COBA leaders at half: Murphy, Novia, Woodford, Rangers, Red Sox

 Jay Woodford (at the plate) and Chris Novia owned a share of the home run lead (six each) as the COBA Major schedule hit the half-way mark. 

Jay Woodford (at the plate) and Chris Novia owned a share of the home run lead (six each) as the COBA Major schedule hit the half-way mark. 

COBA Major League Mid-Season Update

By Dan Estey
Canadian Baseball Network

With the calendar ready to flip over to July, the COBA Major Senior Baseball League has already reached its halfway point with most teams sitting at 14 games played or more depending on how kind mother nature has been to them. The next few paragraphs will be an in-depth look at both divisions and how teams are fairing thus far into their season. 

First ... the Johnson Division ...


MILTON – First Place (9-7)
The Milton Red Sox currently find themselves in first place of the Johnson Division. The Milton crew led by “El Morro” George Moore, Matt McCandless and Mike Austin had a pretty rough start to the season losing their first three games pretty handily but have been able to right the ship over the past few weeks. They have had the odd blip on the radar but have now been settling into more of a consistent style of play.

The Red Sox have added a few pieces to the puzzle this year to go along with the veteran cast of regulars that have dawned the blue and red over the past number of seasons. Some of the new additions include Nick Feren, Brendan Power, Brett Cameron, Dan Apostoli, Ryan Wood, Javed Baksh and Jason Schneider. Matt Lahn has also returned after a year off from the league last summer. As far as players not back, RHP Justin Volpato has thrown limited innings this year due to injury and LHP Jeremy MacDonald has not been back since last season.

Milton has been getting a number of big contributions both on the mound and at the dish this season. Lahn (.396, six doubles, one homer, 19 RBIs) currently leads the team in batting average and RBIs. He has been a huge anchor for the middle of the Sox batting order. Veteran 3B Kevin Greer (.322, seven doubles, one homer, 12 RBIs) has also been having a great season as well as 1B Kevin Cooper (.333, four doubles, one homer, 10 RBIs) who has been versatile in the field as well again this season. On the mound, Ian Zettle (2-1, 0.74 ERA, eight strikeouts) has been the teams ace so far this year. Rookie Schneider (3-1, 5.26 ERA, 18 Ks) has also been solid on the mound after a five-year break from pitching. Dan Todoschuk (three saves, 2.57 ERA, 10 Ks) has been a solid arm out of the pen as well as Lahn (2-0, 1.42 ERA, nine Ks) who has two wins in six innings this year.

NIAGARA – Second Place (7-9)
The Niagara Metros have been playing a bit below their level compared to the last few seasons. The eliminations semi-finalist from last season has had some ups and downs so far this year and have struggled to be the consistent force they are used to being overall. That being said the team lead by head coach Kerry Hedden and assistant coach Rick Pillitteri still have a solid line-up and can still break out if given the opportunity to do so. 

Niagara added and lost some pieces to their team this season. Added this year are pitchers Rhys Tapper and Nick Submaraniam who both come to the Niagara club via the Brock Badgers program. Andrew Cartaginese, another hurler, was also added to the roster as well as recent addition Danny Beaver from Oakville. C Troy Findlay shifted to Niagara from Milton and LHP Taylor Boyle has also returned to the team after a few years off. Notable absences from last year’s squad are OF Anthony Vacca, C-INF Evan Baglieri, RHP Rob Nixon, and 1B Will Nitransky

Veteran SS Jordan Grant (.315, four doubles, one homer, 17 RBIs) has been solid offensively this season for Niagara has he leads the team in hits, doubles and RBIs. Findlay (.327, four doubles, six RBIs) has shown his versatility playing a few positions for his new club while veteran OFs Ricky Ferri (.349, three doubles, three RBIs) and Dave Davidson (.318, two doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs) have also been coming on strong as of late. On the mound, Dylan Perego (2-0, 2.00 ERA, 7 Ks) has been very good thus far while Justin Ayles (1-1, 4.29 ERA, 21 Ks) and Rhys Tapper (1-2, 6.27 ERA, 7 Ks) have also been solid for the Metros as well. In the pen, Submariner (1-1, one save, 2.75 ERA, 23 Ks) has been a great addition while spot starter Dan Proctor (1-0, 2.25 ERA, 15 Ks) has also given the team some great innings. 

BURLINGTON – Third Place (6-7)

OAKVILLE – Fourth Place (2-14-1)
The Oakville A’s have been struggling a bit this season and currently find themselves in last place in the Johnson division. The squad, which is run by Alex Hawley and Marc Walton, have been having issues this season as their home field Oakville Park has been shut down for the summer because of construction forcing them to play their whole schedule this season basically on the road. 

The A’s lost a large part of their roster from last season. Gone are veteran players Courtney Morrales, Gord Robertson, Conrad Bach and Jeff Jarcokis. Also gone are Brad Hill, Nathan Lewko, Nic Burnell, Michael Vanderlaan, and Alex Kupchak. C Pat Griffin just departed the team as well to take on a new role within the Vancouver Canadians as a video operator. The coaching staff was out scouting though and were able to add a number of bodies including Noah Ivanyi, Chris Grittani, Blake Donaldson, Nick Boyd, Sean McLean, Travis Rumney, as well as brothers Humsa and Ismail Patel. The A’s have a number of bodies on their roster and some great talent but the issue for coaching staff has been getting everyone to the park at the same time. 

Veteran Thomas Biskup (.347, 17 hits, two doubles, 7 RBIs) currently leads the team in hitting, hits, and RBIs. Julian Richards (.308, two doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBIs) has also been swinging a great stick. Curtis Braun (.300, double, two RBIs) has been helping out offensively while junior call up Troy Lacoste (.350, a triple, a homer, three RBIs) has also been a nice addition to the line-up when he can get out. On the bump, Braun (2-0, 1.20 ERA, 13 Ks) has been very solid collecting both wins for the team thus far. Rookies Grittani (0-2, 7.47 ERA, seven Ks), Ivanyi (0-2, 10.16 ERA, 13 Ks) and Donaldson (0-2, 5.62 ERA, 13 Ks) have all been getting their bearings in the league while veteran Matt Chisamore (0-1, 10.95 ERA, 13 Ks) has been good out of the pen for Oakville.

And in the Andrews Division ... 

ETOBICOKE – First Place (11-4-1)
The Etobicoke Rangers once again find themselves atop of the heap in the COBA Major League again this season at the midpoint of the season. After a bit of a slow start, the team has now started to roll again as they are currently riding five game unbeaten streak. Long time manager Steve Breitner, as well as coaches Jon Kielb and Bill Thompson, seem have to the team clicking on all cylinders this season as they possess a very dangerous hitting lineup and can roll out some very strong pitching again this season. 

The Rangers have pretty much returned the core of their 2016 squad. New to the team in 2017 are Alex Thrower, Brendan Lyons, Brent Cleland, and Brandon Costa. Gone from last year are RP Bryan Vardzel, OF Justin Gianfrancesco, LHPs Gary Rose and Max Clarke. SS Kevin Cleland has also played a very limited amount of games this year.

 Daniel Murphy had the highest average in the league at the half-way mark.

Daniel Murphy had the highest average in the league at the half-way mark.

 

Veteran OF Dan Murphy (.478, seven doubles, a triple, two homers, 23 RBIs) currently leads the team in average, doubles, home runs and RBIs. Rookie Thrower (.475, 19 hits, five RBIs, eight stolen) is right behind Murphy in average and has been a great stick at the top of the order. 3B Ryan Panas (.387, four doubles, 14 RBIs) is having another solid year so far while veterans Mark Capone (.351, five doubles, 4 RBIs) and AJ Iafrate (.351, four doubles, one homer, 14 RBIs) continue to contribute year after year with the club. On the mound, 2016 Pitcher of the Year Kyle Breitner (1-0-1, two saves, 1.74 ERA, 28 Ks) continues to anchor a very deep pitching staff. Both Adam McBride (2-0, 4.67 ERA, nine Ks) and Kyle Angelow (2-0, 6.32 ERA, 14 Ks) have also been throwing well so far this year while Tyler Whealy (2-1, 5.68 ERA, five Ks) as been filling in the rotation nicely. Andrew Hyde (1-1, 7.65 ERA, 15 Ks) and rookie Lyons (1-1, 7.65 ERA, 17 Ks) have been contributing as well while Brent Cleland (2-0, 0.61 ERA, 16 Ks) has been solid out of the pen for the Rangers. 

ERINDALE – Second Place (10-4)
The Erindale Cardinals have made some big strides since last season as they are currently sitting only three points back of Etobicoke for top spot in the COBA Major Senior League. They Cards came out hot this season winning their first five games in a row and five of their last nine contests. The club, managed by Greg Cranker and Tim Gasparotto, have been hitting the ball a ton as evidence by their .353 team batting average. Pitching and defense have also been good but like every team could be better from night to night. 

The Cardinals have done some re-vamping to their roster over the past few seasons and did the same again this past year. They returned a good core of their players from last year but also had some major holes to fill as well. New to the club this season are brothers Kevin and Sean Alp, Mississauga Southwest Twins grads, Josh Marson, Ricardo Marin, and Trevaun Smith. Also, back after a bit of a hiatus is Alex Perez. As mentioned the veteran Cardinals lost some big pieces to their club as slugger Geoff Cullen, Frankie Coccia, Ian Bala, Andrew Petruk, and Damien Eccelton all packed it in at the end of 2016.  

Powerhouse Chris Novia (.431, four doubles, six homers, 19 RBIs) currently leads the team in batting average, runs and home runs. Jay Woodfrod (.403, four doubles, six homers, 23 RBIs) has been keeping pace with Novia putting up another great season as well. Aaron Palmer (.415, three doubles, 11 RBIs) adds some depth to the potent Erindale offense while veteran John DeWolfe (.393, seven doubles, 11 RBIs) and rookie Kevin Alp (.361, five doubles, two homers, 11 RBIs) have also been piecing together great years so far. On the mound, big lefty Andrew Mullin (2-0, one save, 2.28 ERA, 25 Ks) leads the team in ERA and strikeouts to this point. Veteran Dan Nauth (5-0, 7.50 ERA, 13 Ks) has been throwing well as well as DeWolfe (1-0, 0.00, ERA, 5 Ks) in limited action so far. Dan Estey (0-2, 7.17 ERA, 13 Ks) leads the team with two saves out of the bullpen.

MISSISSAUGA SW – Third Place (7-6)
The Mississauga Southwest Twins have been having a bit of an up-and-down year so far in league play. The Twins have been one of the more feared teams in the province these past few years but were a bit slow of the gate this season. That being said, the club coached my Mike Smith and Dave Paish have been picking it up as of late as they are currently riding a four-game win streak and are out of the basement of the Andrews division. 

The Twins have pretty much carried the same roster over the past few seasons with not many changes to their everyday lineup. They still possess one of the best pitching staffs in the province and can hit when needed. They have only added one player to their roster this season in Sid Elford. Gone from last year’s team in catcher Adam Chong. 

Jamie Smith (.457, four doubles, one triple, one homer) is the team’s top hitter by average. Brother Jerome Smith (.396, six doubles, three homers, 10 RBIs) leads the team in doubles and walks and is tied with Mike Cardinale (.333, four doubles, three homers, 15 RBIs) for the lead in home runs. INF Josh Federico (.375, three doubles, three RBIs) and Brendan Emmett (.303, one double, one homer, six RBIs) have both performed while in limited action. Big righty Jordan Petruska (3-0, 1.57 ERA, 21 Ks) has been the team’s most effective pitcher so far this season. Both Kyle Porter (2-2, 5.14 ERA, nine Ks) and James Byrnes (2-1, 5.02 ERA, nine Ks) are right behind Petruska with two wins a piece. Billy Hurley (0-0, 4.71 ERA, 35 Ks) has yet to record a decision yet this year but has shown he is still one of the premier power pitcher in the province and Billy Martin (1-0, one save, 4.50 ERA, five Ks) has been good in limited innings.

BRAMPTON – Fourth Place (6-7-2)
The Brampton Royals are sitting just under .500 at the mid point of the season this year. The Royals have been playing some good ball this year but have just come up on the short end of a few close games otherwise they could be higher up in the standings then they are now. The team made a few changes in the off season including their coaching staff which is now comprised of GM Dave Flannagan and coaches JR Pinlac and Joe Ferreira. 

Along with the coaching staff, there were some changing on the playing roster as well. Added to the Royals roster this season were Keegan Murphy, Brandon Habibulah, Christian Hopski, Adam Velocci, Eric Ferreira, Barnes O’Neill and Brandon Manley. The team also just recently added Daniel Campos to their roster as well. Gone from last year are veterans Brandon Habibi and Joey Nonis as well as Ricky James and Garrett Ferguson. 

Rookie Murphy (.467, four doubles, 19 RBIs) currently leads the team in average and is tied for 2nd on the team in RBI with Joe Ferreira, Jr. (.378, five doubles, 19 RBIs) who is also putting together another solid season. Veteran C/3B Marco DiRoma (.460, four doubles, two homers, 22 RBIs) is right behind Murphy in batting average and leads the team in RBIs. Another rookie Manley (.379, two doubles, one homer, five RBIs) is also having a good year while 1B Vic Speciale (.352, three doubles, one homer, nine RBIs) is off to a good start as well. On the mound, southpaw Mike Burke (2-0, 2.31 ERA, seven Ks) currently leads the team in ERA and is tied with Ferreira (2-0, 4.50 ERA, 10 Ks) and RJ Page (2-1, 6.41 ERA, 30 Ks) for most wins on the team. Steve Hough (1-1, 8.68 ERA, 15 Ks) and Brad McLaughlin (1-0, 6.75 ERA, 11 Ks) have also given some innings while rookie lefty O’Neill (0-0, one save, 4.38 ERA, 12 Ks) has been good put of the pen for Brampton. 

Dan Estey

Dan Estey was born in Fredericton, N.B., began playing in the Fredericton Minor Baseball Association and has played for the past 26 years. He’s appeared on the national stage: as a member of Team New Brunswick at the Baseball Canada Cup in 2000 in Stonewall, Man., was with the Fredericton Royals at the 2001 nationals midgets in Stonewall, and was with Fredericton at the 2003 Junior Nationals in Windsor, Ont. Estey played five years at the University of New Brunswick (2001-2005) winning four Atlantic Conference championships and three medals at the Canadian Intercollegiate Association championships (silver in 2001 in Ottawa, bronze in 2002 in Fredericton and gold in 2003 in Montreal. Moving to Ontario in 2006 he now resides in Mississauga. After playing three years for the Niagara Metros (2008-2010) of the Central Ontario Major League, he is currently learning under skipper Greg Cranker with the Erindale Cardinals (2011-present) of the same loop. He enjoys golfing and reading in my down time and run the website for the Central Ontario Major League, follows senior ball around the province of Ontario. This year he wrote about senior related topics and plan on doing more of the same next year in a larger capacity.