By Jeremy McDonald
MONMOUTH, Ore.– Given the circumstances of this year, Central-grad and Chemeketa Community College sophomore Kaleb Kantola made the most of the few pitching outings that he had this past Summer and Fall.
For Kantola, who ended his High School career as a first team pitcher at the League and State level as well as Mid-Willamette Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year and 5A State Pitcher of the Year in 2018, entered his two games with the Portland Gherkins this past Summer not having thrown a pitch since early in the Spring. Pitching nine-and-a-third innings with 16 strikeouts for the Storm before the season was canceled due to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
In two games with the Gherkins, a part of the Wild Wild West League, Kantola had pitched four-and-two-third innings, with eight strikeouts. Impressive considering the talent-level of the teams in the league that varied from community college kids like himself, to Division-1 athletes like Andy Armstrong from Oregon State.
“It was awesome to be able to play given the circumstances and it was a great experience to be able to compete against high level baseball players. The games I played were a great experience and I thank the WWWL for putting it on,” Kantola said.
“Those games showed me that I can improve on the command of my off-speed pitches and yes it was a showcase. I worked on commanding my off-speed as well as my fastball and felt really good going into the (MLB Prospect) showcase.”
The MLB Prospect showcase occurred on Halloween Day, pitching an inning with three strikeouts to his name. His fastball hovered around 90/91 miles-an-hour, touching 92. Kantola’s curveball, the 11/5 variety, showed depth with it ranging from 79-81 on the gun.
Nerves were there of course. Kantola pointed towards it’s always good to be nervous, but as long as you can flip the switch and be ready to go. Capping a brief pitching offseason as he prepares for his sophomore season with the Storm of Salem. A student of the game, Kantola knows there’s always room to improve.
“Honestly I just took the opportunity I was given and made the most of it. It’s always good to be nervous because that means that you care but once it’s time to go you have to flip the switch and be ready to compete,” said Kantola. “Looking back on it I thought it went well, there is always stuff that you need to improve on but overall, I had a great time and I’m happy with the way I competed.
“When you compete against top notch baseball players there has to be a level of focus that comes into play. I believe that if I keep the same level of focus every game, good things will happen. Over fall and winter break I will be working to put on mass as well as keeping my arm loose and body. My goal is to dominate this spring and to do that I will have to put in the work.
Prior to the MLB Showcase, Kantola went to social media announcing that he was furthering his baseball career beyond the Spring of 2021 by joining the Oregon State University baseball program.
Knowing the work is only beginning now towards the high expectations that the OSU program has become while also focusing on the here and now in helping Chemeketa making a deep run for the NWAC Championship.
“It really is a great feeling knowing I’ll be going to play at the best baseball program in the nation. That being said the work has just begun and I can’t wait to see what god has in store for me,” Kantola said.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald