Alberta’s collegiate athletes provided baseball fans with a plethora of memories in 2022.
From record-breaking home run performances to breath-taking pitching outings, the list of accomplishments is something to be proud of for everyone involved.
Trying to whittle the list down to a simple roster was no small feat. Not only were we looking at players who were born and raised here, but we could have also included athletes who came here from other parts of Canada to train, like Dawgs Academy hurler Matt Wilkinson at Central Arizona College and Vauxhall Academy of Baseball infielder Max Grant at Canisius College.
This year’s roster features hitters who not only flirted with .400 batting averages, but knocked them out of the park. Some stole numerous bases while others brought fans to their feet with highlight-reel catches. On the bump, pitchers racked up strikeouts and wins at a ferocious pace while developing new pitches to get them to the next level.
We have flipped through box scores and stats reports at various schools in different divisions across the United States, and have narrowed down the list of top performers here.
Catcher – Gavin Logan – Oyen
Finally getting his chance to be the everyday starter with Oregon State, Gavin Logan took full advantage of the opportunity by hitting .281 with three home runs, 36 runs batted in and 28 runs scored in 45 games. The Dawgs Academy and Okotoks Dawgs grad also posted a stellar .998 fielding percentage behind the plate, on his way to being named to the All-Pac-12 First Team and All-Pac-12 Tournament Team. The 5-foot-11, 212-pound backstop also captured the attention of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who chose him with their ninth-round selection in the 2022 MLB Draft.
First Base – Matt Coutney – Wetaskiwin
What more can be said about Matt Coutney? The 2022 Canadian Baseball Network (CBN) College Player of the Year was phenomenal with Old Dominion University, hitting .376 with 27 home runs and 70 RBI in 58 games. What’s even more astonishing is he started the spring fairly slowly, and only really caught fire after starting to wear a contact lens during night games. Coutney picked up all sorts of accolades south of the border, including a second-team All-American by D1Baseball and to the All-VaSID First Team, tying him for the most All-American accolades by a Monarch in one season. The former Edmonton Prospects infielder was rewarded for his achievements by being taken in the tenth-round selection of the Los Angeles Angels in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Second Base – Ricky Sanchez – Okotoks
Any time you hit over .400 at the college level, people are going to take notice. Ricky Sanchez certainly made an impression in his first year at Barton Community College, hitting .442 with 35 doubles, nine home runs, 90 RBI and 27 stolen bases. He received NJCAA All-America baseball team honorable mention honours, and was also a Region VI Gold Glove Award winner with a .983 fielding percentage. Not only did the Dawgs Academy grad impress stateside, he returned home over the summer to help the Dawgs win the 2022 WCBL championship.
Third Base – Ty Penner – Lethbridge
It was a tough go for Ty Penner and the UBC Thunderbirds, as they weren’t able to participate in the NAIA play in 2020 or 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, he used the downtime to work on some things, including in the weight room, and emerged to hit .340 with 11 home runs and 47 RBI in 53 games. The Vauxhall Academy of Baseball product and Lethbridge Bulls alum also posted 18 doubles and two triples for the Thunderbirds, capturing the attention of the Philadelphia Phillies, who signed him to a free agent contract mere minutes after the MLB Draft concluded.
Shortstop – Cleary Simpson – Elnora
If his goal was to better his .338/3 HR/24 RBI performance in his first season at Colby Community College, Cleary Simpson accomplished his mission. The 5-foot-10, 160-pound infielder came back in 2022 with a vengeance on opposing pitchers, posting a .390 batting average with seven home runs and 39 RBI. He also more than doubled his double totals (eight to 19) while lowering his strikeout total (27 to 23). Simpson, who spent this summer with the Sylvan Lake Gulls, will look to continue his success with Northern Kentucky University in 2023.
Outfield – Tucker Zdunich – High River
Many eyes will be following Tucker Zdunich heading into the 2023 season, and for good reason. The Dawgs Academy product hit .379 with 17 home runs, 67 RBI and eight stolen bases in 59 games for Reinhardt University in 2022. The 5-foot-10, 190-pound sophomore, who was also a part of the Okotoks Dawgs WCBL championship run, has already been tabbed as someone poised for a big spring, as he was recently named to the NAIA Preseason Baseball All-America Team, the lone Canadian to be named.
Outfield – Cesar Valero – Calgary
If we had an award for the top single-game performance of the year, Cesar Valero would win it without question. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Sacramento State sophomore put on a clinic against Houston Baptist on March 4, collecting three home runs, a triple and 10 RBI, setting school single-game records. That performance later earned him the Sacramento State Individual Performance of the Year Award. It was part of an impressive campaign where the Dawgs Academy product hit .297 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI in just 39 games. Unfortunately, his season was cut short due to injury, but he undoubtedly left an impression in his first season with the Hornets.
Outfield – Logan Grant – Chestermere
Everyone was blown away by the 2021 season that Logan Grant had. Hitting .423 with eight home runs and 58 RBI, it was hard to believe he would be able to top those marks. However, the Bismarck State Mystics star did exactly that, slashing at a .462 clip with 10 home runs and 73 RBI. He also upped his double and triple production from the previous year, while keeping his strikeout total at a mere 12. The Dawgs Academy grad was named Mon-Dak Conference 1st Team All-Conference and to the Canadian Baseball Network’s All-Canuck 1st Team.
Designated Hitter – Tom Poole – Calgary
Albertans seem to really enjoy their time on the Cloud County Community College baseball team and Tom Poole is no exception. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound freshman thought he was going to be on the team as a pitcher, but quickly became their star hitter, posting a .366 batting average with 23 home runs and 71 RBI. Setting the school record for dingers, Poole also added 12 doubles and five triples to earn an All-KJCCC West team honour as well as an NJCAA All-Academic Second Team honour. His performance earned him interest from Division I schools, leading to signing a letter of intent with Dallas Baptist University.
Pitcher – Cohen Achen – Calgary
After coming back from a scary facial injury to dominate on the mound with Lindsay Wilson College in 2021, Cohen Achen became the ace for the Blue Raiders and showed that his previous year was no fluke. He led the team in starts with 12, as well as earned-run average (4.25) and strikeouts (76). He also impressed with a 7-2 record, walking just 21 of the 292 batters he faced. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound righthander was also named First Team All Mid-South Conference.
Pitcher – Andrew Yusypchuk – Edmonton
If the Chandler-Gilbert Community College Coyotes were looking for a steady presence on the mound, Andrew Yusypchuk was able to provide it. Whether it was as a starter or coming out of the bullpen, the St. Francis Xavier and Dawgs Academy product made 15 appearances for the team, including nine starts, to post a 6-4 record and a 4.60 ERA. He also struck out 67 batters in 76+ innings of work, including a fantastic nine-strikeout performance against GateWay Community College on April 16, where he went eight-plus innings. Yusypchuk also fulfilled a goal of his by committing to a Division 1 school, as he will be heading to Southern Illinois University.
Pitcher – Ben Erwin – Spruce Grove
A graduate student at Niagara University, Ben Erwin became one of the workhorses for the Purple Eagles in 2022. Making 23 appearances out of the bullpen, Erwin posted a 1-2 record with three saves. He ranked fourth on the team in ERA (5.00), fifth in strikeouts (34) and issued just 14 walks while not allowing a home run. The Vauxhall Academy of Baseball product came back to Alberta during the summer to return as the Lethbridge Bulls’ closer, where he picked up five saves and a 2.55 ERA in 18 appearances.
As mentioned, many of these athletes were also singled out by the Canadian Baseball Network. If you haven’t already, check out their yearly recognitions here:
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.