The Weekly Dawg
By Dustin Saracini
Canadian Baseball Network
Okotoks, AB - Reflecting on his Dawgs career in Okotoks, veteran hurler Liam Stroud found it difficult to limit his cherished memories to just one.
The University of British Columbia Thunderbird will be back in the red and white uniform for a third time next month, and said there is no better feeling for a ball player than pitching in front of thousands of passionate fans.
“The first thing that pops into my head is Canada Day last summer,” he said.
“I can’t even describe how amazing of an opportunity it was -- 5,500, 6000 people, and my family came out for that weekend so it was really nice to be able to pitch in that atmosphere and that crowd in that big of a game … it’s something out of a movie ... The start in Edmonton I had last summer as well, in that do-or-die game. It was, for me, pretty memorable -- one of the best starts I’ve had for the Dawgs.”
Number 25 was phenomenal in both starts, combining for just three earned runs in 13.1 innings pitched, adding a tick to the win column in each outing.
This type of success isn’t new to Dawgs fans, who have watched Stroud toe the rubber from the captivating vantage point of Seaman Stadium for two seasons. He has grown up through the collegiate Dawgs system, adding a cut-fastball to an already impressive repertoire under former pitching coach Jesse English.
A season ago, he ranked 10th in the WMBL in terms of ERA and finished with 50 innings under his belt, second to just C.J. Lewington. He has truly gone from a clean-shaven freshman to a grizzled veteran as a Dawg.
Stroud started his journey with Okotoks in 2014 while he was still in his first year at Niagara University. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound senior enjoyed three seasons with the Purple Eagles before returning home to excel in the bullpen for British Columbia. There, the right-hander had an unblemished 2-0 record, hosted a staggering 1.27 ERA in 14 appearances and became a vital part in a pitching staff that was third in the NAIA in earned runs.
Even though UBC entered the NAIA West Grouping Championships as the No. 1 seed, their season came to an abrupt end against the College of Idaho, a team they took three of four games against prior to the playoffs. Coming up short, Stroud said, only makes him hungrier to capture a WMBL title for the fans in Okotoks.
“It wasn’t the way we wanted our season to end,” he noted.
“Especially for me, it wasn’t the way I wanted my collegiate career to end. Losing in the finals definitely makes the summer season have that much more importance.”
Stroud will look to play a key role for the Dawgs in 2017 while the team works to halt their seven-year drought -- and he is more than ready for the task. Being a senior, the Maple Ridge, B.C. product will be a leader on and off the field, and wants to lead by example.
“[I want my] work ethic to speak for itself, and have a couple guys pick up on that,” he said.
“The first time I came to Okotoks, I was a freshman. It was a bit of an eye-opening experience. Coming from the U of N program that I was at to Okotoks and having a bunch of guys there from a bunch of different schools -- I picked up a lot from them. That definitely helped me, so I’m hoping I can leave a mark on some freshman there by the time the summer is over … just kind of leave your legacy behind and pay it forward.”
Leading the pack with Stroud will be veteran starters Lewington and Chris Horvath, who all briefly pitched together in 2014 for the Dawgs while they were still youngsters. Next month, it’ll be a different story -- the trio enter the campaign as seniors, coming together for the first time in three years.
“Chris pitched phenomenally for us [in 2014], C.J. had a great year, too. Last year especially he came back, [and was] the ace of the staff -- he’s a guy to watch out for,” Stroud said.
“It’s kind of funny how it all comes full circle. All three of us are back there again, getting to play with each other for probably our final summer.”
In the same breath, he was quick to note the addition of UBC teammate, and senior, Connor Noble, who recently won NAIA West Pitcher of the Year. Longtime Dawg Brendan Rose of the TBirds will also be back for his final tour.
“The way I described it [to Noble] is, if my baseball career ends in Okotoks, there’s no place I’d rather hang it up, rather throw my last pitch,” Stroud said.
“Okotoks, being the place it is, you want to bring home a championship … There’d be no greater way to go out than bringing a championship back home to Okotoks and to be able to contribute to a Dawgs championship in my final year.”
With the strong combination of leadership and talent, there’s no limit on what this team can do.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Seaman Stadium, June 2.