[MAW] 2019 Wiffle Wars Tournament Preview
The first three Mid Atlantic tournaments of the 2019 regular season saw three different champions crowned. First, it was perennial favorites ERL who took down April’s Opening Day tournament with a perfect 5-0 record. Then it was the Shortballs – April’s runner up – who avenged their prior championship game loss to ERL in walk-off fashion in Jackson. In Ridley Park, the Stompers returned to their tournament winning ways thanks to strong performances by Gino Joseph and Tom Gannon.
Will Saturday’s Wiffle Wars deliver a fourth different tournament champion of the 2019 season?
If it does, the smart money is on the Longballs. The Ridley Park squad have been MAW’s most consistent team through the first half of the season with in 4th, 5th, and 3rd place finishes through three events. Colin Pollag has found his groove at the plate, Tommy Lotus is showing every tournament exactly why he is one of the sports’ best, and lefty Tyler Nachbar is expected to be available for the first time in 2019. Nachbar can take some of the pool play pitching pressure off Sean Bingnear – who has struggled at times this season – with the hope of being able to get the ball to a completely fresh Loftus for the elimination round. The Longballs have all the pieces to win a tournament, it is just a matter of it all coming together for one day. Saturday could be that day.
If a fourth team does not add their name to the list of 2019 MAW champions at Wiffle Wars, which prior winner has the best shot at repeating? All three former champions will be missing pieces from their prior title runs.
It appears as if ERL will be playing as a duo in York on Saturday, but it is about as dynamic of one as you could imagine. Jordan Robles and Connor Young certainly have the ability to win as a two-man. Connor has thrown three games in each of ERL’s last two tournaments which will be enough to get ERL through pool play in this 8-team field. And having to face Jordan every other batter is something no opposing pitcher wants to deal with. Robles and Young are often at their best with their backs against the wall and something to prove.
The Shortballs will be short one key player, as Teddy Drecher is reportedly a no-go for Saturday. Teddy and Frankie Campanile have formed a formidable 1-2 punch atop the rotation for the Shortballs this season. Without Drecher, the Shortballs will look to Nate Smith to eat up some extra innings. It’s a task that Smith should be up for. He’s been unscored upon his last two games, with a total bases win against the Blueballs in Jackson and a total bases loss to the Risers in Ridley Park. The Shortballs will need to find more consistent offense after scoring just one run in four games on June 1st if they hope to add another title to their mantle.
The latest 2019 MAW tournament champions, the Stompers, will be without one of the keys to their tournament victory but will be getting back another regular roster member. Championship game hitting hero Tom Gannon will be out of action in York but the Stompers are getting back southpaw Brice Clark after missing the Ridley tournament. The Stompers surprised some folks with their victory on June 1st, but it would not come as a shock if they managed a repeat performance in York, even without Gannon. One fewer pool play game should help the Stompers as much as any team.
One club that is heading in the opposite direction – adding players for this tournament rather than losing some – is the New School Risers. And it might be coming at just the perfect time.
Just two weeks after showing up to Ridley Park by himself and going after it with a last minute replacement player (granted, it was the best possible replacement player anyone could ever hope for), Dave Capobianco will have the Risers at full strength for Wiffle Wars. Keeping it all in the family, Dave will have his two children (Kyleigh and Matt) back with him while also adding his younger brother, Jason. Jason played with Dave on the Old School Risers a decade ago and by Dave’s own admission, his brother was the harder thrower and better pitcher of the two. The Risers have desperately needed a second polished arm – Matt might not be quite there yet – and they are hoping that Jason is just that. One game out of him would be great. Two games and at least one win will have the Risers on the fast track to the tournament finals.
The Barrel Bruisers have not had much luck over the years when it comes to player acquisitions, but they hope they have found another contributor with the addition of Jay Paul Volpone.
The longtime RPWL player chewed up 2 ½ games on the rubber for the Bruisers in Ridley Park while also hitting the game winning homer against the New School Risers. Pone also got off to a strong start in the 2019 RPWL season. He hit a home run on Opening Day as the Phillies routed the Indians and then worked 1 ½ scoreless innings in relief against the A’s. The Bruisers are hoping Pone can carry his hot start to the season over to Wiffle Wars, where he is slated to make his Shi Wiffleball Park debut.
In more good news for the Bruisers, the team is expected to get Chris Owen back for the 15th. Owen missed the prior two tournaments due to personal commitments. With the addition of Pone and the re-addition of Owen, the Bruisers have the kind of pitching depth they have been sorely lacking over the last couple of seasons.
On Opening Day back in April – with little other choices available to them – the York Yaks handed the ball to Jarod Bull for all three of their tournament games. Relying on one pitcher and one pitcher only is a strategy that is destined to have a short shelf life and the Yaks were well aware of that. Both Bull and captain Nick Shirey agreed that another pitcher – someone that could be slotted between Bull and Jared Laird – would be a huge gain for the team if not a necessity. The Yaks hope they’ve found that missing piece in rookie Noah Silverman.
In just his third competitive wiffleball pitching appearance on June 1st in Ridley Park, Noah threw all four games for the Yaks, winning two and dropping a couple of close ones to ERL and ATF. Relying on an assortment of pitches and very good command, Noah has all the makings of a quality tournament pitcher. He also has plenty of durability and by his own admission was ready to throw the day after pitching four games in Ridley. With Noah and Bull on the same tournament roster, the Yaks now have the quality pitching depth necessary to make a deep tournament run.
At the midway mark of the 2019 Mid Atlantic season, the discussion surrounding the Juggernauts has changed dramatically from the pre-season.
Back in February and March, chatter around this team centered on just how dominate they might end up being and which of the two super squads – them or ERL – was superior. There were whispers that their six-player roster might be too full and too deep, but it felt more like something to write and talk about rather than anything seriously viewed as an issue. Now that we are in June and the Juggernauts’ record sits at a lowly 2-8, the discussion has taken on a decidedly different tone. At least for the moment, the Juggernauts are being talked about not as one of the top two or three teams in MAW, but rather a team that needs to turn the corner quickly if they hope to make a team run in September.
Wiffle Wars is as opportune of a time for the Juggernauts to turn things around as any. Although they will be McElrath-less on Saturday, the Juggernauts are still more than capable of making a run to the championship game. Their performance has not been nearly as bad as their record indicates, just a tad uneven. The one thing that hasn’t changed between April and now is the talent level on the Juggernauts. It is just a matter of it all coming together for one tournament.