* The Okotoks Dawgs have signed Mesa Thunderbirds RHPs Evan Fresquez and Joseph Carvalho and OFAlex Gudac … along with coach Dave Robb (Lac Le Biche, Alta.). ….
Dawgs sign top Mesa arms, bat
By Jonathan Hodgson
The Okotoks Dawgs signed three highly regarded players from the defending NJCAA Div. 2 World Series champions, Mesa Community College Thunderbirds. Headed to Okotoks this summer are right-handed pitchers Evan Fresquez and Joseph Carvalho, along with outfielder Alex Gudac.
Fresquez is a 5-foot-9, 190 pound right-handed pitcher from Las Vegas, who made an impact for the T-Birds as a freshman in 2014. Fresquez made 16 appearances last year, including six starts and posted a 7-0 record with a 2.55 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. In November 2014, he committed to NCAA Div. 1 Utah Valley University for his junior year beginning in the fall of 2015.
He has enjoyed a very solid start to 2015, posting a 3-0 record and working to a 3.50 ERA in his first three starts this spring. In 18 innings, he has allowed 16 hits and 3 walks while recording 17 strikeouts.
Mesa CC assistant coach, David Robb (Lac La Biche, Alta.) says that Fresquez will make an impact on the mound for the Dawgs, saying “Fresquez has outstanding stuff. He features a fastball in the high 80’s with a lot of run, and compliments it with a slider with good bite. He is high energy on the mound and will give the Dawgs plenty of quality innings this summer.”
Carvalho, a six-foot, 165 pounder right-hander out of Lancaster, Calif., is in his sophomore year at Mesa CC. He was an immediate difference maker on the mound for the T-Birds in 2014, starting 16 games and pitching a team-high 107.2 innings as a freshman. With his 11-2 record, Carvalho tied for the team lead for wins, while his 78 strikeouts led the team and his 1.67 ERA was second best among Thunderbirds starters.
Following the season, Carvalho was named 1st Team All-American in the ACCAC as a freshman, and has committed to Cal State Bakersfield (NCAA Div. 1) for his junior year. He has been excellent early this spring, working to a 0.64 ERA with a 3-0 record. In 14 innings, he has allowed just 8 hits while striking out 12.
“Carvalho was an All-American at the Junior College level. He has a fastball in the high 80’s to low 90’s, can locate it, and is able to pitch inside consistently to hitters,” Robb said. “He is very reliable, whether he starts or comes in from the bullpen.”
The final Mesa Thunderbird player flying north is sophomore outfielder Gudac. The 5-foot-10, 160 lb. native of Salt Lake City, was a spark plug in Mesa’s lineup as a freshman. The right-handed hitter posted a .325 average in 58 games, driving in 34 runs on the strength of four doubles, six triples and four home runs.
Gudac possesses a potent combination of power and speed, finishing second on the team in home runs and third in RBI’s, while leading Mesa with 24 stolen bases. Coach Robb says the Dawgs are getting an exciting, versatile player.
“Alex is currently hitting in the middle of our order but is a prototypical ‘lead-off type’ guy,” Robb says. “He had 25 stolen bases in 2014 and should up that number to 30+ this year. With his speed, he has a chance to be a game-changer.”
Though he has played primarily in the outfield this spring, Gudac has substantial experience on the infield, and with his athleticism could very well be a candidate to serve a valuable utility role for the Dawgs this summer. In 12 games this spring, Gudac has driven in five runs with four extra-base hits, and four stolen bases.
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Robb returns to Okotoks this summer for his third tenure on the summer collegiate coaching staff as the assistant coach for second year Dawgs head coach, Brett Thomas, who is an assistant at the College of San Mateo in California. Robb was previously the Dawgs head coach in 2004-07, and again in 2010 when Thomas was his assistant.
Robb, who brings a wealth of knowledge to the Dawgs with his extensive baseball background and coaching resume. He played collegiality at storied NCAA Div. 1 program, Cal State Fullerton, and went on to play in the Oakland A’s organization, as well as professionally in Italy. Similarly, Robb’s coaching career has included a tenure with the Oakland A’s single-A affiliate, the Visalia Oaks in 1998, as well as time with the Canadian National Team, and the Italian National Team.
Robb, who has also spent time coaching in the Dawgs Academy, won 2004 WMBL Coach of the Year honors as he guided the Dawgs to their first WMBL Championship, and was at the helm again as the Dawgs christened Seaman Stadium with the 2007 WMBL championship in the team’s first season in Okotoks.
Head coach Thomas was the starting catcher for Robb on that 2007 squad, and will now work alongside his mentor.
“I am ecstatic to have ‘D.R.’ back in a Dawgs uniform,” says Thomas. “D.R. had an instrumental role in my development as a coach, and I still consider him a mentor of mine. I anticipate learning a great deal from him as we work together to bring a championship back to Okotoks.”
Robb rounds out a 2015 coaching staff that includes Thomas, and pitching coach Austin Brough of MacMurray College in Illinois, who both return for their second season.
Robb is in his second tenure under head coach Tony Cirelli at Mesa CC and there is a strong history of Mesa Thunderbirds excelling in Dawgs colors.
The first player sent to the Dawgs from Mesa was right-handed pitcher Kyler Newby in 2004. Newby has turned a 50th round draft selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2004, into an outstanding career. Newby has signed with his fifth Major League organization, the Oakland A’s, for 2015, which will be his 11th year in affiliated baseball, having pitched at the triple-A level for four organizations.
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Two key members of the 2014 Okotoks Dawgs will return in 2015 in new roles as they enter a new chapter in their careers.
Travis McDonald and Mark Riendeau will join the Dawgs Academy coaching staff this spring and summer. Both players were instrumental to the Dawgs success in the second half of 2014, including the team’s thrilling comeback victory over the Lethbridge Bulls in the first round, and are again turning to Okotoks, this time to launch their coaching careers.
McDonald was dominant for the Dawgs in 2014 as a left-handed pitcher after making his debut on Canada Day. Used mainly out of the bullpen as the Dawgs closer, McDonald had just completed his collegiate career in the spring at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock (NCAA Div. 1), where made 33 appearances and 17 starts over two years, leading the Trojans in innings pitched with 69 in 2014.
The 22 year-old Sydney, Australia native began his collegiate career at Central Arizona College, and helped Team Australia’s Junior National Team earn a silver medal at the 2010 World Junior Baseball Championships.
For the Dawgs in 2014, McDonald pitched to a 2-1 record with three saves in eight regular season appearances, and played a starring role in the playoffs where he would make six appearances and strike out 12 in 8 1/3 innings. He saved game three and the decisive game five of the first round, enabling the Dawgs to win three consecutive games to advance to the West Final.
Last September, on the heels of his performance with the Dawgs, McDonald signed a minor league contract with the Cincinnati Reds. Unfortunately he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on Feb. 11th of this year, prompting the move to coaching.
A return to Okotoks to join the Dawgs Academy represented the perfect fit for McDonald.
“The Dawgs gave me so much last summer,” McDonald said. “Being back in Okotoks will be a perfect fit. I am looking forward to working with the staff there to further my baseball IQ, and to give back to the Dawgs organization.”
McDonald is scheduled to arrive in Okotoks in mid-April, and will coach the Academy’s midget white team with coach Greg Wolfe.
A native of Carlsbad, Calif., Riendeau served as the Dawgs utility player throughout 2014, coming to the team from Louisiana College (NCAA Div. 2) in Pineville, La. Riendeau saw most of his playing time came at second and third base as well as left field, and made at least one appearance at every position over the course of the season. His right-handed bat was also very valuable to the Dawgs, as he hit .281 with three homers. His 25 RBIs were third on the team, while his seven stolen bases were tied for fifth.
“I am blessed to come back to Dawgs,” said Riendeau. “The summer I spent playing there was the best time of my life and I knew from the first day that I would come back for whatever opportunity that presented itself.”
And when the opportunity arose, the 22 year-old Riendeau jumped at the chance to help guide the next generation of Dawgs.
“I’m looking forward to being able to learn from such an experienced and quality coaching staff like the Dawgs have, and am going into it eager to learn as much as I can,” said Riendeau. “There is no better place to have my first coaching job than Okotoks, and I am excited to have the chance to help these younger players achieve their goal of playing at the next level.”
“I know how dedicated and talented the players are, and look forward to being a teacher and mentor to them,” said Riendeau, who goes on to say this is an opportunity for him to give back to Okotoks and to the Dawgs after the once in a lifetime experience he was given as a player last year.
Riendeau will report to Okotoks in May, following the conclusion of his senior year at Louisiana College where he will earn his degree in psychology. He will coach the Academy’s bantam black team with coach Scott Smith.
“This is Dawgs loyalty at it’s best,” said Dawgs program head coach Allen Cox. “It’s always a plus to bring in young coaches who can relate with the players and are fresh and energetic. Both Travis and Mark bring that, having just finished their playing careers, and the fact that they played for the Dawgs means that they know what we are trying to do here!”
McDonald and Riendeau will add further to an already strong roster of now 20 coaches in the organization, with the inclusion of full-time coaches, seasonal instructors as well as the summer collegiate team.
The Academy staff now includes 10 individuals who once played for the Dawgs, including among others: Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Jim Henderson; three-time WMBL champion and ex-pro pitcher, Jeff Duda; and recent Dawgs Academy and collegiate players turned MLB draft picks, Tyler Hollick and Jordan Procyshen.