By Chris Lazar
Three weeks into the 2023 season and the games have been – for the most part – tight, competitive, and unpredictable. The quality of play has been sloppy at times, but that is to be expected in a league with no “spring training”, and certainly doesn’t mean it hasn’t been entertaining. This week, I will choose three words to describe each team’s current state, followed by an explanation. Let’s get right into it.
#8. Guelph Royals (1-7, Previous Week: 7)
Ship Is Sinking. After winning their opening game of the season in convincing fashion, the Royals have lost seven straight and things have continued to go downhill. This was supposed to be the week where they turn things around, with three games against the two teams below them in the standings coming into it. Now, they head into a four-game week which includes matchups against two of the top teams in the league, as well as the defending champions. If Guelph doesn’t fix their leaks quickly, they could be facing a similar fate to the Titanic.
#7. Brantford Red Sox (1-8, Previous Week: 8)
Losing Streak Snapped. Going back to last season, Brantford was riding a 23-game skid, having not won a game since July 13th of last year. Nearly a full year later, that skid ended with a hard fought 4-2 victory on Tuesday night in Guelph. Pitcher Daniel Howat got the save that night and has been excellent for the Red Sox, posting a 3.00 ERA and averaging over a strikeout per inning. Although the weekend was much of what we’ve been used to seeing from the Red Sox over the past couple of years, getting that first win must’ve been a good feeling for a team and a fanbase that has endured a lot recently.
#6. London Majors (4-4, Previous Week: 5)
Possible Championship Hangover? The Majors are currently middle of the pack in the standings, although they are 1-4 against teams besides the Brantford Red Sox, and have yet to beat a team in the top half of the standings. Defending champions have started slowly in the past and found a way to bounce back and repeat – the Barrie Baycats started 6-6 in one of their later championship seasons – so it’s not the end of the world for London, and they have earned some benefit of the doubt. The concern lies in what is happening around them, as it appears all the teams that they will be competing with for the title have improved from last year. No need to panic yet, but it’s about time the champs start to show their championship pedigree.
#5. Barrie Baycats (4-4, Previous Week: 6)
Three Outs Away. That’s how close the Baycats were to putting together a perfect week and knocking off the mighty Kitchener Panthers. With closer Chris Cox on the mound and a three-run lead, Barrie was fully in the driver’s seat, until they were reminded of a harsh reality – there are no safe leads at Jack Couch Park. A five-run ninth by the home team put a damper on what had been a great week, but the Cats should still feel good after sweeping their home-and-home series with Guelph and giving one of the top teams in the league everything they could handle. The bullpen is still concerning however, as they’ve blown multi-run leads late in two of their four losses.
#4. Hamilton Cardinals (5-3, Previous Week: 3)
Back and Forth. The good news for Hamilton is they haven’t lost back-to-back games yet this season. The bad news is they’ve only won back-to-back games once and have struggled to find consistency in their game. Their pitching staff looks excellent one game, and the next they give up double digits. They get clutch hitting one night, and the next they don’t. The schedule certainly hasn’t been kind to them either, as they are in a stretch where five out of six games are against either Kitchener or Toronto. Give them credit though as they’ve been able to keep their head above water through the adversity.
#3. Kitchener Panthers (6-2, Previous Week: 1)
These Guys Rake. It feels like a broken record at this point, but it is truly amazing what the Panthers offense has been able to do this season, scoring at least six runs in every game and double digits in all six of their wins. Last week wasn’t their finest, getting blown out by Toronto on Wednesday and losing third baseman Elliott Curtis to injury, before narrowly squeaking by Barrie Sunday afternoon. The pitching staff was viewed as a potential weakness coming into the season, and that was the case in the last three games, allowing 29 runs over that stretch. Putting it into perspective, they allowed 28 runs in their first five games combined. How they perform on the mound is something worth keeping an eye on going forward.
#2. Welland Jackfish (6-2, Previous Week: 4)
Fish Go Streaking. The hottest team in the league has won their last six straight, and they look like they’re picking up steam as they go. Ethan Hunt returned to the lineup Saturday after a stint in the Frontier League, and he made his presence felt immediately by launching a two-run blast on route to a 12-11 win over the Majors. His addition as well as the emergence of Hogan Brown at the top of the order have made the Jackfish lineup one of the deepest in the league, scoring 11 runs or more in each of their last four games.
#1. Toronto Maple Leafs (7-3, Previous Week: 2)
Train Keeps Chugging. Led by the conductor Johnathan Solazzo, the Maple Leafs sit atop the rankings for the second time this season. The first team to score over 100 runs, Toronto has slugged their way to seven wins, scoring at least five runs in each of their ten games. Having played the most games of any team so far, the Leafs have had to contend with a difficult schedule while trying to manage their pitchers’ workloads early in the year. If not for a couple of rough innings, they could be 9-1 right now. A core that has come up just short of the ultimate goal in the last two seasons, this club looks poised to take that next step in 2023.
News: IBL Veteran Brett Lawson Re-Signs with Hamilton
The Hamilton Cardinals have re-signed veteran right-handed starting pitcher Brett Lawson.Standing tall at 6-foot-8 and hailing from Burlington, Lawson made a mid-season move to the Cardinals from the Welland Jackfish during the 2023 campaign. Despite a limited regular-season engagement, where he pitched 7 innings for the Cardinals, Lawson stepped up remarkably in the playoff series…
The Hamilton Cardinals have re-signed veteran right-handed starting pitcher Brett Lawson.
Standing tall at 6-foot-8 and hailing from Burlington, Lawson made a mid-season move to the Cardinals from the Welland Jackfish during the 2023 campaign. Despite a limited regular-season engagement, where he pitched 7 innings for the Cardinals, Lawson stepped up remarkably in the playoff series against Barrie, delivering a standout performance by striking out 10 batters across 8 innings and achieving a commendable ERA of 3.37.
With a rich career spanning over 500 innings in the IBL and accumulating more than 400 strikeouts, Lawson’s experience is unparalleled in the league. His illustrious career includes clinching the IBL’s prestigious Dominico Cup with the Barrie Baycats from 2014 to 2018. Lawson’s professional journey was kickstarted when he was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 15th round of the 2001 MLB June Amateur Draft, following his tenure at Northwestern Oklahoma State University, marking the beginning of a six-season journey in professional baseball. The Cardinals will continue to lean on Lawson’s proven leadership and track record of success throughout the 2024 season.
“Lawson is one of the model IBL veterans, and with a young roster, we’re fortunate to have him back with us,” said George Halim, Hamilton Cardinals General Manager. “He’s a lifetime pro who knows how to get outs, and knows how to compete while giving us a chance to win when he’s out there.”
About the Hamilton Cardinals
The Hamilton Cardinals Baseball Club are a member of Canada’s best league, the Intercounty Baseball League. The over 100-year old summer league is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the world, established in 1919. For more information visit: https://www.theibl.ca & https://www.iblcardinals.ca
News: JACKFISH ANNOUNCE CHAMPION VS. CHAMPION GAME AGAINST QUEBEC CAPITALES
WELLAND – The Welland Jackfish, Niagara’s sports entertainment destination, is excited to announce they will host the 2023 Frontier League Champions Quebec Capitales for a preseason game at Welland Stadium on Monday, May 6.Gates are scheduled to open at 6:00 p.m. and first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Concessions will be available and tickets…
WELLAND – The Welland Jackfish, Niagara’s sports entertainment destination, is excited to announce they will host the 2023 Frontier League Champions Quebec Capitales for a preseason game at Welland Stadium on Monday, May 6.
Gates are scheduled to open at 6:00 p.m. and first pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. Concessions will be available and tickets can be purchased over the phone by calling 905-735-9834 or by clicking here.
“It will be great to open the doors on May 6 for the exhibition against Quebec,” team President and Director of Fun, Ryan Harrison said. “I appreciate Pat Scalabrini and the entire Quebec Capitales for making this happen for us and all of our fans. It will be tremendous for our players – and our gameday staff – to get in a preseason game under the lights as we continue to prepare for Opening Day. It’s incredible to be home at the Pond.”
The Québec Capitales (French: Les Capitales de Québec) are a professional baseball team based in Quebec City, Quebec. The Capitales have been members of the Frontier League since the 2020 season after a merger between the Can-Am League and the Frontier League in October 2019. Since the 1999 season, the Capitales have played their home games at Stade Canac.
The Jackfish return to The Pond on Saturday, May 18th at 6:05 pm for their 2024 Home Opener. Season membership and flex plans are on sale now at wellandjackfish.com/2024 or by calling 905-735-9834.
The Welland Jackfish are a member of Canada’s best league, the Intercounty Baseball League. The over 100-year old summer league is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the world, with the league established in 1919, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. For more information, visit www.wellandjackfish.com or follow the Jackfish on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter at @wellandjackfish.
News: Leafs Re-Sign Pitcher Chris Nagorski
TORONTO, Ontario – The Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club (@MapleLeafsBaseball) announced today the re-signing of 5 time IBL Champion Right-Handed Pitcher Chris NagorskiNagorski returns for his 3rd season with the Leafs after spending 8 seasons in the IBL with Guelph and Barrie. Nagorski is 2nd all time in IBL career saves (25) and 12th all-time…
TORONTO, Ontario – The Toronto Maple Leafs Baseball Club (@MapleLeafsBaseball) announced today the re-signing of 5 time IBL Champion Right-Handed Pitcher Chris Nagorski
Nagorski returns for his 3rd season with the Leafs after spending 8 seasons in the IBL with Guelph and Barrie. Nagorski is 2nd all time in IBL career saves (25) and 12th all-time in appearances (136 games) . Last season in 12 games, Chris stuck out 8 and had an ERA of 5.26 in 13.2 Innings pitched.
“Chris is a tremendous team player and understands his role as a leader and late inning relief pitcher. He knows how to be ready to pitch and helps the younger players adjust to the IBL. We are excited to have him back this year.” GM Jeff Lounsbury
“I am thrilled to run it back with the boys and contribute to a new era of Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball” said Nagorkski
The Toronto Maple Leafs are a member of Canada’s best league, the Intercounty Baseball League. The over 100-year-old summer league is one of the oldest baseball leagues in the world, with the league established in 1919, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. For more information, visit www.mapleleafsbaseball.com or follow the Maple Leafs on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
This announcement is brought to you by NEW ERA CAP COMPANY official hat supplier of the Toronto Maple Leaf Baseball Team. New Era | New Era Hats & Apparel – New Era Cap
Photo: Craig Aikin