ERA, 34 Ks through 35.2 innings) and Ryan McFarland (2-1, 1.14 ERA, two saves), who has appeared in 12 games, including a pair of starts.
A number of moundsmen on the pitching staff are comfortable in the swingman role. Jordan Moffat, a veteran with the Prospects, has pitched in nine games and made four starts. He has 28 strikeouts in 38.1 innings and a 2.81 ERA. Halen Knoll of the Giants is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA, 33 Ks in 33 frames and one save. Robert Liriano (35 Ks in 39.2 innings) and Brandon Van Buren (one save and 27 Ks in 35.1 innings) have been versatile pitchers for the Bombers.
Other pitchers have what Liam Neeson might refer to as a “very particular set of skills” … skills that might make them a nightmare for hitters in the late innings of a game.
Ethan Cernohous of the Prospects comes to mind. In 15 relief appearances, he’s 3-2 with one save and a 2.84 ERA. He’s also struck out 14 batters in 19 frames.
The Lethbridge Bulls also have a pair of relievers that fit that mould. Blade Strzelczyk has been slicing pitches through strike zones all season – the Texan is 1-1 with one save, a 2.50 ERA, and 21 Ks in 18 innings. And Ben Erwin, of Spruce Grove, is a likely candidate to get ninth inning work. The righty is 1-1 with four saves and a 1.50 ERA this season. He also has 10 Ks in 12 innings.
The East All-Stars will have three backstops at their disposal, including Calgarian Logan Grant of the Swift Current 57’s, Mike Kenney from the Regina Red Sox and Moose Jaw Miller Express catcher Bryan Reyes.
Grant, who played for the Sylvan Lake Gulls in 2021, is batting .279 through 32 games this summer with 10 stolen bases, 20 runs and 18 runs batted in (RBI). Kenney is a Chandler, Arizona native with a .404 batting average, 22 runs and 18 RBI in 26 contests for the Red Sox. Reyes has put in 29 games with the Miller Express, delivering 28 runs, 28 RBI, a .352 average and a pair of home runs in his 108 at bats.
Regina Red Sox Manager Jason Veyna, who will call the shots for the East All-Stars, has eight infielders to mix and match with in Okotoks. Shortstop Zane Zielinski will be a familiar face. The Chicago, Illinois product has 22 runs, 11 swiped bags and 16 RBI in his 35 games for the Red Sox.
Middle infielders Kellen Williamson (.323 average, 12 stolen bases, 34 runs, 22 RBI in 32 contests) and Nathan Ade (.289 average, 21 RBI, 19 runs, five stolen bases in 33 games) have put together strong campaigns for the Mavericks, while Moose Jaw’s Zach Campbell (37 runs, 11 pillow thefts, .279 average through 34 matchups) is another candidate to play shortstop and bat in the leadoff position.
Tejean Smith is a two-way threat for the East – he was selected as an infielder due to his play at shortstop for the 57’s (23 runs, 20 RBI, .285 average in 32 games), but he has also worked out of the bullpen, picking up three saves and seven strikeouts in eight innings for Swift Current.
Nolan Machibroda looks to slot in at first base and he could also make an appearance in the Home Run Derby. In 33 games with the Weyburn Beavers, the Saskatoon native has a .336 batting average, 34 RBI, 32 runs and six homers. He’ll be joined by Beaver teammates Braeden Cordes (.294 average, 19 runs in 23 games) and Calgarian Caelen Dalman (.353 average, 17 runs, 17 RBI through 19 games).
All five East Division franchises will contribute an outfielder to the roster.
Heavy-hitting Nate Bach brings six long balls, 33 RBI, 32 runs and a .302 batting average from his 37 appearances with Regina. He’s another potential option for derby duty.
Fans at Ross Wells Park have been watching Nate Mensik crush baseballs for the Miller Express this season. The Nebraska native has suited up in 33 matchups for Moose Jaw, batting .324 with 11 stolen bases, six homers, 26 RBI and 32 runs during his time on the WCBL circuit.
The league’s mid-season stolen base king is Braden Desonia out of Spokane, Washington. The speedster with the Mavericks has 22 swiped bags and has only been caught stealing three times. In 34 games with Medicine Hat, Desonia has proven to be a consistent hitter, batting .338 with 38 runs and 23 RBI.
Thomas Collins is sporting .310 batting average for Swift Current, where he’s collected 27 runs and seven stolen bases in 34 games for the 57’s.
Ryan Dauphinee is a .301 hitter with Weyburn. He’s also picked up 15 runs and 12 RBI through 24 games with the Beavers this summer.
Rudy Estrella, pitching coach for the Red Sox and the East All-Stars, will have no less than 15 arms to choose from to handle nine innings of work.
Steady starters include Weyburn’s Josh Wintroub (42 Ks, 3.46 ERA, 39 innings) and Jared Miller (2.55 ERA, 30 Ks, 31.2 innings); Swift Current’s Kenny Jinks (36 Ks, 4.36 ERA, 31 innings) and Adam Golby (31 Ks, 29.2 innings); as well as Moose Jaw’s Kellan Voggesser (40 Ks, 4.12 ERA, 43.2 innings) and Tim Carlson (3-1, 3.03 ERA, 28 Ks, 35.2 innings).
Estrella will also have a good idea of what to expect out of Red Sox representatives Braden Houston (4-0, 2.07 ERA, 42 strikeouts, one save, 43.1 innings), Preston Tenney (2.20 ERA, 39 Ks, 32.2 innings), and Jonathan Henry (2-1, 2.70 ERA, 27 Ks, 43.1 innings).
The Mavericks will offer up a trio of relievers to the squad, including Isaiah Bartels (30 Ks, 30 innings, 3.00 ERA), Hunter Cooper (29 Ks, 31.2 innings), and Nate Ewing (two saves, 3.60 ERA, 18 Ks, 15 innings).
Calgarian Jared Eifler is another arm barner who could see action. The Weyburn Beaver has appeared in seven games, four of them starts, and struck out 21 batters through 28.2 frames.
In addition, Trent Greek of the 57’s is a bullpen option. The North Dakota product is 1-1 with a 3.85 ERA and 15 strikeouts through 18.2 innings this summer.
The prime candidate to close out the game for the East All-Stars is Jesse Scholtz, who leads the WCBL in saves with five. Scholtz is 3-1 with a 1.87 ERA and 20 Ks in 33.2 innings for Moose Jaw.
Now that we’ve put the All-Star rosters under the microscope based on position, let’s take a closer look at who will be representing each side on a club-by-club basis.
The host Dawgs will have seven players and two coaches on the West All-Star team. Pitchers include Graham Brunner and Ryan McFarland; infielders are McCoy Pearce and Brendan Luther; and Jacob Morrow will mask up behind the plate. Micah McDowell and Noah Geekie will patrol the outfield. Head coach Mitch Schmidt and bench coach David Robb will call the shots for the team.
SYLVAN LAKE GULLS
The Gulls have five players on the West roster, including pitchers Josh Tucker, Tyler Boudreau, and Steven Hospital. Outfielder Kaden Zarowny and infielder Ethan He also made the cut.
A half dozen Bulls received All-Star honours – three hitters and three pitchers. Catcher Roger Riley, infielder Nick Gravel and outfielder Brad Goodwin are the batters. Ben Erwin, Joe Sinclair and Blade Strzelczyk will rep Lethbridge on the mound.
FORT McMURRAY GIANTS
Five Giants were picked to help the West Division defeat their Eastern rivals. Pitchers Halen Knoll and Luis Martinez-Gomez got the call, as did catcher Jordan Bach, infielder Charlie Towers and outfielder Reiss Calvin.
The Prospects have five representatives that have been chosen to take part in the All-Star Game festivities. Outfielder Caleb Feuerstake will be joined by infielder Jordan Phillips and pitchers Wataru Murakami, Jordan Moffat, and Ethan Cernohous.
Five members of the Bomb Squad are Okotoks bound. A pair of pitchers – Robert Liriano and Brandon Van Buren – will join forces with catcher Jimmy Costin, infielder Matt Wolff and outfielder Drew Mackie at Seaman Stadium.
MOOSE JAW MILLER EXPRESS
The East All-Star lineup will include six players from the Miller Express. Pitchers Tim Carlson, Jesse Scholtz and Kellan Voggesser will link up with catcher Bryan Reyes, infielder Zach Campbell and outfielder Nate Mensik.
REGINA RED SOX
Manager Jason Veyna and pitching coach Rudy Estrella have been selected to guide the East All-Stars. They’ll bring six Red Sox players with them, including pitchers Jonathan Henry, Braden Houston and Preston Tenney. Catcher Mike Tenney, infielder Zane Zielinski and outfielder Nate Bach will also fly the flag for Regina.
SWIFT CURRENT 57’s
Six players have been plucked from the 57’s roster for All-Star duty. Catcher Logan Grant, infielder Tejean Smith and outfielder Thomas Collins will look to perform at the plate while pitchers Trent Greek, Adam Golby and Kenny Jinks will try to shut down the best hitters the West Division has to offer.
MEDICINE HAT MAVERICKS
The Mavs are also sending a trio of hurlers and a threesome of batters to Okotoks on July 23rd. Included in their All-Star six-pack are pitchers Isaiah Bartels, Hunter Cooper and Nate Ewing, as well as infielders Nathan Ade, Kellen Williamson and speedy outfielder Braden Desonia.
The East All-Stars squad features seven players out of Weyburn. Three infielders – Braeden Cordes, Caelen Dalman and Nolan Machibroda – will be joined by outfielder Ryan Dauphinee and pitchers Jared Eifler, Jared Miller and Josh Wintroub.
The WCBL All-Star Game is scheduled for Saturday, July 23rd at 7:05 p.m. at scenic Seaman Stadium in Okotoks. The gates will open at 4 p.m. and the event will feature a 5 p.m. Home Run Derby; autograph signings by former Major League Baseball (MLB) standout and Canadian Baseball Hall of Famer Matt Stairs; musical entertainment; a pre-game show and a post-game fireworks display.