2015 COBA Major League Preview – Oakville A’s
By Dan Estey
Team Name: Oakville A’s
Coaching Staff: Dave Smallhorn (general manager), Alex Hawley (playing manager) and Marc Walton (assistant coach).
Longtime manager Smallhorn will be back in that role for the 2015 season. He will be scaling back his on field involvement with the team and will be taking on more of a behind the scenes role helping with the day-to-day operation of the team. Hawley enters his second season as the manager of the Oakville club. He will also continue with a playing role on the team as well. Veteran player Walton will enter his first season as the assistant coach to Hawley while continuing to play on the team as a pitcher and infielder.
2014 Overall Record: 8-27-1
2014 Regular Season Record: 8-18-1 (4th Place – Johnson Division)
2014 Tournament Results: 0-9
Lakeside Invitational Tournament: 0-3 (Missed Playoff Round)
Hap Walters Tournament: 0-2 (No Winner Declared – Rain)
Senior Elimination Tournament: 0-2 (Eliminated Saturday Morning)
COBA League Playoffs: 0-2 (Eliminated – 1st Playoff Weekend)
After having a very successful 2013 in tournament play, the A’s took a giant step backwards in 2014 going winless in four tournaments. Their first tournament was the London Lakeside Invitational tournament. Oakville opened the tournament against the Leaside Leafs. Walton had the start on the mound and dropped an 8-3 decision. On Saturday, the road didn’t get any easier as the A’s would drop both games against a talented St. Thomas Jr. team (9-4) and the reigning Ontario Senior Champions the Tecumseh Thunder (10-4). This left Oakville with an 0-3 record in pool play and sitting on the outside looking in for the playoff round.
In July, the A’s then attended the annual Hap Walters Tournament hosted by the COBA Major League. Oakville opened their tournament on Friday night against the Niagara Metros with rookie Alex Gowing drawing the start. The Niagara bats seemed to be too much for Gowing on this day and the offense couldn’t get anything going against Metros southpaw Dan Veres as the dropped their opener 12-0 in five innings. In their second game on Saturday morning, Oakville matched up with the Ivy Leafs of the North Dufferin league. Again, the A’s offense had a hard time getting started as they dropped their second game 7-1. As the A’s tried to get their third game going later on in the day, a massive rain storm entered the Milton area causing the fields to become unplayable and the rest of the tournament was washed out.
Next up was the Ontario Senior eliminations in Windsor. In Game 1, Oakville drew the East York Bulldogs of the GTBL. The battled hard in this one as the game was tied 3-3 after seven innings sending the game to extras. East York was able to take one run on in the extra frame and Bulldogs hurler Myles Schwartz made the lead hold up as the A’s dropped a tough 4-3 decision. With the loss, the Oakville club now pressed on to play against the Pickering Red Sox. Again, the A’s struggled to get anything going offensively as the team lost 7-1 ending their 2014 Eliminations run on Saturday morning.
In their final tournament, the COBA Major League playoffs, the A’s opened the double-knockout event against the Niagara Metros. Oakville battled hard but Niagara busted open a close game in the early innings as the A’s lost this one by a score of 12-4. This put the Oakville club into an elimination game against the Milton Red Sox. in a very well-played game by both teams, Oakville came out on the short end of the stick dropping a 6-5 decision to the Red Sox on a walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
2014 League Team & Individual Award Winners:
COBA Major League MVP Nominee – Zach Dickson
Andrews Division All-Stars
Curtis Braun (C)
Zach Dickson (SS)
Ontario All-Star Teams
Zach Dickson (1st Team All-Star SS)
Dickson followed up his great rookie season in 2013 with another fantastic season in 2014. The second year player batted a solid .458 including 1 HR and 11 RBIs. He also hit 15 doubles as well as stealing 25 bases. His numbers earned him a spot on the Ontario Senior Baseball Blog Ontario 1st All-Star team as the short stop.
Braun was on of the regulars in the A’s starting lineup batting a solid .323 in 105 plate appearances. Of his 31 hits, he hit 3 doubles, 1 triple and drove in six runs. He also scored 16 runs which was second on the Oakville squad behind Dickson.
Key Players Returning & Leaving:
Oakville has made some changes in their roster this year but will be returning the majority of their core players. Along with Dickson and Braun, other key returning players include 1B/OF Julian Richards (.325, 2 HR, 19 RBIs), INF Michael Modestino (.315, 1 HR, 11 RBIs) and P/INF Andrew Kotulak (.294, 1 HR, 18 RBIs). On the mound, returning hurlers include Marc Walton (0-5, 4.50 ERA, 24 Ks), Kotulak (1-3, 7.87 ERA, 7 Ks) and Hawley (1-1, 7.50 ERA, 8 Ks)
Oakville will not return five players this summer with their pitching staff taking the biggest hit. Not returning for the 2015 season are LHP Kyle Fisher, RHP Dan McMullin, RHP Josh Spagnoletti, C/1B Kyle Westwater, and 2B Chase Dobbie.
Fisher (1-6, 7.24 ERA, 42 Ks) and McMullin (1-4, 6.26 ERA, 23 Ks) logged the majority of the innings on the mound for the A’s last summer and will be big losses for the club this summer. McMullin relocated to the Toronto and will be taking the summer off while Fisher will be playing in the Burlington men’s league. Spagnoletti was a dominant addition to the A’s rotation in 2013 when he went 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 30 Ks in 31 innings. In 2014, he was shut down after 6 2/3 innings with a shoulder injury which will keep him out of the 2015 season as well.
Dobbie played parts of two seasons as he traveled back and forth between Saskatoon playing in the Western Major Baseball League. In very limited action (27 PA) he hit .150 with three singles. Westwater was a rookie on the Oakville squad last summer. He hit a solid .375 in 80 plate appearances with a double, a triple and 12 RBIs.
Key Additions to the 2015 Roster:
With the big exodus from the team, the A’s management team had a bit of work to do and they did just that using the adage “whats old is new again.” The A’s have gone and added nine names to their 2015 rosters. Those players include: RHP/OF Mark Tourangeau, RHP/OF Gord Robertson, C/INF Conrad Bach, INF Bradley Hill, OF Justin Mattiussi, OF Alexander Kupchak, RHP/1B/OF Matt Reagan, LHP/OF Matt Vanderlaan, and RHP/INF Bradley Bach.
Tourangeau, Robertson, and C. Bach are all former A’s who have re-joined the team for the summer. Tourangeau was forced to step away from baseball due to his pursuit for his Masters Degree. Known as being one of the most dominant pitchers in COBA, Tourangeau will once again return to is role at the top of the A’s rotation. A former COBA All-Star, Tourangeau brings depth to an A’s roster that struggled to field a team at times during the 2014 season. Armed with a dominating fastball, “T” also carries plus off-speed pitches to compliment his fastball. He is also an excellent outfielder and provides both speed and offense to a lineup that looks to put up a lot of runs in 2015.
Bach, also a former COBA All-Star, will once again handle a pitching staff who he is very familiar with. “Connie” was sidelined the last year due to an arm injury, however after a successful surgery, he will be ready for opening day. With the departure of Matt Griffin in 2014, the A’s used a platoon of position players to handle the catching duties last year so the return of Bach is a needed addition. He also brings an excellent bat to the A’s lineup. Prior to his departure, Bach had an excellent 2011 season hitting .318 with 10 stolen bases and leading the team with 18 RBI’s. His 2013 season was hampered by his arm injury, but fully healed he looks to get back to form.
Robertson, a former runner-up for the COBA Major League MVP and the 2009 COBA Major Pitcher of the Year brings much needed versatility to a roster that struggled to field a team at times. Renowned for his pitching ability, “G-Bo” also brings an ability to play both the infield and outfield, and adds speed to an already dangerous running lineup. The A’s are excited to have him back and are looking forward to the skill and leadership he brings to the team.
Hill joins the A’s club after playing the last few seasons for the Lakeside Lizards of the Southwestern Baseball League in the London area. He played his university baseball at the University of Western of the OUA and also played professionally in a league in Australia.
Mattiussi joins the A’s club via the Oakville Jr. program. He will be playing as a part time player this summer as he is a member of the Canadian Armed Forces but will bring a power stroke to the line-up as well as being able to fill in and play in the outfield as well.
Kupchak is coming off an excellent University season with the Laurier Golden Hawks. He was named to the OUA Second All-Star team as he helped Laurier put together their best regular season in school history. Kupchak, an Appleby College grad, was one of the Golden Hawks top hitters putting together a .358 average. “Kup” was also top 10 in several other offensive categories as he ranked fifth in doubles (6), sixth in on-base percentage (.486), and seventh in RBI’s (17). He also led the OUA in walks with 15.
Reagan, a Queen’s University student and Oakville A’s Jr. grad, has committed to the A’s for the 2015 season. He is a versatile player who will add depth to a strong outfield and first base while being able to give the A’s valuable innings off the mound. Coming off a strong ’14 season with the Golden Gaels where he posted a .333 AVG, an OBP of .474, while slugging 2 HR’s and 6 2B’s in 18 games, he hopes to carry that momentum into the Spring/Summer season with the A’s. Reagan owns a career .332 AVG with the Queen’s Golden Gaels over a four-year career which will fit in nicely with a strong A’s offensive roster.
Vanderlaan, a Bethal College graduate, has also committed to the Oakville A’s. He spent 2009-2013 in Indiana playing for the Bethal College Pilots of the NAIA, as well as playing Intercounty for the Kitchener Panthers in 2011 and the Burlington Bandits in 2013. A 6’3″ left-handed pitcher, Vanderlaan has an opportunity to bolster a strong pitching rotation or provide valuable innings out of the bullpen. He brings with him the experience of facing elite competition in the NAIA and IBL which will help the A’s in reaching their 2015 goal of a championship. When he’s not toeing the rubber, Vanderlaan also brings to the team the ability to play both the outfield and first base positions.
After a very strong 2013 COBA Major season which saw the Oakville A’s finish 2nd overall in the league with 19-8-1 record and win the Strathroy Invitational Tournament, the A’s took a giant step back in 2014 finishing last in the league and going winless in four tournaments. That being said, with the changes that the club has made leading into the 2015 season, this team looks very poised to make a run at a Johnson Division title and will try and get back to the top of the COBA Major League standings and return as one of the premier teams in Ontario.