Petaluma's Comstock leads All-Empire large school baseball team

By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Rare is the four-year varsity player. Equally notable is one who works hard to improve already impressive skills.

Daniel Comstock’s final season with the Petaluma high baseball team was his greatest challenge yet. Switching to catcher to help a young squad and improve his chances to play in college, Comstock led the Trojans to a league tournament title and a deep section playoff run.

Posting impressive numbers at the plate and on the mound when not anchoring Petaluma’s defense, Comstock is The Press Democrat’s All-Empire Large School Baseball Player of the Year.

“Baseball is baseball. It’s going to be challenging. I felt I was able to take the position and be the leader behind the plate,” Comstock said. “I strive for the top.”

So committed to winning is Comstock that he helped Petaluma turn an uneven season into the program’s best finish since he first put on a Trojans purple jersey.

“When we got down to it in the playoffs, we were very lucky to have him,” said Petaluma coach Paul Cochrun. “Everything started to click and we wouldn’t have gotten that far without him.”

The three-time All-Empire player is now bound for Menlo College on a scholarship. The small college offer from the NAIA school south of San Francisco was better for Comstock than being a recruited walk-on player at California or Sacramento State.
“I believed in my talents and Menlo came in and gave me a pretty good scholarship,” he said.

Long noticed by college recruiters, Comstock could always hit, but didn’t find a true fit on defense.

Often a third baseman and pitcher, Comstock also played first base when needed.

Ahead of his senior season, Comstock and his coaches decided on the move to catcher. While he manned the position in spot duty on summer teams, Comstock remained a novice behind the plate.

“He really blossomed. He just really bought into it,” Cochrun said.

Winter coaching under Miami Marlins catching coordinator Tim Cossins, a former Empire standout, and seasonlong tutoring from Petaluma’s staff helped Comstock develop college-level mechanics. Now he receives, blocks and throws balls with confidence.

“I had to work on getting everything better. I still work hard at it every day,” he said. “There’s not a lot of great hitting defensive catchers. What I’m trying to do is both.”

Taking on a new position can take a player’s focus off staying strong as a hitter. Not for Comstock.

Despite often being pitched around, Comstock made the most of his at bats. On the season he hit .437 with 11 extra base hits including a pair of home runs, and knocked in 21 runs.

While catching and all those throws limited Comstock’s pitching, he still won and saved big games. In his 36 innings pitched, Comstock struck out 52 and walked only eight.

“Catching was the best thing for the team. We didn’t have a lot of guys who ran on us because they knew what kind of arm he has,” Cochrun said. “When he was on the mound he was a fighter.”

Two of his wins came against Sonoma County League rival Casa Grande, including the North Coast Section quarterfinals.

Comstock notched the save in Petaluma’s league tournament title win over Sonoma Valley — after knocking in the tying and go-ahead runs.

“I’ve always been a team guy, about winning the game than actually playing well. At the end of the day winning is what matters,” Comstock said.

Still, with the season winding down Petaluma was only 12-11 and needed a victory in the final league game over Healdsburg to qualify for the section playoffs. The Trojans nailed down that game and a pair each in the league tournament and sections.

The five game wins streak took Petaluma to the NCS Division 2 semifinals. The Trojans fell by a run in the last inning at favored Dougherty Valley.

Petaluma’s improvement was Comstock’s season highlight.

“It was hard to get younger guys into the winning routine. At the end of the year it just started clicking,” Comstock said. “We finished playing our best baseball. It was definitely rewarding.”

Comstock spent the summer traveling across the West playing summer tournaments. Off the field, he keeps a steady routine of weight and agility training, adding yoga before his senior season.

“The competition is going to be tougher. It’s going to be more mental,” he said. “I’m striving for the next level.”

2012 ALL-EMPIRE LARGE SCHOOL BASEBALL

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR

Daniel Comstock, Petaluma, senior

FIRST TEAM

Anthony Bender, Utility, Casa Grande, junior
Francis Christy, C, Casa Grande, junior
Nolan Formway, OF, Cardinal Newman, senior
Kevin George, P, Casa Grande, junior
Michael Hernandez, P, Sonoma Valley, senior
Erik Owenson, OF, Cardinal Newman, junior
Mario Smaldino, OF, Maria Carrillo, senior
Jonah Son, IF, Sonoma Valley, junior
Chris Swanson, IF, Sonoma Valley, senior

SECOND TEAM

Tanner Goldman, IF, Rancho Cotate, senior
Mark Grover, OF, Healdsburg, senior
Ryan Haug, C, Rancho Cotate, junior
Mark Peterson, 1B/P, Cardinal Newman, senior
Dylan Parks, OF, Petaluma, senior
Darrian Roman, OF, Windsor, senior
Chase Stafford, IF, Casa Grande, senior
Michael Walker, IF, Santa Rosa, sophomore
Connor Williams, P, Cardinal Newman, senior

THIRD TEAM

John Brazil, IF, Ukiah, junior
Dan Deely, IF, Sonoma Valley, sophomore
Brandon Hagerla, P, Petaluma, senior
Iggy Llorance, OF, Casa Grande, junior
Karl Nimtz, P/OF, Montgomery, senior
Bryan Neuerburg, C, Cardinal Newman, senior
Darrin Newman, IF, Analy, junior
Jake Scheiner, Utility, Maria Carrillo, junior
Massimo Smaldino, IF, Maria Carrillo, senior

COACH OF THE YEAR

Don Lyons, Sonoma Valley