Red Deer’s Dominic Skjonsberg looked like he was in midseason form on Saturday.
The Red Deer U18 AAA Tier I CarStar Braves only returning pitcher from last season threw six and one-third scoreless innings en route to a 9-2 win in their first regular season game over the Sherwood Park Dukes at Gulls Stadium.
The Braves ace was pulled in the final inning of Baseball Alberta Elite League (BAEL) action after loading up the bases with a 9-0 lead in the seventh. But despite that, Skjonsberg led the team to victory with five strikeouts.
“I thought it was a good win,” said the Braves third-year pitcher. “I thought I was competing right from the start ready to go. I’ve just got to learn how to finish that one out.”
“I couldn’t have done it without these guys. As a pitcher, you always look for run support and these guys did a great job. I didn’t have to worry about anything… The pitcher is only as good as the team behind him.”
Coming into his senior year Skjonsberg put in a lot of work at the St. Joseph High School Baseball Academy lifting weights and working on his pitching. He explained the program helped him take the next step in his game, especially his throwing mechanics.
After this season he’ll take a gap year to focus on his training at the academy with hopes of landing a scholarship to a post-secondary school either in Canada or in the United States to continue baseball.
“I’m not really afraid to throw anything at any point. I have my fastball, curveball, and my slider that I really like,” he said.
“It’s really great to go out there and be the starting guy to start the season and begin on a good note.”
Head coach Josh Zanolli certainly didn’t have any qualms with the effort from his starting pitcher or from the rest of his squad.
“He’s been very good… That’s what we need from him he’s a Grade 12 and this is a big year for him. We’re going to rely on him for some big games,” Zanolli said.
“He’s one of our only third-year guys here so he’s been around this league for a while. He’s made the full-time commitment this year to be a pitcher only and he’s worked really hard.”
The Braves basically have an entirely new pitching rotation from last year with the exception of Skjonsberg and Zanolli said it’s a nice luxury to have a familiar face in the lineup. The next closest is Chance Morbeck who pitched last year out of Camrose.
On Saturday Braves centerfielder Ryley Doig led the way with five runs batted in meanwhile Sawyer Marshall contributed three hits in the victory.
The Braves followed the season opening win with a 10-9 win over the Cardinals later Saturday. They knocked off the Cardinals 3-1 Sunday and also beat the Dukes 6-2.
The Braves are expected to be one of the top teams in the league following a 33-6 season in 2022. They went on to lose in the provincial final but a preseason coaches poll has them ranked as the top team in the BAEL.