Prolific Astro Falcons sizzled all summer

Staff report


The Astro Falcons didn’t stray from home, yet the Class B League team produced two world series champions, while the Little Class B League’s Creekside Fitness won the NABF Junior (16-U) World Series, albeit in Northfield, Mich.

Still, home or away, it was an enormously successful season that produced a baseball bonanza for the local league.

The Falcons won both the CABA 18-under World Series and NABF Senior World Series at Cene Park.

“It was pretty much a success all the way through,” B league president Scott Ruark said of the three-month long parade of games that concluded recently when Falcons beat the Houston Raiders for the NABF Senior WS crown. “Winning three world series within the league, that’s never happened before.”

The Raiders beat the Falcons last year in the semifinals of the same tournament, when the 2011 NABF Senior WS was in the hands of the Ohio Glaciers organization.

“There was a lot of baseball, a lot of tournaments — more than most — at Cene,” Ruark said.

“It was a good year for us,” Falcons manager Andy Timko said of his team that had a 51-5 record.

“We won every tournament we got into, plus the ‘B’ championship. I don’t think that will ever be done again.”

The Falcons first won the Triple Crown (18-u) tourney, then the league crown. “That’s always a tough one,” Timko interjected.

The Falcons then won the Connie Mack state championship, followed by back-to-back world series in CABA and NABF.

“We didn’t go 51-5 without some horses, so this year’s team was my best,” Timko said.

Of the five losses, Creekside beat the Falcons twice in the regular season, then Falcons lost to Toyota of Warren (once regular season and once playoffs) and then to Michigan in CABA pool play before the Falcons beat Michigan in bracket play.

“Losing four of five tells you how tough the league is,” said Timko, whose seven years as manager include five “B” championships: three in a row with R & J Trucking (2006, 2007 & 2008) and two with Falcons (2011 & 2012).

His teams finished as runner-up twice, too, including in 2009, when the Falcons had a 26-2 regular-season record and won the Connie Mack.

Triple Crown’s inclusion in the “B” schedule in early June was a shot in the arm for a slow period of the season.

“A lot of kids are still playing with their school teams or they’re having graduation, so that would usually leave Class B teams depleted,” Timko said. “The number of teams in the Triple Crown helped fill the void.”

Throughout his seven years as a “B” manager, Timko has been assisted by Brian Kubala, Mike Popio and Mike Loney.

Two of Timko’s players this year were with him for four years: Dan Popio and James Coates.

“Those are my two cornerstones,” Timko said of his catcher from Boardman and center fielder Coates from Warren JFK. Popio is headed to YSU, while Coates will play at Penn State.

“It’s tough for a 16-year-old to play in Big B, let alone a 15-year old who starts and does well,” Timko said of Popio and Coates.

Popio’s four-year batting average was .473.

“That’s unheard of,” Timko said of Popio’s two seasons with R & J and two with Falcons.

As 16-year-olds, Popio and Bubba Wells (West Branch) led Big B’s hitting in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

This summer, Wells was runnerup and Popio was third-best to batting champion Dan Ferguson of Creekside. Ferguson of Mineral Ridge beat Wells and Popio out on the last day of the 22-game regular season.

Pitcher Troy Parks (Boardman) was another of Timko’s outstanding players as were dh-Matt Unkefer (West Branch) and Mercyhurst-bound shortstop Brendan Cox (Warren JFK).

The Falcons picked up two players for CABA and three for NABF including Toyota of Warren’s G.J. Sinchak, an outfielder/pitcher who was NABF Senior MVP.

“What makes it so nice is that they contributed and rightfully so,” Timko said of players such as Sinchak, who is headed to Division II California (Pa.) University. “He had a heck of a tournament.”

Timko is melancholy about losing others, like a couple from Pittsburgh, including St. Bonaventure-bound Alex Bell.

“The sad part is that I’ll never get to coach those guys again,” Timko said. “I didn’t have to tell them to get ready for games, to run on and off the field. We go after that certain type of kid — the one who really loves the game — and they jell. I’ve been very lucky with kids.”

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