York Lions roar into baseball finals

The York University Lions capped a successful season when they travelled to Cape Breton to play against the Cape Breton University Capers in the finals of The Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association on Oct. 23.

Despite losing the game by a score of 1-0, just making it to the finals was a great achievement, said Lions head coach Colin Cummins (right). “I’m very proud of this group,” said Cummins. “It’s hard to go to the nationals two years in a row. We were the only returning team [this year].” The Lions entered the tournament as a wild card and defeated a formidable Dalhousie Tigers team in the semi-final round before facing the Capers.

The Lions got a strong pitching performance from starter Mike Stein in the loss. The Capers scored the game’s only run in the second inning, on a double steal of second base and home plate. The throw home by Lion’s second baseman bounced short, and the Caper’s Jason Levangie just beat catcher Andrew Costley’s tag. York had several chances to score, including a first and third situation with no outs, but couldn’t push across the tying run.

York placed first in their conference during the regular season with a 15-9 record, which matched their record in 2004. Cummins attributes the success of his team to outstanding pitching and speed. The Lions lost some of their power over the summer, but made up for it by stealing 57 bases. “The league record is 67,” said Cummins. A crop of talented rookie pitchers, including Jaineel Purohit, Nick Bowerman, and Clint Jeon joined veterans like Mike Stein and Tyler Sammy. On average, they gave up only a single run per game.

Left: The York Lions experience some plate action during the Canadian Intercollegiate Baseball Association finals

The Lions’ offence was led by Ellison Bautista-Chan, who batted .483, and Rob Vecchiarelli, who hit .353. Bautista-Chan was named the first team all-star, though Cummins felt that many of his players could have been all-stars this year. “Steve Picco should be an all-star centre fielder. Rob Vecchiarelli, Mike Stein, Janeel Purohit, I could name my whole team.”

A majority of the players have developed during Cummins’ tenure as head coach. Prior to managing the team, Cummins was the Lions’ hitting coach. He took over the team in 1999, when he was asked to manage the club by former head coach Don Bleywas, who was retiring. The Lions went through several losing seasons as the young core of players matured. “We knew we had the talent. It was just a matter of letting it develop,” said Cummins.

The Lions will look to continue their success in 2006. The team will be seeking a new short stop and second baseman, but most of the core talent that led this team to the finals will be returning next season.

This article was written by YFile graduate assistant Chris D’Agostino, masters student in English.