Drinkwater product Kaleb Waller had already put together a solid season for the Moose Jaw 18U AAA Canucks and a couple of decent pitching performances for the Moose Jaw Miller Express by the time the Western Canadian Baseball League post-season rolled around last summer.
What he did there has the local WCBL team looking for big things from their freshman hurler when the 2023 season kicks off in just under two months' time.
Waller, 19, was pressed into service in Game 3 of the East Division final against the Medicine Hat Mavericks as the short-staffed Miller Express looked to stay alive in the playoffs.
Waller had gotten the job done in the second and deciding game of the first-round series against Swift Current, pitching two innings and allowing a single hit as Moose Jaw held on for a 5-3 win.
But the game against the Mavericks was different -- Cameron Dunn had done all he could on short rest, going three innings and allowing a single run on three hits, and Waller was coming in looking to limit the damage in what was at the time a 1-0 Moose Jaw deficit.
So how did he do?
Five innings pitched, no runs on five hits, four strikeouts, no walks and the win as the Express tied the game in the sixth and put up four runs in the seventh on their way to a 5-1 win in front of a raucous Ross Wells Park crowd.
“Oh man, I never expected this,” an elated Waller said at the time. “I got a text from [head coach] Eric [Marriott] the night before the first practice to come play on the team and I texted him back within 10 minutes and I was like ‘let’s do it’. And now I’m here doing this… I never thought I’d be here right now and it’s just amazing.”
Now he’ll be doing it all full-time this summer.
All told, Waller made nine appearances as an affiliated player during the regular season, starting two games and finishing with a 6.35 earned run average to go along with 11 strikeouts and 12 walks over 17 innings pitched.
His final campaign in the Saskatchewan Premier Baseball League with the Canucks was outstanding.
Waller started 14 games for Moose Jaw, pitching a team-leading 65 innings and putting together a 3.77 earned run average and 1.60 walks and hits per inning pitched. All told, he’d finish with 73 strikeouts, the second-highest total in the league.
Waller is currently playing for Kankanee Community College in Kankanee, Ill., with the Cavaliers playing in National Junior College Athletic Association Region 4. In nine college appearances, Waller has allowed seven runs on 13 hits over 14 ⅓ innings, striking out nine and walking seven in that span.
Kankakee is off to a solid start with a 19-8 record through the first month of the season, good enough for fourth place in their division.
You can follow along with Waller’s NJCAA season at www.athletics.kcc.edu/baseball and be sure to keep an eye on the Miller Express Twitter account for more updates as the season gets closer.
The Miller Express open the 2023 WCBL season on Saturday, May 27 when they host the Weyburn Beavers.
Extra innings… the Miller Express are looking for billet families for the upcoming season. Contact Lindsey Stephenson at (306) 209-9492 or Ryan Stephenson at (306) 209-5867 if you’re interested in helping out… season tickets are also available, contact Cory Olafson at (306) 621-8893 or Darryl Pisio at (306) 630-8108 for more information and to purchase.