[MAW] 2019 Wiffle Wars Tournament Recap
A Newsworthy Tournament for ERL On and Off the Field
ERL’s decision to reset turns Wiffle Wars and the entire 2019 season on its head
June 15, 2019 (York, PA) - Our preview for MAW Wiffle Wars shined light on the fact that the first three 2019 MAW tournaments all ended with a different champion. The question going into Wiffle Wars was whether that trend would continue and result in a fourth different champion of the season.
Yes . . . well sort of, kind of, but not really.
ERL won the tournament just as it had back in April at Opening Day. But this wasn’t the same ERL team, both generally and technically speaking.
In April, Connor Young and Jordan Robles were joined by last minute substitutes Kevin Norris and Ty Wegerzn. In May and early June, we saw ERL as originally intended with Dan Whitener and Johnny Costa joining the mix alongside Young and Robles. Once Costa took the field in May, ERL officially maxed out their roster at six players. Unexpectedly, some internal strife left ERL in the need of additional roster spots to finish the season. Essentially, the team was faced with the choice of going it as a two-man or hitting the reset button – forfeiting their previously earned points – and starting over with a fresh six-person roster.
Connor chose the latter option, parting company with everyone but Robles while also adding Devin Torres and Kenny Rodgers. So while Young, Robles, Torres, and Rodgers played as ERL on Saturday and will continue to do so for the rest of the season, as far as the 2019 Mid Atlantic season is concerned, this was a technically a new team – an ERL 2.0, if you will. This ERL entered Wiffle Wars without any of the points the prior incarnation accrued and without their automatic bid to the Championship Tournament but with newly freed up roster spots. In one fell swoop, ERL went from top of the Championship Tournament point standings to the bottom. It was a drastic move, the aftershocks of which were felt on Saturday and will likely be felt for the remainder of the 2019 MAW season.
The immediate and most obvious beneficiaries of ERL’s decision were the Ridley Park duo of the Shortballs and Longballs. Both teams were staring up in the points standings at ERL but jumped into first and second place immediately after ERL vacated it’s previously earned points. Before a single pitch had been thrown on Saturday, the Shortballs and Longballs jumped to first and second place, respectively, in the Championship Tournament picture. Both teams put themselves in the position to benefit from ERL’s decision and continued to plow ahead with strong performances in York. The Longballs finished 4th in the tournament, leapfrogging over the Shortballs (who finished 5th) for first place in the standings. With two tournaments left to go, both the Longballs and Shortballs are in solid positions to earn a first weekend bye in the Championship Tournament.
Another team that stands to gain from ERL’s decision is the Juggernauts. While some of us have been perhaps overly focused on the Juggernauts’ underachieving ways, the team has quietly continued grinding away and now has as many 3rd place tournaments (two) as they do sub-.500 finishes. The Juggernauts currently hold the 4th spot in the point standings and are just one behind the Stompers for the coveted final first weekend bye. It is a tremendous spot for them to be in at this point in the season, especially with how Opening Day and the Philly Special went for the pre-season favorites. The Juggernauts took care of business at Wiffle Wars by going 2-1 in pool play before losing to the New School Risers in the semi-finals. One top two finish and one middle-of-the-pack finish over the final two events would give the Juggernauts a strong chance of capturing a first weekend bye.
The Juggernauts will have to bypass the Stompers to get there, however. The winners of the Philly Special fell back down to earth in York, finishing 1-2 with loses to the two championship game participants. On the bright side, the Stompers got a win from lefty Brice Clark who showed off his enormous potential with a fine, 5-inning shutout victory over the York Yaks. The Stompers slid into 3rd place in the point standings thanks to ERL, but after Saturday they hold a precarious single point lead over the Juggernauts. The Stompers will need a pair of quality finishes in July or August – realistically, 5th place or better – to give themselves a chance at the first weekend bye. And even then, they might need some outside help.
The New School Risers were not necessarily helped out by ERL’s unprecedented move – at least relative to other teams – but they did take matters into their own hands to improve their post-season positioning.
The Risers came to York with reinforcements in the form of Dave Capobianco’s brother, Jason. Jason ate up about six innings on the carpet, but more importantly he hit game winning homeruns against the Stompers and Yaks. The Risers squeezed through to the elimination round at 2-1 and Dave shut down the Juggernauts to earn a trip to their second MAW tournament finals (Jason’s bat once again played a big role, this time in the form of 2-run triple). Although the Risers fell short to ERL in the finals, their run to the title game qualified them for the Championship Tournament and catapulted them to the 6th spot in the point standings. With Jason in the fold now and Matt coming on strong at the plate, the Risers are a team that nobody will be comfortable facing in the post-season.
As for the team that caused all of this chaos, Wiffle Wars went exactly the way ERL desperately needed it to go. Torres won a pair of games. Rodgers hit three home runs. Robles took care of business in the semi-finals with both his bat and arm. For his part, Young took the ball at the end of an MAW tournament for the first time since last August 4th and pitched ERL past the New School Risers in the title game. Winning the tournament and taking home the 16 first place points that went along with it was a huge boon to the team. ERL still has a shot at the first weekend bye, although they certainly have their work cut out for them.
To put ERL’s chances at a first weekend bye into perspective, the Longballs and Shortballs sit at 40 and 39 points, respectively. The max points that ERL can finish with is 48 if they win the July and August tournaments. The Longballs need nine points and the Shortballs need ten over the next two events to place themselves out of ERL’s reach. While certainly not guaranteed, it is reasonable to expect that both teams will be able to do just that.
That leaves the third and final first round bye as ERL’s best chance. The Stompers currently hold that spot with 30 points and the Juggernauts are right behind them with 29. Those teams would need 16 and 17 points, respectively, over the final two tournaments to reach 46 for the season. For ERL to earn 46 points or more they will have to finish no worse than 1st in one tournament and 2nd in another. The Juggernauts and Stompers have both been wildly inconsistent this season so 16 points – essentially an average of two 5th place finishes – is far from guaranteed but it gives you an idea of the tough road ERL has ahead of them. That’s without mentioning the NY Meats who – at 26 points currently – are still in the hunt for a first weekend bye. Even if the team only plays one more tournament, a first-place finish would leave them with 42 points on the year and an outside chance at the final bye.
The home stretch to the 2019 MAW season was already heading in an exciting direction, but ERL’s reset brought things to another level. With just two tournaments to go and so much yet to be decided, we are in for a very eventful July and August.
Here and There
Nachbar Saves the Day: It took two months and three tournaments for Tyler Nachbar to make his 2019 MAW tournament debut, but for the Longballs, it was well worth the wait. Tommy Loftus experienced some arm discomfort early on and smartly decided to play it cautiously the rest of the tournament. With Sean Bingnear already handling a heavy workload in MAW and RPWL this year, the Longballs turned to their freshest arm. Nachbar – who is not competing in RPWL this season – looked in mid-season form despite not throwing a pitch in a competitive game this spring. He threw parts of four games for his team and won three of them, with a semi-finals loss to ERL standing out as the only blemish on his day.
Yaks pitching is where it needs to be, bats are not: The pair of Noah Silverman and Jarod Bull were expected to be a strong pitching combo and they proved to be just that. Noah dropped a game to ERL and then lost a tough 1-0 extra-inning contest against the Stompers. Bull looked really good for the second time this season but was on the wrong end of a Jason Capobianco solo homerun versus the Risers. The Yaks’ pitchers didn’t allow very many runs at all, but their offense was shut out for three straight games. The good news is that the Yaks have the pitching necessary to get to the post-season and make a run once there; the bad news is that all the quality pitching in the world won’t mean anything if they can’t find a way to score with some consistency.
Hill gives it all he’s got against the Longballs: Jerry Hill’s right hand – red and blown up about to significantly more than its normal size – told the entire story. Hours after holding the Longballs to one run through four regulation innings (and eventually running out of gas in the 5th), Jerry was still feeling the effects of pitching one of his best games in Mid Atlantic. Hill left everything on the field and came at the Longballs hitters with a riser that was easily a tick or two above his normal velocity. The game was somewhat reminiscent of last year’s Championship Tournament opener when Hill carried a multi-run lead over the Lemon Heads to the final inning, only to surrender it and lose in extras. Nobody competes harder than Jerry and a big win a low-scoring game seems inevitable for him. Also, as good as the first two Longballs/Bruisers games have been this season, the rubber match should be a doozy.
A statement win for Brice Clark: Brice Clark only had one pitching opportunity in two tournaments for the Stompers prior to Wiffle Wars. And the reality is, it wasn’t even a terrible start – 3 runs over 4 innings with 7 walks doing him in. Yet, there was a feeling that Brice had something to prove on the rubber on Saturday after the way the season began for him. He made a loud and clear statement. First, Clark threw five shutout innings against the Yaks and was the beneficiary of the Stompers’ walk off win. He followed that up with two good innings against ERL, before his command did him in and he gave way to Gino Joseph. It wasn’t just Clark’s results that stood out, his stuff was top notch too. Throwing clean balls, Clark kept hitters off balance with an assortment of drops, risers, and sliders. The power drop in particular caught the attention of opposing hitters. If he can replicate his Wiffle Wars’ performance down the stretch and into the post-season, the Stompers look to be in good shape from a pitching standpoint to succeed. Like the Yaks, it is their offense that remains a question mark.
Kenny Rodgers Jr. does what he does: All Kenny Rodgers’ ERL teammates could do while watching him hit three homeruns on Saturday was shake their heads in disbelief and compare his uncanny ability to hit any wiffleball a long way to that of a create-a-player in a baseball video game. For many years, Rodgers has been one of the sports’ best hitters and we saw that talent on display on Saturday. For Kenny, wiffleball hitting runs through his veins. His dad, Kenny “Moonlight” Rodgers, crushed wiffleballs in a similar fashion for the illustrious In the Box about two decades ago.
Addition of Liberio helps offset loss of Drecher: The Shortballs were without co-ace Teddy Drecher on Saturday, which left the bulk of the pitching duties in the capable hands of Frankie Campanile. However, Drecher’s absence was partially offset by the regular season debut of Jack Liberio. While Liberio couldn’t make up for the pitching deficit created by Teddy’s absence, he did contribute with the bat and won one game for the Shortballs with his stick. In addition to a long blast off Tyler Nachbar, Liberio contributed a game winning single against the Juggernauts. That hit was the difference between a 1-2 and 2-2 finish for the Shortballs and a couple of points in the standings.
Extra, extra: Prior to Saturday, not a single 2019 MAW game ended in extra innings without going to the total base tiebreaker. Every game that went into the 5th inning eventually resolved itself by the total bases. With the format at Wiffle Wars creating some flexibility from a time standpoint and attempting to reduce the number of total base games, all pool play games at Wiffle Wars were allowed two extra innings (six total) before moving to the tiebreaker. So of course, this tournament featured TWO games that were decided in the 5th inning (Stompers vs. Yaks, Bruisers vs. Longballs). None of the pool play games on Saturday made it into the 6th inning.
Milestone Update: It seemed like a lock that at Wiffle Wars Connor Young would pick up the 15 strikeouts necessary to reach 500 for his MAW career. After all, this is a guy that usually doesn’t bother getting out of bed if he isn’t going to be able to throw 12+ innings. In a rare departure from the norm, however, Soup threw only one game - the 5-inning championship - and the Risers made just enough contact to leave him three short of the milestone mark. Barring something really unforeseen, Soup should reach that mark early on in his first game of Wiffle Bash.
The Race to the Championship Tournament
Five teams – Shortballs, Stompers, Meats, ERL, and the New School Risers – have earned automatic bids to the Championship Tournament by virtue of finishing first or second in a regular season tournament. That leaves four spots up for grabs which can be had by finishing first or second in either of the two remaining regular season tournaments or by having the most points after the auto qualifiers are accounted for (tournament., if there are seven auto qualified teams after the August tournament, the two non-qualified points with the highest point totals will round out the field). Every team that has played this season still has a chance to get in by points and it is not out of the realm of possibility that a new team could crash the party by making it to the championship game in July or August.
Join MAW this July 4th weekend for Wiffle Bash at Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA! This is one of MAW’s signature events and with the Championship Tournament race in full swing,it promises to be a good one. Registration is open at the MAW Pro Shop or by contacting Tim Cooke at email@example.com.