By IAN WILSON
The best hitters and pitchers in the Western Canadian Baseball League have been recognized by the WCBL.
An outstanding campaign from middle infielder Ricardo Sanchez earned the star with the Okotoks Dawgs Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours.
The Mexico City native played 52 regular season games for the Dawgs and posted a .342 batting average in his 187 at bats. He also recorded a .455 on-base percentage, with 46 runs, 15 doubles, 39 runs batted in (RBI), 37 walks and 12 stolen bases. The right-handed hitter also provided sound defence and was a key driver of the offence in Okotoks. Sanchez, who hit for the cycle in the postseason, is a complete player who appeared near the top of the WCBL leaderboard in most offensive categories.
MOST OUTSTANDING PITCHER
The Sylvan Lake Gulls received a record-breaking season from left-handed pitcher Josh Tucker, who set a new benchmark for strikeouts by registering 96 Ks in 56.1 innings.
Tucker was named the WCBL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher after appearing in 10 games, nine of them starts, and going a perfect 6-0. The Spokane, Washington product had a 2.23 earned run avearge (ERA) while walking 24 batters. He surrendered just one long ball during the season and had a 1.05 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
The southpaw was also a strong playoff performer. He went 1-1 with a 3.37 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 10.2 postseason innings for the Gulls.
MOST OUTSTANDING CANADIAN
Reece Helland was a bullpen force playing for his hometown Moose Jaw Miller Express.
The reliable reliever made his way into 19 regular-season games for the Miller Express and helped lead the team to an appearance in the WCBL Championship Final against the Okotoks Dawgs.
The right-handed hurler logged 28 frames and picked up four saves and a win. In that time, he racked up 38 Ks and posted a 2.25 ERA. Helland, who was selected as the Most Outstanding Canadian player, allowed just one home run and registered a 1.14 WHIP this summer.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Catcher Diego Aragon was a late addition to the Regina Red Sox roster, but he started barreling up baseballs as soon as he joined the club in July.
The freshman from Fort Collins, Colorado played in 14 regular-season contests and a pair of postseason matchups in 2022. In his 60 at bats, Aragon scored 13 runs, picked up eight doubles and notched a homer and a stolen base. He also turned in 16 RBI and a .450 batting average. His on-base percentage was .563.
As a result of his hard-hitting efforts, Aragon was named the WCBL Rookie of the Year.
The Okotoks Dawgs had several candidates for WCBL Playoff MVP recognition, but Brendan Luther stood out among his peers.
The Mississauga, Ontario product had a stellar regular season. Luther had a .357 batting average, 49 runs, 15 doubles, 33 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 48 games.
When the playoffs rolled around, the middle infielder took his game to another level. In his seven postseason games, Luther led the WCBL in runs (11) and hits (13). The former Edmonton Prospect had a .448 batting average, a home run, three RBI and a stolen bases in 29 at bats. He was a clutch member of the championship squad.
The league also announced team MVPs for each WCBL franchise.
In the East Division, outfielder Nate Mensik (11 HR, 42 RBI, 48 runs, 14 SB, .314 average) was recognized by the Moose Jaw Miller Express, while the Regina Red Sox honoured catcher Mike Kenney (.409 average, 46 runs, 28 RBI).
The MVP tag was also given to 2022 Home Run Derby champ Nolan Machibroda (7 HR, 44 RBI, 40 runs, 17 doubles) of the Weyburn Beavers, and outfielder Cory Bonstrom (.338 average, 18 SB, 34 RBI, 30 runs) of the Swift Current 57’s.
Braden DeSonia, who set a single-season record for stolen bases with 42, was named the MVP of the Medicine Hat Mavericks. The Spokane, Washington product led the WCBL in at bats (230) and hits (80) and played in all 56 games for the Mavs. He also produced 49 runs, 42 RBI and five homers.
West Division most valuable players include outfielders Drew Mackie (.309 average, 42 runs, 14 SB, 25 RBI) of the Brooks Bombers; Caleb Feuerstake (.362 average, 19 SB, 26 RBI, 27 runs) of the Edmonton Prospects; and Reiss Calvin (.349 average, 16 SB, 44 runs, 29 RBI) of the Fort McMurray Giants.
Ty Boudreau, who tossed a no-hitter for the Gulls, was Sylvan Lake’s selection. The righty from Calgary went 6-3 with a 2.46 ERA and 72 Ks in 62 innings.
Outfielder Micah McDowell (.381 average, 25 SB, 30 runs) was exceptional for the Okotoks Dawgs, while third baseman Brandon Nicoll (.329 average, 28 runs, 27 RBI) was stellar with the Lethbridge Bulls. Both received MVP accolades for their campaigns.