By Dan Estey
With the calendar turning to the month of March, the baseball season is creeping that much closer and at cobamajor.ca we are going to be doing our league preview articles again this year.
Each week we will be posting a different article about each of the team in our league have a peek at their 2014 season and what lies ahead for the 2015 season. To kick things off, we will be looking at the Erindale Cardinals.
Team Name: Erindale Cardinals
Greg Cranker (Field Manager)
Tim Gasparotto (GM/Third Base Coach)
Ron Cabot (Pitching Coach)
Cranker is entering his 33rd year with the team as their field manager. Under his guidance, the team has won five Dr. Anson Buck Trophies with the most recent being in 2011. They also finished as the finalist at the 2005 Ontario Senior Elimination Tournament. Gasparotto enters his 11th season as a coach with the Cardinals senior team and his 33rd year overall in the Erindale organization as a player/coach. Long time pitching coach Mr. Cabot will be found in his usual perch by the Cardinals bullpen on Monday nights at the 9th Line.
Team Motto: No foul ball left behind.
2014 Overall Record: 22-25-0 (.468 winning percentage)
2014 Regular Season Record: 9-19-0 (4th Place – Andrews Division)
2014 Tournament Results: 13-6-0 record
Vaughan Invitational Tournament: 3-2 record – lost in semi-finals to Niagara
London Lakeside Tournament: 1-2 record – missed the playoff round
Hap Walters Tournament: 2-0 record – final day rained out
Senior Elimination Tournament: 2-2 record – lost to Niagara on Sunday morning
COBA League Playoffs: 5-0 record – 2014 COBA League Playoff Champions
Like 2014, the Cardinals had a very up-and-down run during tournament play in the 2014 season. Their first tournament was the Vaughan Vikings Invitational Tournament in June. They got off to a bit of a rough start losing 4-2 to the Thornhill Reds of the GTBL before rattling off consecutive wins against East York (12-4) and the Etobicoke Jr Rangers (6-5). With a record of 2-1, Erindale finished second in their pool and advanced to the playoff round. In the quarter-finals, the Cardinals hooked up with the Newmarket Hawks and came away with a 12-2 mercy shortened victory. That put Erindale into the semi-finals against league rivals the Niagara Metros. In another classic battle, the boys in red needed a single off the bat of Steve Gallant to tie the game in the bottom of the 7th inning and force the game into extra innings. That is where the wheels fell off the bus for Erindale as Niagara put up four runs in the 8th inning to win 8-4.
At the Lakeside Tournament in London, the Cards once again got off to a quick start as they defeated the host Lakeside team by a score of 8-4. Unfortunately, that was the end of the good news as they went on to drop their next two games to the Tecumseh Jr Thunder (6-0) and the Windsor Stars (2-0) to finish at 1-2 and miss the playoff round. At the Hap Walters Tournament, Erindale got off to a great start and looked poised to make a bit of a run at this tournament as they defeated the Burlington Jr Bulls by a score of 4-3 and followed that up with a 12-4 victory over the Lakeside Lizards. Erindale wasn’t able to get back on the field though as rain played havoc with the rest of the weekend. The tournament committee attempted to play the semi-finals on the Sunday with a brief window of nice weather forecasted, with Erindale being drawn to play against the Windsor Stars but once again the rains entered the Milton area rendering the fields unplayable.
Next up was the annual Ontario Senior Elimination Tournament in Windsor. In 2013, the Cardinals were able to put together a very nice run making it into Sunday evening before losing to the Newmarket Hawks ending their tournament. In 2014, Erindale kicked off their tournament against the Strathroy Royals of the SWBL. This game turned into a bit of a seesaw affair but Strathroy tacked on some big runs in the middle innings to win 15-7 putting the Cards against the wall right off the bat. Next up, was the Martingrove White Sox of the GTBL and the Erindale crew let off some frustration in this game as they dismantled the Sox by a score of 18-0. This moved Erindale into a third round match-up with the Vaughan Vikings of the YSBA. the Vikes have proven they can beat some big teams at this tournament so the Cards had to be sharp in this one and they were winning by a score of 7-0. Now sitting at 2-1, Erindale was set to lock horns with the Niagara Metros. These two teams had a memorable game last year in the same tournament and this year was no different. Niagara jumped out to a quick lead before the Cards got to Metros starter Justin Ayles to tie the game up 3-3 in the fourth inning. The Big Red Machine looked poised to add on more runs loading the bases with no one out but a mental mistake on the bases allowed the Metros to spin a triple play and get out of trouble. The Niagara squad went on to add three more runs late as they defeated Erindale by a score of 6-3 ending the Cardinals weekend in Windsor with a 2-2 record.
At the COBA Major League Playoff Tournament, Erindale was looking to improve upon their third-place finish from last year. The Cards entered the playoffs as the 6th seed out of seven teams and needed to win two games in the first playoff weekend in order to advance to the Final Four. They opened the tournament against hosts the Milton Red Sox. Milton jumped out to a bit of a lead in this game before Erindale came roaring back in the fifth inning behind a big bases clearing double by Geoff Cullento give them a lead they would not relinquish winning the game by a score of 8-6. In Game 2, Erindale hooked up with the Niagara Metros for the third time in tournament play. In this game, Erindale jumped on Metros starter PaulMcKenna early with DH John Amendola swatting two homeruns in a 7-4 victory. With the wins, Erindale now advanced to the second playoff weekend and drew the regular season champs the Etobicoke Rangers in their first game. Ian Bala drew the start for the Cards to shut down the potent Rangers offense in a complete game 3-1 victory. Erindale now marched on to play the Brampton Royals and again got off to a quick start getting starter Andrew Mullin all of the help he would need in an 8-2 victory. Now sitting at 4-0, Erindale advanced directly to the championship game where they once again met up with the Etobicoke Rangers. In another tight battle, Etobicoke pushed a run across in the seventh inning to tie the game up and push the game into extra innings where the redbirds promptly put up two runs and were able to hang on for a hard fought 6-4 victory giving Erindale their first playoff championship since 2009.
Andy Lawrence, right, shown here with Greg Cranker
League Team & Individual Award Winners:
Barry Dobson Trophy
*2014 COBA Major Playoff Champions
COBA Major Regular Season MVP
COBA Major Playoff MVP
League Homerun Champion
*Chris Novia (14)
Andrews Division All-Stars
*John DeWolfe (OF)
*Chris Novia (DH)
Ontario All-Star Teams
*John Amendola (1st Team All-Star 3B)
*Chris Novia (1st Team All-Star DH)
Novia seems to be cementing his name at the top of the list as one of the premier power hitters in senior baseball. In 2014, he hit .381 while smashing 8 doubles and driving in 38 runs. He led the province again for the 3rd year in a row belting 14 home runs giving him 60 round trippers in just four seasons of senior ball. He was also named to the All-Ontario Senior All-Star Teams as the 1st team DH for the fourth season in a row.
Amendola, after getting off to a bit of a sluggish start, ended up having a great season including swatting 5 home runs during the Cardinals playoff run in August. He finished the year batting .387 hitting 7 home runs and leading the province with 47 RBIs. His selection to the All-Ontario 1st All-Star teams was the first of his career.
Key Players Returning & Leaving:
The Cardinals will be returning the majority of their roster for the 2015 season which now has a nice balance of good young players (including RHP Zach Laurin, C Jacob Zilli and Chris Willins, INF Jake Eves, and OF Aaron Palmer and Brendan Fox) and experienced veterans. Along with Novia and Amendola, other key returning players will include 2B Frank Coccia (.416, 49 H, 12 RBIs), 2014 Andrews Division All-Star OF John DeWolfe (.264, 4 HR, 24 RBIs), and ageless 1B Geoff Cullen (.389, 1 HR, 22 RBIs).
RHPs Ian Bala (6-2, 3.91 ERA, 32 Ks) and Dan Estey (5-4, 3.80 ERA, 28 Ks) will be back to help anchor the pitching staff. Sophomore RHP Kevin Lucas (2-2, 5.18 ERA, 45 Ks) will return once his season at Niagara University has completed along with LHP Andrew Mullin (3-3, 5.98 ERA, 31 Ks). The Cards will be looking for a big season out of 3rd year pitcher Mike Morely (2-5, 5.40 ERA, 31 Ks). The young RHP had a bit of an off season by his standards last year and will be looking to rebound with a big season this year. Dan Nauth (1-1, 13.51 ERA, 4 Ks), who had very limited action last year because of more elbow discomfort, will require surgery again sidelining him for the duration of the 2015 season.