Top Dawgs to watch for in 2018
By: Dustin Saracini
When the calendar flips to June, Seaman Stadium will once again be your summer getaway. The field will play home to the sights and sounds of Dawgs baseball and will, once again, be the place where relationships are forged. Whether it is your favourite player hitting the game-winning home run, or if you just want to enjoy a day out in the sun with your family, the Dawgs will leave a lasting imprint on the warm, summer days in Okotoks.
In our first installment of “Top Dawg,” we get a closer look at five collegiate Dawgs, new and old, who are making headlines at the NCAA or NJCAA level.
Matt Lloyd (INF/P – Okotoks, Alta. -- Indiana University): A perennial talent, Lloyd continues to display a versatile skill set at Indiana and is reaping the benefits of a two-pronged attack. In 2017 as a sophomore, the Okotoks product was a First-Team All Region selection, finishing tied for third in the Big Ten for doubles (16), fifth in slugging percentage (.554), and tied for seventh in home runs (11), all while hitting for a .301 average. This season, Lloyd is second on the team with three long balls over 16 games played while leading Indiana with 12 extra-base hits.
Lloyd has dominated on the mound as Indiana’s primary closer, ending the 2017 campaign with nine saves, good for fourth in the conference. He’s up to much of the same this season, completing four unblemished innings, striking out three batters, and registering three saves.
While not seeing an appearance on the mound for Okotoks in 2017, Lloyd absolutely raked at the top of the lineup for the red and white. The Dawgs Academy alumnus led the WMBL with a .402 average, bolstered by a franchise-high 24-game hit streak.
Kody Funderburk (1B/P – Dallas Baptist University): Another name you’re probably familiar with, but, as a fan of the Dawgs, it wouldn’t do the list justice to not provide an update on his rookie season with Dallas Baptist. Fresh off a decorated career at Mesa Community College, the former WMBL MVP is on a tear as of late. Recording five hits in his last four games, including a five RBI, two home run contest against Oral Roberts, it is safe to say Funderburk is acclimatizing himself to Division 1 baseball.
Another versatile athlete, Funderburk has also displayed his elite-level talent on the mound, pitching to a 3.31 ERA over four appearances. The 6-foot-4, 225-pound lefty worked his best start against Oklahoma Feb. 27, tossing five innings of shutout baseball, allowing just one hit in a 5-2 win.
The power bat powered the Dawgs throughout the regular season in 2017, hitting a league-leading 16 home runs, finishing the year with a .339 average.
Justin King (OF – Okotoks, Alta. - Indian Hills *University of Alabama commit*): A former member of the Dawgs Academy, King has had an absolute field day at the NJCAA Division 1 level this season. King has been tremendous since returning from a wrist fracture this summer, recording his best game against Eastern Oklahoma State on Feb. 9, just the second game of the season. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound outfielder was the lone bright spot that day, going 4-4 with a double, two home runs, three RBI, and two runs scored in an 8-7 loss. King is now slashing an eye-popping .361/.410/.917, with the .917 slugging percentage ranking 18th in the NJCAA.
King has yet to make an appearance on the mound. This will be his first full season with the Dawgs after playing in parts of games in 2016 and 2017.
William Hollis (3B/OF – Cisico Community College): Making his debut with the Dawgs will be Hollis, the 6-foot-3, 225-pounder out of McKinney, Texas. In the NJCAA Division 1, Hollis is enjoying a great sophomore season on a team that is having their way with the competition. Through 80 at-bats, Hollis has been one of the hottest hitters on the club, blasting three home runs while slashing a line of .425/.490/.662. The left-handed hitting versatile defender has been an integral part of the team’s NJCAA-leading .425 overall average and incredible 24-1 record to date. Aside from ranking 16th in the NJCAA in terms of RBIs with 35, Hollis has shown an incredible approach at the plate, striking out just 11 times.
Brandon Sparks (CF/SS – Bellevue University): Under Dawgs head coach Mitch Schmidt, Sparks has provided some additional speed and pop as a defender who can play both infield and outfield. Before making the move to Bellevue, though, Sparks attended Waubonsee Community College for two years, swiping a career-high 15 bases while driving in a career-best 31 runs as a sophomore. Sparks also led the team in average as a freshman. With Bellevue, an NAIA National Champion, Sparks is hitting .333/.429/.500 through 12 games in his first year with the team.
The Dawgs take on the Edmonton Prospects June 1 in a rematch of last year’s playoff.