KJ Ward Brings Heat Back To The Hawks!
Big Righty Will Wind His Way North Again
By Cody Schmidt
KJ Ward will be heading back to the mound at RE/MAX Field this year after turning heads in the Riverhawks inaugural season. The soft-spoken fireballer was getting ready for the college season along with other Riverhawk alums at Park University in Gilbert, Arizona, when he talked about heading back north in the summer.
“I'm really excited to be coming back to Edmonton. It's a great city with a beautiful ballpark and wonderful fans.”
The 6’5” righty made an impression with the Riverhawks in his first year with the squad. Towering over the mound, KJ covered the most innings out of any arm on the Hawks’ staff, with 47 frames to his name. Meeting the needs of that heavy workload, KJ also tied for the third most amount of strikeouts thrown on the team, a title he wants to claim in 2023.
"I'll be coming back with an even stronger arm. I'm tossing around 95 mph regularly.”
Since the Riverhawks’ season ended last August, KJ has put in work to up his pitch speeds and plus up his strikeout stuff. So far in the college season, Ward has only had the opportunity to face a single batter but in that matchup he did what he does best: notched his first K of the year.
This is the mentality that KJ will be bringing to the Riverhawks this year, a focus on tossing hard and racking up whiffs. Ward will be looking to lead the rotation and once again lead the Riverhawks in wins. With an extra few mph in speed backing him up, KJ is primed to break out past his strong 2022 season in Edmonton.
Riverhawks Head Coach Jake Lanferman had glowing things to say about Ward as well.
“I'm excited that he's returning to our program this summer. KJ's not only a talented baseball player, but a great person. He really established himself in the community last summer and was one of the fan favorites on our roster.”
Thankfully, KJ has familiar faces keeping him company in Arizona this year. Fellow Hawks pitchers Shaun Atamanchuk and Kyle Poapst are also throwing with the Park University Buccaneers. KJ integrated with the team early on last year, becoming one of the easiest faces to recognize on the team even if he’s not always as eager to step into the spotlight. KJ lets his talents on the mound do most of the talking, and they say more than enough to make him one of the key returning players for the 2023 Riverhawks.
"I really enjoyed the players on the team. We quickly established some camaraderie even though it was our first year in the league. I can't wait to see the boys and the fans!"
Lanferman agrees, as he was able to see KJ’s camaraderie first hand:
“[KJ’s] teammates love being around him because of his demeanor and he always brings great energy into our clubhouse and on the field. He's a great competitor and whenever he takes the mound, he gives us a great opportunity to compete and win games.”
Between their summer with the Riverhawks, and a spring together in Arizona, KJ and the rest of the rotation will be ready to take on the rest of the WCL in 2023. Keep an eye out for the squad of returning Riverhawks, led by KJ Ward when the team returns to RE/MAX Field for the Home Ppener June 13, 2023. Tickets for the 2023 season are available at gohawks.ca - get yours to come see KJ work his magic on the mound!