By IAN WILSON
Hitters and pitchers across the Western Canadian Baseball League turned in some outstanding performances this summer.
Whether it was going yard, striking out batters or stealing bases, WCBL players put their talents on full display.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best and brightest around the league during the 2023 regular season.
Dawson Tweet of the Moose Jaw Miller Express had a season for the ages. He led the circuit in batting average (.411), on-base percentage (.490), OPS (1.061), runs (61) and hits (90). He also tied for the league lead in doubles with Trent Lawson of the Weyburn Beavers at 16, and was part of a three-way tie for the triples lead. Tweet, Jonah Weisner of the Gulls and Bitner Workman of the Red Sox all smacked five triples. The utility player from Russell, Manitoba also set and tied a pair of single-season WCBL records. When he hit safely in 36 straight games to start the season, Tweet surpassed Brandon Bufton’s hit streak of 28 games as a member of the Lethbridge Bulls in 2015. In addition, his 90 hits tied the high-water mark that was established by Tristan Peters of the Okotoks Dawgs in 2019.
Corner infielder Torrin Vaselenak was the sultan of swat in the WCBL this summer. The native of Coaldale, Alberta watched Eric Rataczak of the Brooks Bombers and Nash Crowell of the Okotoks Dawgs battle for the home run lead for much of the season, before passing them by the end of the year. Both Rataczak – who finished with 11 round trippers – and Crowell, who swatted 10 homers, participated in the Home Run Derby at the WCBL All-Star Game. Vaselenak prevailed, however, by launching 12 home runs on the season. Rataczak finished with the best slugging percentage (.627) in the league.
The runs batted in (RBI) title belonged to Jonah Weisner, an infielder with the Sylvan Lake Gulls. Weisner’s 49 RBI were part of an inspiring campaign that included a .392 batting average, 85 hits, 13 doubles, 23 stolen bases and a .483 on-base percentage.
Outfielder Cory Bonstrom of the Swift Current 57’s proved a nightmare to opposing catchers. The Tucson, Arizona native led the WCBL with 30 stolen bases, a couple more than Nick Groves, a utility player with the Sylvan Gulls. Bonstrom also drew the most walks this summer, mustering 40 bases on balls in 156 at bats.
Austin Gurney, the first baseman with the Miller Express, took a more painful approach to getting on base. The Campbell River, B.C. product was hit by pitches 18 times, the most plunks of any player in the league.
When Ethan Merk was on the bump for Moose Jaw, the odds were good that the Miller Express would win the game. The Regina native led the WCBL in pitching wins with eight and only lost once during the summer. The righthander paired that 8-1 record with a 3.17 earned run average (ERA), a save and 53 strikeouts in his 62.1 innings of work. Merk was also a versatile hurler – he made 14 appearances, including 11 starts and three trips out of the bullpen.
Left-handed pitcher Josh Tucker was a strikeout stockpiler for his second straight summer with the Sylvan Lake Gulls. Tucker, who was named the WCBL’s Most Outstanding Pitcher in 2022, racked up 70 Ks in 53 innings. That total was down from his record of 91 strikeouts last year, but it was enough to fend off Dylan Esquival and his 67 Ks for the Medicine Hat Mavericks.
Tucker’s teammate, Ty Boudreau, who started for the West Division in the 2023 WCBL All-Star Game, was stingy when it came to allowing runners to score this season. The Calgarian posted a league-best 1.54 ERA in his 46.2 innings on the bump. Boudreau appeared in 15 games, five of them starts, and he had a 5-1 record. The righty also collected four saves and racked up 52 Ks.
Daniel Crabtree went to work in the WCBL this year. The Regina Red Sox player from Marietta, Georgia logged more innings (68.2) than any other pitcher and he also led the circuit in complete games with four. In that time, he had a 4-3 record and a 3.15 ERA.
Closing out games is never easy, but Jacob Clark got the job done for the Weyburn Beavers. The southpaw led the WCBL with seven saves and he combined that with 42 strikeouts and a 4.36 ERA in 33 innings. Clark’s 34 pitching appearances were also the most in the league.
Logan Knight didn’t have much time for base runners this summer. The righthander with the Fort McMurray Giants – who hails from London, Ontario – posted the lowest WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched) in the WCBL at 0.91. He also put up a 3-1 record and 42 Ks in 41.2 innings.