Cowan Going Out With a Bang for Baycats

by Ryan Eakin

BARRIE - Winners of the last six Intercounty Baseball League championships, the 2021 Barrie Baycats returned just two players who have been a part of all six of the Baycats' most recent championships.

The first player, Branfy Infante, has enjoyed a successful season in his own right, batting .269-.387-.462 through the first seven games of his 2021 season.

The second player, Jeff Cowan, has been brilliant. 

Through the first 10 games of his season, Cowan has batted .385-.489-.385, which, if he can sustain, will go down as his best season since his 2012 season, where he won the league's batting title with a .422 batting average.

The former Canadian National Junior team infielder said he has been pleasantly surprised with his season thus far.

"It has been a nice surprise," said the former Normal Cornbelter. "Having not played for two years, it has been a pleasant surprise. I knew it was going to take a couple of games for sure to get back into the swing of things and then bouncing around the diamond by playing in left field, first base, and second base, it has made it all that more challenging. 

"You don't want to make a mistake when you are out there, so I said to myself that I really have to step it up, because when you are out there, there are no excuses"

Baycats manager Josh Matlow said he has been thrilled with Cowan's play this season, on both sides of the ball.

"Jeff has been a huge part of our success this year so far. With his professional approach at the plate and his current on-base percentage, but more importantly, his willingness to help the team and play wherever he is needed has been a huge plus for us on and off the field as a team and organization. We are grateful to have him a part of the squad in this transitional year."

Due to his hot start, Cowan reached a significant milestone in his career faster than he thought he would have this season.

Coming into the season, the former High Point University star was eight hits away from 400 career Intercounty Baseball League [IBL] hits.

He was able to hit the milestone on August 7th against the Hamilton Cardinals, which was just his eighth game of the season.

He hit a base hit up the middle in the bottom of the first inning to hit 400 career hits and tacked on four more hits for good measure.

It was his first five-hit game since June 24, 2018, against the Guelph Royals, where he went five-for-six in a 20-1 win over the Royals.

The two-time IBL all-star said it was a night he will never forget.

"It was pretty cool because my family hadn't been out to a game all season but my parents were finally there for that one. My wife was here with my daughter too, so it was fun to wave to them.

"It was a nice moment. It happened pretty fast, so thinking back, I don't really remember it, but it was nice to get it at home and it was nice to get it with family here, more so with my mom and dad there who have been with me the entire way.

"So it was really, really cool."

Matlow, who had played with Cowan earlier in his career, said it was nice moment watching Cowan reach 400 hits in his legendary IBL career.

"From playing with Jeff almost 15 years ago to being able to see him reach a milestone of 400 hits speaks volumes of his leadership and commitment to his teammates and the organization over all those years. I’m a huge fan of him on and off the field and am extremely honoured to be able to witness that with my own eyes. I couldn’t be happier for him, his past and present teammates, and the organization for such a special achievement."

One of the biggest reasons Cowan decided to come back for the 2021 season was because, yes, he wanted to reach the 400 hit milestone but he also wanted to go out with a 'vintage Jeff Cowan' season, rather than going out with his 2019 season, which was poor relative to his past seasons.

Cowan said this season has been everything he could have hoped for.

"I think going out on my terms is key," said one of the best pure contact hitters in league history. "We had a really good squad in 2019 and things didn't work out in my favour from a personal perspective, so to get back out here and see the baseball a little bit, to be able to swing it like I have, it's been nice.

"It has just been nice to be out here too, seeing my daughter have fun out at the yard. She loves coming and is always asking if I have a game tonight, so that is really cool too.

"That, plus the success I have had, has been great."

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Photo: Bob Hurley/Bob Hurley Photography