By IAN WILSON
There were some outstanding individual performances in the Western Canadian Baseball League (WCBL) this summer, including some record-breaking efforts.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the top hitters and pitchers during the regular season. Here’s a breakdown of the leaders in several statistical categories:
HOME RUNS – There were two home run kings in the WCBL. First baseman Tyler McWillie of Watrous, Saskatchewan smacked 11 long balls for the Sylvan Lake Gulls in 42 games and 140 at bats. He also contributed 43 runs batted in (RBI) and was effective on the mound, where he went 1-1 with a save, a 3.63 earned run average (ERA) and 47 strikeouts in 47 innings. Moose Jaw Miller Express outfielder Nate Mensik also clubbed 11 homers this season. The Nebraska native hit .314 with 48 runs, 42 RBI and 14 stolen bases in 54 games and 220 at bats.
RUNS BATTED IN – Nate Bach was tops for RBI with 46 in 50 games. The Regina Red Sox outfielder from Colorado had seven home runs, 40 runs and 13 doubles. He edged out three other players in RBI totals. Denver Blinn (Brooks Bombers), McCoy Pearce (Okotoks Dawgs), and Bryan Reyes (Miller Express) each had 45 RBI.
BATTING AVERAGE – Mike Kenney did his best Ted Williams impression this summer. The Regina Red Sox catcher won the batting title with a .409 average through 44 games and 154 at bats. The Chandler, Arizona native was also tops in on-base percentage (.529) this year.
RUNS – Bolstered by a .339 batting average, 50 walks, and 12 stolen bases, no one was more effective at scoring runs than infielder Zach Campbell of the Moose Jaw Miller Express. The pride of Warren, Ohio scored 69 runs in 56 games.
STOLEN BASES – Braden DeSonia had a summer for the ages with the Medicine Hat Mavericks. The Spokane, Washington outfielder set a new single-season record for stolen bases in dramatic fashion when he swiped five bags in one game during the second-last contest of the season at Athletic Park. The feat also helped the Mavs clinch a playoff spot. DeSonia finished with 42 stolen bases on the year, eclipsing the 40 swiped pillows that Garrett Perez of the Weyburn Beavers claimed in 2019. In addition to the stolen base record, DeSonia led the WCBL in at bats (230) and hits (80). He played in all 56 games for the Mavericks.
DOUBLES – Catcher Jimmy Costin can hit. His seven home runs, .323 batting average and 44 RBI prove that. But no one could catch the Brooks Bomber slugger in the doubles category, where his 18 visits to second base were the best in the WCBL. Costin’s work at the plate and behind it helped the Bombers secure their first postseason berth in franchise history.
TRIPLES – The speed and power of outfielder Alejandro Cazorla – a fan favourite with the Okotoks Dawgs – allowed him to hustle around the bases for nine triples this summer. The Venezuelan product was brilliant for the Dawgs, putting in a .341 batting average, 44 runs, 34 RBI, five homers and 15 stolen bases through 50 games. His offensive outburst aided the Dawgs in setting a WCBL record for wins in a single season, with 43.
HIT BY PITCH – It’s a painful record to set, but Matt Wolff did just that by getting plunked an astounding 33 times in 55 games with the Brooks Bombers. Wolff was happy to trade each bruise for 90 feet of real estate. The visitor from Fishers, Indiana had a great WCBL campaign that saw him hit .342 with 56 runs, 37 RBI and seven long balls.
WINS – Sherwood Park lefty Graham Brunner could not be beat this summer. The Okotoks Dawgs veteran led the circuit with a 7-0 record that saw him compile a 2.77 ERA and 48 strikeouts through 48.2 innings of work.
EARNED RUN AVERAGE – Travis Cole was part of some magical moments with the Fort McMurray Giants. The Tucson, Arizona product helped the club record their first no-hitter in team history and he also pushed them to their first playoff appearance ever. In addition, Cole posted the lowest ERA in the league (0.97) while going 3-1 with a save and 48 Ks in 46 innings pitched.
STRIKEOUTS – If you stepped into the batter’s box this season, you had to hope you weren’t looking up at Josh Tucker on the mound. The 6-foot-3 southpaw was completely dominant for the Sylvan Lake Gulls. In 10 appearances, nine of them starts, Tucker went 6-0 with a sterling 2.23 ERA and 91 strikeouts during 56.1 innings of work. That K total from the Spokane, Washington pitcher established a new single-season record for strikeouts in the WCBL.
SAVES – Two relievers stood out among their peers when it came to closing out games. Ben Erwin, a Spruce Grove right-hander with the Lethbridge Bulls, recorded five saves in 24.2 innings. Erwin also went 2-1 with a 2.55 ERA and 24 Ks. Missouri native Jesse Scholtz also registered five saves for the Miller Express. Scholtz had a busy workload – in 38 appearances and 56.2 frames, the righty went 6-2 with 33 strikeouts.
COMPLETE GAMES – Southpaw Kenny Jinks went the distance in three games this summer. The Georgia product turned in a stellar campaign with the Swift Current 57’s, going 4-1 with a 3.48 ERA and 61 Ks in 51.2 innings.
INNINGS PITCHED – No hurler spent more time on a mound than Braden Houston of the Regina Red Sox. The right-hander from Iowa logged 63.1 innings in 14 games and pitched very well in that time. Houston went 6-0 with a 2.41 ERA and 57 strikeouts.
WHIP – Nicholas Veselinovic didn’t tolerate base runners very often this season. The lefty from Ontario posted the lowest WHIP (walks + hits per inning pitched) in the WCBL with a 0.83 rate. That figure was part of a solid campaign that included a 3-0 record, 2.29 ERA and 36 Ks in 31.1 innings.
NO-HITTERS – There were three no-hitters thrown by four pitchers in the WCBL this year. The first occurred on June 18th at Tom Laing Park when the Sylvan Lake Gulls triumphed over the Weyburn Beavers 16-0. Ty Boudreau – who was born and raised in Nova Scotia before calling Calgary home – was unhittable through nine innings that night. The Vauxhall Academy graduate threw 120 pitches and struck out a dozen batters in the outing.
On July 19th at Legacy Dodge Field in Fort McMurray, Travis Cole and Reese Devlin combined on a no-no for the Giants in front of the home crowd during a 3-0 win over the Edmonton Prospects. Devlin was perfect through the first two frames before handing the ball over to Cole, who walked two and registered 10 Ks over the final seven innings.
California right-hander Izaiah Ayala pitched a seven-inning no-hitter for the Swift Current 57’s on July 20th against Weyburn. Ayala walked a pair of batters and struck out 13 opponents during that 7-0 victory.