Albers' Gem Lifts Canada to Gold Medal at Pan Am Games
LAGOS DE MORENO, Mexico -- In the gold medal game of the 2011 Pan American Games, former Kentucky southpaw Andrew Albers pitched into the seventh inning and allowed only one run to pace Canada to a 2-1 win over the USA on Tuesday night.
Albers tossed 6.2 innings in the biggest start of his baseball career for his native country, allowing only one run, with no walks and eight strikeouts. A native of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Albers’ win came against a talented USA club that featured some of the top prospects in baseball, and a handful of players with MLB time, including outfielder Brett Carroll, first rounder A.J. Pollack, former LSU and NCAA home run champion Matt Clark, and CWS hero Tommy Mendonca.
“It was all about getting ahead and staying down in the zone with my fastball," Albers said in an interview with Baseball America’s John Manuel following the game. “I was able to command the fastball, got ahead and got some great help from my defense, and my catcher Cole Armstrong called a great game. We really got in a rhythm tonight.”
The win gave Canada the first gold medal in a senior international event in the history of the country. Canada had only one medal in its history in the Pan Am Games, earning a bronze medal in 1999. USA finished with the silver medal, while Cuba – winners of 10 consecutive gold medals in the Pan Am Games dating back to 1967 – finished with the bronze. Since baseball and softball has been removed from Olympic competition, the Pan Am Games has become one of the top international competitions in baseball, along with the World Baseball Cup and the World Baseball Classic.
USA’s roster also featured notable prospects in Jordan Danks (Triple-A), Joe Thurston (Triple-A), Jody Mercer (Triple-A) and Chad Tracy (Triple-A), facing Albers, who owned all of 13 career Double-A outings entering the fall. Team USA entered the gold medal game with a blistering offensive attack, scoring 20 runs against the Dominican Republic, 11 against Panama and 12 against Cuba.
Albers was joined on the Canada gold medal roster by former UK All-Southeastern Conference infielder Chris Bisson, who earlier in October during the IABF World Cup, launched a homer in his first career international at bat.
“We are really proud of Andrew and Chris and the success they have had with the Canadian National Team,” UK head coach Gary Henderson said. “I vividly remember recruiting Andrew when I was at Oregon State and then when we first got to Lexington and how excited we were for him to attend UK. His competitiveness, work ethic and leadership skills played a major role in helping put our pitching staff in the direction we needed it to go, ultimately winning the 2006 SEC Championship and claiming 44 wins in 2008. Andrew is a winner, someone who I really enjoyed coaching throughout his career, and it is awful exciting to see him succeed in such a pressure-filled situation.”
Albers’ one-run allowed was the first run he allowed during the fall, spanning the World Cup in Panama and the Pan Am Games. He finished with 19.2 innings pitched with only three walks and 17 strikeouts during the fall, posting a 3-0 record.
His outing against Team USA shut down a red-hot lineup that had three games with 10 or more runs during their last four Pan Am games. In his postgame interview with Baseball America, Albers said he pitched off his fastball and changeup early in the game, using his slider and curveball late to keep Team USA off balance.
“He was phenomenal,” Team Canada manager and former Toronto Blue Jay Ernie Whitt said postgame in an interview with the Canadian Baseball Network’s Bob Elliott. “He talked me into leaving him in and my bullpen phone was working.”
After his prolific four-year career at UK that saw him exit with the fourth-most wins in program history in 2008, Albers was a 10th round draft pick of the San Diego Padres. After making only five appearances in his professional debut after his draft selection, Albers had Tommy John surgery and was released by the Padres.
He pitched for the Quebec City Capitales in the independent Can-Am League in 2010, where he saved 17 games with a 3-0 mark and a 1.40 ERA in 40 outings. Following his independent league work, Albers returned to UK to work with Henderson and the UK staff during the fall of 2010. Henderson arranged for a bullpen session for his former ace southpaw with Twins scouts Tim O’Neill and Earl Win. They signed Albers after a trip to Fort Meyers.
During his 2011 season in the minors, Albers dominated at two levels, reaching Double-A New Britain. He posted a combined 8-2 record with a 2.16 ERA in 35 games, with seven starts, striking out 80 in 95.2 innings, with only 14 walks.
As one of the top pitchers in program history from 2005-08, Albers served as a weekend starter, closer and stopper out of the bullpen during his collegiate career. Having pitched in 81 games, Albers ranks fifth in UK annals and his 20 wins ranks fourth in UK career history. The 6-foot-1 lefty also has 12 saves in his career, the third-most in UK history.
As a major weapon for Henderson out of the bullpen in 2008, Albers led UK to 44 wins and a berth in the NCAA Ann Arbor Regional Championship game. He made 31 appearances in 2008, going 7-4, with a 2.40 ERA and five saves. As a junior, Albers started a team-high 15 games, going 6-5 with a 4.85 ERA. Overall during his career, Albers led UK to 151 wins and the 2006 SEC Championship.