HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
Joran Graham can step out of the pitcher’s circle for the 2021 fastball season with a smile on his face.
The Cobden, ON., strikeout machine recently finished his whirlwind, international COVID-19 pandemic campaign in style with the Micksburg Twins. (Micksburg is a community in Renfrew County south of Pembroke, ON.)
For the second straight year, the Twins captured the Greater Ottawa Fastball League championship as Graham tossed a five-inning no-hitter, struck out 11 batters and scored two runs in a 7-0 mercy-rule, victory over Orleans Rebels on Oct. 8.
Playing on their home diamond in front of an estimated 125 fans, the Twins broke open a tight game in the fifth and final inning with a five-run outburst, sparked by first-baseman Scott Conroy’s three-run, home run. Conroy also brought home Graham for the Twins’ first run, when he reached base on a Rebels error.
Graham gave Micksburg a 2-0 advantage, when his first of two intentional walks led to a run, after a Jared Steege double.
Micksburg finished second in the GOFL with a 7-3 record, while Kars Aces won the regular-season pennant at 8-2. Orleans Rebels placed fifth at 3-7, but won three of five playoff games. The Rebels only lost to the Twins.
By helping to defend the GOFL title, Graham capped a stellar 2021 season. But there was one box that didn’t get a check mark this year.
Graham was one of 44 players named to Softball Canada’s men’s national team selection pool in November, 2019. He earned a spot on that squad for the first time.
But he missed the national-team cut last month, when Softball Canada selected its men’s squad for the 2022 Pan American championships Feb. 19-27 in Parana, Argentina.
For a three-week period beginning in mid August, Graham was picked up by two teams – the Horsholm Von Holmback Hurricanes of Denmark for the European Super Cup fastball tournament and the Bear Creek Express of Melbourne, ON., for the International Softball Congress world championships in Eldridge, Iowa, and the Softball Canada Rawlings Grand Slam tournament in Saskatoon.
Graham was a star player in the European competition in Prague, Czech Republic. In the final, he not only hit a first-inning, three-run home run, but also pitched a three-hit shutout as the Hurricanes defeated Chomutov Beavers of the host country 7-0 in the championship game.
In his five pitching assignments, Graham went 28 innings, posted four wins, struck out 63 of the 101 batters he faced and allowed 15 hits and six earned runs.
At the Grand Slam tournament in early September, Graham had a 1-1 win-loss record for the Express. He had one complete game and two relief appearances, striking out 13, but giving up nine hits, seven walks and five earned runs over eight innings.
The Express were 1-2 at the ISC worlds in Iowa and tied for ninth place out of 22 teams. No individual statistics were available.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @martincleary.
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