When Curtis Lacelle left for Ottawa’s Carleton University in 2013, he figured his competitive baseball days were over.
Having enjoyed success coming up in the North Bay Stingers program, he put his glove and cleats away when his focus shifted to obtaining a Biomedical and Electrical Engineering degree.
Lacelle will graduate with that degree next April, but his best memories from five years at Carleton will come from his time on the baseball field -- competing in two national championships, developing lifelong friendships with teammates/housemates and traveling to places like Florida and upstate New York.
The St. Joseph-Scollard Hall graduate is settling into his final year of school after a whirlwind fall season that took Carleton to the Canadian Collegiate Baseball Association championship game, where they fell to the four-time reigning champion McGill Redmen.
“This was by far our best season,” Lacelle said in a phone interview. “We had a very good starting rotation and we could tell from the start of the year we were going to challenge McGill. Going into nationals, we were very confident it would be us and McGill when it came down to it.”
Carleton competes in the 11-team CCBA, which includes universities in Quebec and the Maritimes and is separate from the 10-team Ontario University Athletics loop.
Taking the mound in a Carleton uniform wasn’t what Lacelle had in mind when he left for university. He did not play during his first year, instead focusing on his Engineering program to ensure he could handle the workload.
When he realized he could, he decided to try to take on more workload as a left-handed reliever. After staying sharp in the North Bay Men’s Baseball League, he attended tryouts in his second year and earned a spot in the Carleton bullpen, a role he has embraced for four seasons.
“It’s been a great experience for sure,” Lacelle said. “The big thing is preparing your arm and body because it’s a short season but there are 20 games we play in those two months.”
Lacelle didn’t have his best season statistically in his final year, struggling with his command and having to adjust mechanics, but he battled through and found ways to contribute. Carleton went 10-6 in the regular season before winning three more games at nationals to reach the final. Lacelle appeared in nine games, putting up a 2-1 record with a 6.46 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 13 innings.
He did get a start on Carleton’s home field at RCGT Park (Lynx Stadium) this season, earning the win against the University of Ottawa, but Lacelle’s job for four seasons has been coming out of the bullpen.
“You have to try to make sure you are sharp every time out there,” said Lacelle, who complements a mid-70s fastball with a curveball and changeup. “You don’t want to be throwing maximum effort in warmup, but when you are ready to go as a reliever, you want to make sure you are throwing strikes. You’re normally coming into situations with runners on base, so command is a very important aspect.
“Just being ready any time during a game is important. We have very good starters on our team, but you never know when someone is going to get hurt or have a blow-up inning, so you have to be ready when called upon.”
Despite the time commitment for baseball in the first two months of the school year, Lacelle said his studies haven’t suffered and there seems to be a correlation between playing ball and his grades.
“Being more involved at the school has helped out for sure,” he said.
While the fall season is over, Lacelle isn’t done with baseball. Carleton will head to Florida in February to face some U.S. college programs before a trip across the border into upstate New York next April for more exhibition action.
And when spring rolls around, if he’s still in Ottawa, a third season in the National Capital Baseball League is in the cards. Never mind putting away the glove and cleats – there’s plenty of baseball ahead.
“Moving away for school, I didn’t really have any plans for baseball at all,” said Lacelle, who developed his game on North Bay Stingers teams coached by his father, Chad Lacelle and Derek Wilkinson.” I loved playing baseball in North Bay, but I didn’t think it would lead to this – playing some high-quality ball and going to national championships and heading down to the U.S. to play some NCAA teams. It’s very cool.
“For younger baseball players in North Bay, or athletes in any sport, just because you are going away for school, you don’t have to stop playing sports. Probably one of the best decisions I made was to play baseball at Carleton.”