[MAW] 2019 Wiffle Bash Tournament Preview
There is plenty of business for the ten teams competing in Saturday’s Wiffle Bash tournament to attend to.
There are those who will be fighting for one the nine spots in September’s Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament and could use a top half finish on Saturday to move into or solidify a spot. Others already comfortably in the top nine are in positioning mode, hoping to move into one of the two double elimination bye spots or to position themselves for one of the three coveted first weekend byes. Some full teams and many individual players will be hoping to build momentum before competing in the NWLA Tournament the following week. The first spot in Championship Tournament point standings – coveted because it means playing the team that came out of the first weekend in the semi-finals – is up for grabs with just a single point separating the first and second place teams. And while certainly secondary to team accomplishments, the Mid Atlantic regular season awards – MVP, Pitcher, Hitter, and Rookie of the Year – can be swayed by this weekend’s performances.
With that said, the most intriguing potential storyline at Wiffle Bash is less business driven – though not completely devoid of that element either – and is not without a healthy dose of animosity. If ERL and POC (the former Lemon Heads) meet on Saturday, the stakes will be more personal than we are used to seeing in normal Mid Atlantic games. It is a game that players on both sides will be hungry to win in light of recent happenings.
ERL made the unprecedented decision prior to Wiffle Wars to vacate their previously earned points and start anew. The impetus for the decision was ERL captain Connor Young wishing to subtract players – Dan Whitener among them – while also adding others to fill the newly created void. Since ERL had filled their six roster spots, it was necessary that they start over to gain additional roster spots. Whitener’s departure was not necessarily an amicable one nor was it necessarily mutually agreed upon.
Meanwhile, the Lemon Heads missed a MAW tournament for the first time in a calendar year when they were absent from both June tournaments this summer. Citing a desire to limit the number of fast pitch innings put on Ray Lutick’s arm, the Lemons concentrated on medium pitch play in both their home Jackson Wiffleball League and Golden Stick Yard instead. However, when Whitener suddenly became available, the Lemons – who eliminated ERL from the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament last September – could not resist the opportunity to needle their old rivals. The club added Whitener to their Mid Atlantic roster – an easy decision given they only had to forfeit three previously earned points – and officially transformed into POC.
While all eyes will be on any potential meeting between POC and ERL on Saturday, POC’s inclusion at Wiffle Bash has potentially far greater implications than a single game.
A first or second place finish on Saturday will auto qualify POC for the Championship Tournament. If that happens, it won’t be the first time the team formally known as the Lemon Heads threw a late wrench into the Championship Tournament picture. In 2018, the Lemons made their MAW debut at Wiffle Bash, finished in the top half of the field over the next three tournaments, and ended up as the 2018 runners up. POC potentially facing ERL on Saturday is a sexy story, but POC’s impact on the 2019 Mid Atlantic season could be even more far-reaching.
For their part, ERL cannot risk getting sidetracked by a feud with only two tournaments left to regain their points. The new look ERL did exactly what they needed to by winning Wiffle Wars and taking home an important 16 points. They will need two more top tier finishes to in July and August to have a fighting chance at one of the three first weekend byes.
One thing is for sure, if POC and ERL meet in the semi-finals or finals it will be must-see wiffleball!
· For only the second time this spring/summer, the Longballs and Shortballs are NOT scheduled to meet in pool play. If these two Ridley Park squads do not meet in a play-in game or elimination round game at Wiffle Bash, it would be the first time they have been present at the same MAW and not faced each other.
· Looking for an important pool play match? Look no further than the Stompers and Juggernauts game, which has a scheduled start time of 10:30 AM. The Stompers currently hold the coveted third spot in the point standings but their grip on the first lead bye is precarious at best. The Juggernauts sit just a single point behind the 2017 & 2018 Mid Atlantic champions which gives this morning match up an added dose of drama.
· The Juggernauts are expected to have both McElraths in action for the first time since April’s Opening Day tournament.
· The Barrel Bruisers will have a full four-man squad for the second time this year. With games against the Yaks and Blueballs sandwiching a meeting with POC, the Bruisers have a manageable pool play schedule. They received solid pitching from both Chris Owen and Jerry Hill at Wiffle Wars. If they tighten up their defensive play, they seem primed to pull out an upset on the 6th.
· Add the Blueballs and Bruisers pool play game to the list of games with potential Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament implications. The Blueballs currently a hold a one-point lead over the Bruisers for the ninth and final spot in the playoffs.
· If – or more likely, when – Connor Young strikes out his third batter of the day on Saturday, he will become the first pitcher in Mid Atlantic history to reach 500 career K’s.
· How might the upcoming NWLA Tournament impact pitching decisions? Approximately fifteen players slated to compete in Michigan the weekend of July 13-14 could be in action on Saturday. For example, do the Longballs and Shortballs hold back on Tommy Loftus and Ryan Drecher, respectively, to keep their arms fresh for the following weekend while leaning more heavily on Tyler Nachbar and Frankie Campanile?
· The Stompers will be without Brice Clark on Saturday meaning the team is likely to lean on Gino Joseph for innings throughout the tournament. While the Stompers would certainly prefer to have Brice with them this weekend, the last time the Stompers relied heavily on Joseph in Clark’s absence they walked away with the tournament title.
· With the NY Meats idle, the New School Risers could move into 5th place in the point standings with even an average showing in York. Another finals appearance for the Risers could shoot them up the rankings even more. At 23 points going into the tournament, the Risers could move into the top three if they make the title game and the Juggernauts and Stompers both falter this weekend.