Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #6

2019 Offseason News & Notes #1: Meet the Meats, 2019 Championship Tournament
2019 Offseason News & Notes #2: Lemon Heads, Winter Classic
2019 Offseason News & Notes #3: Longballs, 2019 Gameplay Rule Changes
2019 Offseason News & Notes #4: Shortballs, Bunting
2019 Offseason News & Notes #5: Juggernauts

‘Championship or Bust’ for ERL?

The flurry of activity this offseason in Mid Atlantic has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

ERL 2019.png

On June 10, 2017, ERL made their Mid Atlantic debut a memorable one, going 5-1 on the day and defeating the Golden Sanders in the finals to capture the tournament title. The trio of Connor Young, Joe Schlindwein, and Jim Linhardt looked like the odds-on favorites to win the inaugural MAW regular season title and take the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament, but the squad couldn’t get by the York Yaks in August or September and fell to the Jordan Robles-led Stompers in the Championship Tournament. Young added eventual 2018 Rookie of the Year recipient Blake Hoffman that winter and brought Dan Whitener and Gerard Fitzgerald on board during the season. Those additions got ERL their regular season title, but the team was stopped in the semi-finals of the Championship Tournament as they dropped two out of three to the Jersey Lemon Heads.

Before the 2018 season concluded, Young had outlined a path forward for ERL in ’19. No longer content with playing the role of the bridesmaid, Young sought to build a juggernaut for MAW’s third season. Letting all other players but Whitener loose, Young added his main competition for the distinction of best player in MAW’s short history – Jordan Robles – to the fold. To round things out, ERL announced on New Year’s eve the addition of Johnny Costa, which made official a move that had been the subject of speculation for months prior.

The result is a lean and mean ERL squad that is not only the on-paper favorites in Mid Atlantic, but a force to be reckon with wherever they may play this year. Young was the game’s most durable, high-end pitcher last year and threw more than 200 quality fast pitch innings in multiple settings. Batting from the left side, the free swinger has a knack for the clutch hit and won the Mid Atlantic Jerome “The Legend” Coyle batting title in 2018. There are plenty of folks who believe that Whitener posses’ wiffleball’s best arm, an opinion that is supported by his otherworldly numbers in both Mid Atlantic and Palisades last year. Robles enters the final season of the decade on the short list of the best all-around players of the last ten years. Jordan is two for two in Mid Atlantic Championships and has every intention of completing the hat trick. In Johnny Wiffs, ERL added yet another quality two-way player. Costa is battled tested and provides his team with yet another starting pitching option.

With ERL, it will likely be more interesting to chart their progress and success on a tournament-by-tournament basis in 2019 rather than simply waiting to see where they will end up. It would take a catastrophe for them not to be one of the top seeded teams going into the Championship Tournament, but it would be far less shocking to see them enter the Championship Tournament with less tournament titles and wins than might otherwise be expected. Over the course of a full tournament season, the offense will produce. On the individual tournament level, ERL – like most teams – are not immune to dry spells. Robles and Young have been on the bad side of some one-run losses over the past two years in MAW and if the offense doesn’t score consistently, they could find themselves in that situation more often than they would like in 2019. Whitener will be tough to deal with if ERL can hand him the ball for the first time in the tournament championship but they have to get there first.

ERL will be one of the top teams in Mid Atlantic by season’s end. The big question is if they get there by blitzing through the competition or will every tournament be a battle for one of MAW’s signature teams? 

Schaefer Finds a New Role

MAW officials are pleased to announce that former Stomper and In the Box standout Nick Schaefer will assume the role of lead broadcast announcer for the organization’s live streaming broadcasts in 2019. Nick – who retired from the sport in 2018 following a 20-year career – will make his official debut in this role at Opening Day on April 20th. He is also signed to broadcast games at the May 18th tournament in New Jersey, with more 2019 dates to be added. With a degree in communications, a quick wit, and a deep knowledge of the sport, Nick will be a valuable member of the team this season as he previews games, calls the action, and conducts interviews with players. Nick will be joined on commentary by a rotating cast of players and the occasional special guest.

In addition to his broadcasting role, Nick will also lend a hand as a contributor to The Drop in both a written and audio (podcast) capacity, as well as serving as a consultant to MAW.

Here and There

Do you have a team name suggestion for the MAW representatives at the NWLA Tournament? Let us know! . . . Registration for the 2019 regular season tournaments will be open soon. MAW officials would like to thank everyone for their patience as we work on finalizing a few logistics . . . Please note that “Backyard Brawl” at Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA has been moved from 7/27 to 8/11. This was done to accommodate the returning NJWA Summer Showdown tournament . . . The MAW YouTube channel has undergone a recent overhaul and is consistently adding new videos and playlists . . . Have you checked out the The Drop Podcast on the Wiffle Now network? Episodes of the podcast will touch on wiffleball from all over – past and present – but will have a regular focus on MAW. Expect regularly released episodes once the 2019 season gets underway . . . Although they will be on separate teams in MAW, Gino Joseph and Chris Sarno will team up on 100 Thieves in the Wiff Is Life League. The Thieves have several other players that should be familiar to MAW regulars, including captain Steven Keelon, Austin Berger, and Nate Morris . . . Speaking of MAW regulars outside MAW, Connor Young has been awarded a franchise in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League. The Devil Rays will begin play when the 2019 RPWL season begins this June . . . We also hear that Connor’s ERL teammate Joe Schlindwein is expected to enter the RPWL draft this season . . . The CFOT Winter Wiffle League wraps up its 3rd this season this weekend when the Sultans of Squad captained by Jerry Hill take on SIX Fifty captained by Chris Owen. Both Jerry and Chris have been impressive on the rubber this winter and will no doubt pitch as many innings (2 inning per pitcher limit in regulation) for their teams in the finals as they can. The finals will air this weekend on the league’s Facebook page.

Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #5

2019 Offseason News & Notes #1: Meet the Meats, 2019 Championship Tournament
2019 Offseason News & Notes #2: Lemon Heads, Winter Classic
2019 Offseason News & Notes #3: Longballs, 2019 Gameplay Rule Changes
2019 Offseason News & Notes #4: Shortballs, Bunting

Anatomy of a Juggernaut

The flurry of activity at the onset of the 2018/2019 Mid Atlantic offseason has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

Some teams this offseason opted for the depth approach in constructing their 2019 Mid Atlantic rosters. Two of the Ridley Park teams – the Longballs and Shortballs – are good examples of that. Other teams – like ERL and the NY Meats – have chosen a more streamlined approach to roster building, trading in potential depth for veritable all-stars at all four regular starting positions.

Then there is the Chris Sarnowski and the Juggernauts. Rather than take an either/or approach in building his new team, Sarno built a squad that is as star heavy as it is deep. With several quality defenders, two top tier pitchers, and six players that can hit, the Juggernauts could very well end up being the overwhelming force of nature that their name suggests.

juggernauts.jpg

The Juggernauts’ captain projects to be among the best pitchers and hitters in Mid Atlantic next season, just as he was in 2018. When a team captain is also a top tier two-way player, it allows for a certain level of creativity and flexibility in filling out the rest of the roster. To that end, Sarno made Dan Potter – a premiere hitter and defender but not much of a pitcher at this stage of his career – the second addition to the Juggernauts’ roster. Potter is the type of player that can turn a contender into a champion and the type of player that is often overlooked when putting together a roster. Potter’s 2018 Mid Atlantic teammate, Adam Milsted, will join him on the Juggernauts next season. In Milzy, the team added a proven veteran player who can eat up pool play innings and provide quality at bats. Those three alone – Sarno, Potter, and Milsted – make for a well-rounded team that would likely be able to compete in each and every Mid Atlantic tournament, but the Juggernauts were just getting started.

Already three hitters strong, the Juggernauts went for additional offense by adding Ben Stant. In two Mid Atlantic tourneys last year, Stant was statistically the best hitter in the organization. He also hits from the left side, which will break up what is otherwise an overwhelmingly right-handed heavy Juggernauts lineup. Although perfectly capable on the rubber, the Juggernauts’ pitching depth will enable them to use Stant judiciously. If used for one game a tournament, the crafty right-handed pitcher could be a major weapon on the carpet.

If all that wasn’t enough, the Juggernauts’ final two adds of the offseason were monster ones. Ryan and Tim McElrath take the Juggernauts from a very good team to a deeply and immensely talented one that has to be considered one of the top contenders for the 2019 title. Tim provides another quality bat with solid set of hands. Ryan has been one of the game’s best players over the past two years on both sides of the ball. A proven big game pitcher, Ryan could take the ball at the end of tournaments with Sarno, Milsted, and Stant as options to handle the earlier innings. He also makes the Juggernauts roster a perfect six for six in quality hitters.

It is difficult to find a flaw on the Juggernauts – so we won’t try – but one potential storyline to follow is how the team utilizes its large roster on a tournament by tournament basis. Will the Juggernauts play any of the regular season tournaments with a six-man roster? If they do, how will they balance getting all six players involved while maximizing the lineup? If they don’t, do they have a plan in place to ensure a competitive three or four player team at each tournament? Roster depth is a blessing, but it is not always without its complications.

Here and There

Winter Classic registration closes Sunday January 27th at 11:59 ET as we need a headcount by that time. If you have indicated you are attending but haven’t registered yet, make sure to do so ASAP to reserve your spot. If you have not been in touch but want to register a team, there might be one spot still available. Contact Tim Cooke (301-661-7980) if interested . . . The tournament field and individual team rosters for the Winter Classic will be revealed after registration closes . . . MAW officially registered as an NWLA affiliate late last year, a move that was made official this past week. This is the first step towards Mid Atlantic entering a team in the 2019 NWLA Tournament in Morenci, Michigan . . . If you were tasked with putting together an 8-man roster for the NWLA tournament using only players that have previously played in a regular season MAW tournament, what would it look like? . . . MAW will have a table at Orioles FanFest on January 26th in Baltimore as part of the organization’s effort to reach potential players in the greater Baltimore metro area. Keep an eye on MAW social media and the Section 336 Podcast over the next several weeks for more information on Baltimore wifflers can get involved this spring.

Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #4

Not short on Pitching

The flurry of activity at the onset of the 2018/2019 Mid Atlantic offseason has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

By virtue of forming after the Longballs, the Shortballs are technically the Ridley Park Wiffleball League’s second tournament team. The group also skews younger relative to their Longball counterparts by at least a couple of years which gives them a little brother feel. And yes, the odds are strong that the Shortballs will finish behind the Longballs in Mid Atlantic this upcoming season. What the Shortballs certainly are not, however, is a “B-team”. With several high upside pitching prospects and a 6-man roster that has been game-tested for several years, this is a team that should cause trouble for opposing offenses.

On many young teams, there is one flashy prospect or potential breakout player that stands out above the rest. That’s the not the case for the Shortballs where opinions on who their best pitching prospect is varies depending on who you ask. One veteran wiffler and MAW mainstay has been overheard fawning over the future prospects of Ryan “Teddy” Drecher, who allowed just two runs over 16 innings while facing the likes of the Jersey Lemon Heads, WILL Waves, and York Yaks in 2018. Another longtime wiffler with a keen scouting eye sees dollar signs in southpaw Nate Smith. With a deceptive delivery and a quality riser, Smith could be a bad match up for some of Mid Atlantic’s more talented left-handed hitters like Connor Young or Ben Stant. In RPWL last year, Smith thrived in a reliever role which may make piggybacking the righty Drecher with the lefty Smith a tantalizing option for captain Joey VanHouten late in tournaments. Complementing Drecher and Smith on the mound will be right-hander Frankie Campanile. While currently viewed as the team’s third starter, it would not be a shock if Campanile joins his two pitching teammates as a buzz worthy pitching prospect by mid-summer. 

The Shortballs’ weakness is on offense. This past August, the team was shutout in three of their four games and struggled to consistently put runners on base. To address that apparent deficiency, the team added Jack Libero from the Ridley Park Wiffleball League. Libero was among the league leaders in walks in RPWL (42% walk rate between the regular season and playoffs) and showed some power potential with three home runs in 33 at bats. The Shortballs will also look for returning player “Big Sexy” Vinnie Alabanese to carry over his power output from the RPWL playoffs (3 homeruns in 23 at bats) to 2019 MAW competition as they try to find ways to put more runs on the board.

strategies: Bunting

Imagine this.

You are standing in the batter’s box on Sheff and unfortunately for you, Dan Whitener is staring back at you from 45 feet away. You have struck out twice this game already and have little reason to believe this at bat will end any differently. The batter before you managed a walk with no outs and your team’s two best hitters are coming up after you. You would love to get the runner over to second knowing that if you do, this might be your team’s best chance at scoring in this game. You just have to figure out a plan to make that happen.

Your first thought is to hope that the bout of wildness that befell Dan the previous batter will carry over to this at bat. No such luck. You take a first pitch riser that buzzes right by you and clanks off the zone. Now with just one strike to work with, you decide to choke up as much as you can with the hope of ambushing a pitch. You begin your swing before the ball has even left the pitcher’s hand and end your swing while the pitched ball – a changeup – is still spinning through the air. After picking yourself up and dusting yourself off, you return your bench – head down – wondering what if anything you could have done differently. 

If taking a pitch doesn’t work and swinging out of your shoes doesn’t work, why not try laying down a bunt?

In two years, not a single player has attempted to bunt in Mid Atlantic. There is no rule against it in the MAW rulebook and runs are often at a premium, so why has this particular hitting approach remained on the shelf?

The notion that bunting in wiffleball is a cheap play only holds up if one believes that executing a bunt hit is easy. It isn’t. Laying down a successful bunt hit in Mid Atlantic requires eye-hand coordination (to even square up on a ball darting every which way), bat control (to keep the ball fair), and delicate precision (to get the ball past the 12-foot play line but not so far past that it can be easily fielded before coming to a stop). It is a skill and should be viewed as such. 

Despite the inherit challenge in executing a bunt base hit, for some it might be a higher percentage play than swinging away against certain pitchers. For a player who is experienced with the art of bunting and continually sharpens the skill, the occasional bunt against a Whitener, Red, Soup, Lutick, Bingnear, Bush, or Robles might be a higher percentage play than swinging away or attempting to work a walk. It is all about scoring runs by any means necessary within the rules and the confines of good sportsmanship. If you can gain advantage by bunting, why wouldn’t you?

The trickledown impact of more bunt singles would be fascinating.

In the scenario described above, if the batter successfully laid down a bunt during that at bat, the infield – or at least one infielder – would likely draw in the next time he is up. The hitter has given no indication he can get a swinging hit against Whitener but has proven he can lay down a bunt, so the defense would be wise to adhere to the odds. Eventually this batter would have to prove that he can at least put the ball in play against Whitener while swinging away to get the defense to play him at normal depth. If not, the strategy will have a limited lifespan. 

But what if a mediocre or even great hitter started to bunt on occasion? How would the defense react to that? A batter that hits a line drive single in his first plate appearance and follows up with a bunt single in his second would leave the defense with a decision to make. If it’s a three-fielder defense and the batter hasn’t shown to be much more than a singles hitter, perhaps the defense pulls one player in to take away the bunt and places the other two fielders on the infield line on both sides of the rubber. Imagine the chaos that would be caused by a hitter like Jordan Robles if he demonstrated both the ability and willingness to bunt for a single. How does the defense react to that – one player in, one traditional infielder, and one outfielder? Do they play straight away daring Robles to bunt since at least that would limit the potential damage?

The strategic possibilities and challenges that would come from players bunting for singles with some regularity are plentiful and could potentially add a lot of excitement – and maybe a few runs – over the course of the season.

Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #3

2019 Offseason News & Notes #1: Meet the Meats, 2019 Championship Tournament
2019 Offseason News & Notes #2: Lemon Heads, Winter Classic

The Longballs Get Deeper

The flurry of activity at the onset of the 2018/2019 Mid Atlantic offseason has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

The Ridley Park Longballs reached the semi-finals at the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament this past September thanks to a solid one-two punch on the mound and timely power hitting. Now they hope that two internal additions – one player returning from the disabled list, another making his tournament wiffleball debut – will push them to even greater heights in 2019.

L:R - Tyler Nachbar, Sean Bingnear, Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw (August 4, 2018)

L:R - Tyler Nachbar, Sean Bingnear, Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw (August 4, 2018)

As a foursome last season, Sean Bingnear, Dylan Harshaw, Tyler Nachbar, and Colin Pollag went 7-4 with their only loses coming at the hands of ERL (twice) and the Stompers (twice). The well-rounded nature of the team was the quartet’s defining feature. Bingnear and Nachbar were impressive on the mound, with Sean specifically standing out for the way he performed against quality competition. As the team’s third starter, Pollag provided significant depth and helped make the Longball’s deep rotation the envy of many other teams. All four members of the 2018 Longballs can hit and there is plenty of reason to believe they will only improve in that regard as they gain more experience in the style of play found in MAW. If the Longballs simply stood still in 2019 without any additional adds, they would likely still be viewed as a top four team entering the spring.

The club is not standing still, however. Thanks to the impressive depth of their home league – which includes two additional teams slated to compete in MAW next season – the Ridley Park guys are entering the new year with a couple of internal reinforcements.

In getting Tommy Loftus back from injury for (hopefully) the full season, the Longballs will be adding a pitcher with true top of the rotation stuff to their already impressive pitching corps. Loftus missed much of 2018 with a back injury but returned in time to compete with Freaky Franchise at the Fast Plastic tournament. A hard thrower with impressive clean ball offerings, Loftus is difficult to square up on when he is around the strike zone. The extra benefit of re-adding Loftus – assuming he performs to the level he is capable of – is that it allows Bingnear and Nachbar to slide down one spot into the #2 and #3 roles, where they will stack up very well against their peers. If that wasn’t enough depth, the Longballs expect to add tournament rookie Cam Farro to their roster this year. Farro broke out in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League last summer with a memorable post-season pitching performance. Cam is still somewhat raw – his breaking balls are still a work in progress – but already carries plus velocity and above average command. Due to their depth on the carpet, the Longballs can afford to be deliberate with how they use the rookie.

2019 Gameplay Rule Changes

Earlier this fall, MAW held its offseason meetings. On the agenda was a review of the 2018 rule book. Following those discussions, several minor gameplay rule changes were ratified for 2019. The official MAW rulebook will be updated shortly to reflect these changes but here is a first look:

  • One ball will be allowed on the playing field at a time. In 2018, pitchers could keep two balls with them on the rubber provided they were prepared the same way. This rule is being altered to eliminate the judgment call over “similarly prepared balls”.

  • Prior to 2019, the MAW rulebook did not explicitly address intentional walks and therefore defaulted to the Major League Baseball rule. In 2019, the rulebook will be updated to reflect that verbal intentional walks are prohibited. Pitchers are expected to attempt to hit the strike zone or backstop on every pitch. Normal wild pitch rules will still apply. This rule is being addressed as a means of adding more action to the game.

  • While running the bases after a home run was never disallowed prior to 2019, the rulebook will be updated to specifically allow for optional home run trots. As with the above rule, this is being done with the goal of adding additional action to the game.

Here and There

2019 is are just around the corner which means the 2019 Winter Classic is almost here! Teams are filing in and we will have more on the tournament lineup right here in “News & Notes” as we get closer to the event. Register your team today – registration will remain up through Friday January 25th. . . Looking to join a team for the Winter Classic? Let us know and we will get put you in touch with an interested squad . . . While the timing did not work out in 2018, word is that MAW officials are preparing to send a team to the NWLA Tournament in Michigan this July. Many players have already reached out to express interest in being part of the Mid Atlantic team, providing a plethora of options to choose from in putting together a winning and representative club . . . The Winter WILL tournament - with a unique one-on-one style format - took place on December 22nd in Canonsburg, PA. Chris Sarno - captain of the MAW Juggernauts - took first place edging out Mike Graziani eight runs to seven.

Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #2

The Lemon Heads Double Down

The flurry of activity at the onset of the 2018/2019 Mid Atlantic offseason has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

In their first full season of competitive fast pitch wiffs, the Jersey Lemon Heads came within one run of winning the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship. In the Championship Tournament, the Lemon Heads pushed the eventual champions, the Stompers, to the limit in an extra-inning decisive game three that showed off the team’s natural talents and wiffleball acumen. All told, the foursome from Jackson compiled a 15-9 (.625) record in MAW tournaments and established themselves as legitimate contenders going forward.

Lemonheads Logo Hi Res Final.png

With results like that, it is understandable that the Lemon Heads might opt to stand pat going into ’19. The team did announce that they will be returning their core four – Tim Beck, Dave Clark, Matt Crispe, and Ray Lutick. Those four will be joined by Atlanta Wiffleball’s Don Thomas for the Winter Classic and it is rumored that Dave Capobianco (New School Risers, Old School Risers) will be added to the roster for the spring and summer season. Otherwise, the team is content to play the pat hand. The downside in doing so is that it leaves the Lemons with just one pitcher – Lutick – depending on the availability and status of Capobianco. As good as Lutick is and as durable as he was in 2018, putting all the pitching eggs in one basket is always a risk.

On the flip side, the Lemon Heads proved they can win with their core four and there is still plenty of upside to be unlocked. For example, while it might be tempting to think of the Lemon Heads as a one-man pitching driven show, a closer look at their late season performance reveals an offense potentially on the cusp of breaking out. Clark is primed for a big 2019 if his performance in the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament is in an indicator. In a tournament where pitching carried the day and offense was hard to come by (the combined slash line was a miniscule .155/.306/.255) Clark hit a respectable .241/.323/.345. Equally as important, he did so against quality pitching. Clark wore out ERL’s Connor Young and Blake Hoffman in the semi-finals by going 8 for 20 with a double, triple, and five walks. Beck had a propensity for the big hit – especially in August and September – and he is the team’s best in-house chance at developing a secondary pitcher if given regular reps. The Lemon Heads were also without Crispe – their most consistent hitter during the regular season – for the final regular season tournament and Championship Tournament. Putting his bat in the lineup on a regular basis is almost like an adding another player. There are many reasons to believe that the Lemon Heads have yet to really approach their potential which makes them a potentially dangerous force in 2019.

Winter Classic 2

MAW will hold the second annual Winter Classic on February 9-10, 2019 at In the Net in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The overnight tournament, which will be played on regulation sized MAW fields with a 70-foot high ceiling, is filling up fast. For more information, go to www.midatlanticwiffle.com/2019winterclassic or contact Tim Cooke at timcooke1982@gmail.com or via phone/text at 301-661-7980.  There is a limited number of teams that can be accepted and you don’t want to miss out on the premiere fast pitch wiffs tournament this winter. 

Here and There

The third season of the CFOT Winter Wiffle league kicks off January 11th! The league that brings us the Barrel Bruisers and has produced Jerry Hill, Chris Owen, Tony Manelli, and Ryan Doeppel, among others, boasts one of the game’s most unique playing venues. In addition to those listed above, the league has several other players worth keeping an eye on (two of which Jerry recently highlighted.) Games are Friday evenings and late Sunday morning and all of the action can be followed on the league’s Facebook page . . . The Wiff is Life League’s annual medium pitch Fall Tournament on Black Friday was won by EHP, who came out of the loser’s bracket to defeat the Beavers twice in the championship. Juggernauts’ captain Chris Sarno pitched every game for the champions on his way to the MVP award while Gino Joseph contributed with many big hits and above average defense all tournament long. WILL returns in about one month with their annual winter tourney . . . In the last Offseason News & Notes, we noted that Yaks’ captain Nick Shirey feared he suffered a second SLAP tear just months after having surgery to repair that same injury. Unfortunately, the early diagnosis held up and you can add a torn rotator cuff for good measure. The Yaks have not yet made an official announcement on Shirey’s status for the 2019 season . . . MAW officials are currently considering several options to upgrade the organization’s statistics presentation for 2019. The goal is to incorporate batter vs. pitcher and split data for the 2019 season.

Mid Atlantic Offseason News & Notes #1

As we head into the Thanksgiving weekend, here are some rumors and tidbits to chew on from around the Mid Atlantic . . .

Meet the Meats

The flurry of activity at the onset of the 2018/2019 offseason in Mid Atlantic has left all of us playing catch up and collectively asking, “Wait . . . who is on what team now?” Throughout the winter months we will sort through the madness by taking a team by team look at the some of the squads you can expect to see next season.

Do you live for meat centric gifs? Never heard a meat pun that you didn’t love? Well, then have I got the team for you. And oh yea, they are pretty good at wiffleball, too.

Meet the NY Meats. Captained by wiffleball globetrotter Jimmy Cole (#20 in the DROP 100), this team has all the markings of a Mid Atlantic title contender with four players that can pitch and hit. Cole himself is a two-way threat with serious home run power and an arm that should be able to provide eight to ten well above average innings per tournament (just keep him away from Dan Potter). Cole is joined by AWAA Blue Kamikaze teammate, Anthony LaValley (#87 in The DROP 100), who had one of the better pitching tournaments of any player at last year’s NWLA tournament. Caleb Jonkman (#41 in The DROP 100) – a veteran of the Indiana wiffle scene – is listed on the Meats’ initial roster and gives the team with another player with significant game experience and tons of success at the NWLA Tournament. Rounding out the squad is the man expected to anchor the pitching corps, Ryan Bush (#10 in the DROP 100). The tall, hard throwing veteran right-hander and 2018 Palisades WBL champion needs little introduction. Bush gives the Meats a legitimate ace that matches up well with the top arm on all other teams.

The early consensus among Mid Atlantic players is that the Meats have a top four team on paper and that they will have to jump pretty high to come close to hitting their ceiling.

2019 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament

While the exact nature of the 2019 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament has not yet been made official – an official announcement should be coming shortly – the MAW 2019 schedule announcement video revealed that the 2019 Championship Tournament will be a two-week event. The Championship Tournament – and the number of quality teams participating in MAW tournaments – grew incrementally between 2017 and 2018 going from 4-teams and three series sweeps in 2017 to a 6-team, highly competitive field in 2018. Mid Atlantic officials anticipate another step forward this season. Therefore, the Championship Tournament format for 2019 will accommodate nine teams.

The three teams with the highest cumulative point totals during the six regular season tournaments will receive a bye to the second weekend, September 14th. The other six qualifying teams will battle it out in a double elimination tournament the prior weekend, September 7th. The fourth and fifth highest point earners from the regular season will receive a first round bye in this round. The winner of the first weekend will earn some cash and more importantly, advance to the 14th as the 4th seed for the traditional Best of 3 semi-final and finals series. MAW officials decided on this particular format to allow a larger pool of teams to participate in the post-season while ensuring the highest possible level of competition for the semi-finals and finals.

Stay tuned to www.midatlanticwiffle.com for full details on the Championship Tournament. 

Here and There

Christmas is just a little over a month away, but there is still outdoor wiffleball being played in the Mid Atlantic area. The Wiff is Life League (“WILL”) – home of the 2018 NWLA Tournament champions, the Waves – hosts their annual Fall Tournament this Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. There are some great players and teams in this tournament, some of which will be familiar to MAW devotees. The Dawgs (NWLA Tournament MVP Jordan Castelli, Austin Berger, and Steven Keelon) might be the favorites but don’t overlook The Turkeys (Jake Davey, Mike Graziani) and a MAW super team of sorts in the Juggernauts’ Chris Sarno and Stompers’ signee Gino Joseph. Check WILL’s twitter feed throughout the day for updates and live game streams . . . Some guys can’t catch a break. After waiting more than a decade to surgically repair a right labrum initially torn at a Fast Plastic National Championship tournament in the mid-2000s’, the Yaks’ Nick Shirey bit the bullet this past August. He looked to be a full-go for the Spring season when he felt pain in that same area while removing the blades from his mower this past weekend. Shirey underwent an MRI on Wednesday and should know next week whether or not he suffered a season-altering SLAP tear . . . ERL started teasing major additions to their roster since before the 2018 MAW season ended. While the team did officially announce the addition of Jordan Robles in October, it has thus far been silent on a fourth player. There are plenty of rumors swirling on who that mystery man (men?) might be, but so far nothing official . . . Entering the Winter Classic but haven’t registered yet? Take advantage of our Thanksgiving Sale this Friday & Saturday. This will be the ONLY opportunity to for a discounted entry fee for what promises to be  a huge indoor tournament.

End of the Summer Special: Notable Players from the Summer Months

By: Paul Cooke

Later this year, The Drop will award the Player of the Year award to the player – among ten finalists – that the editor determines was the best all around wiffler in unrestricted pitch speed competition for the 2018 season. Plans are also in the works for a comprehensive “Top 100” list to be released towards the end of the calendar year.

In July, we highlighted the stories of twenty players who for one reason or another stood out for their performances during the first six months of the calendar year. This time we look at the stories of fifteen additional players who caught out attention during the third quarter of 2018. As a reminder, the award, list, and this article only looks at performances in unrestricted pitch speed environments.


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Did any other hitter do more in fewer games this summer than Ben Stant? In ten spring & summer games between Mid Atlantic and Palisades Ben collected 29 hits, 12 walks, and 8 home runs while striking out only 15 times in 68 trips to the plate. Lest you think he was feasting on subpar competition, Stant did his damage against an array of quality arms: Jarod Bull, Jimmy Cole, Matt & David Herbek (Naturals), Tim McElrath, Adam Milsted, Chris Owen, Johnny Costa, and Jordan Robles. On a per plate appearance basis, Stant very well might have had the best year of any hitter in the sport. Unfortunately, the sample of games is a little too small for Stant to place highly on year-end lists – as his placement in the Mid Atlantic Hitter of the Year category demonstrated – but its an impressive output nonetheless. Stant’s season appears to be done, but everyone – well, expect for opposing pitchers – hope to see him and his bat on the field more frequently in 2019.

One of the coolest things about any Wiffle Ball summer is seeing players from the past that faded from the scene suddenly pop up in unexpected places. Dereck Anderson was the heart and soul of the Los Angeles-based Gunners – who finished runner up to In the Box in the 2005 Fast Plastic NCT – in the early to mid 2000’s and won a GSWL Fast Pitch title in 2010. Dereck faded from the public eye shortly thereafter but re-emerged mid-2018 in the Washington based JAL. Anderson is having a fine JAL XVIII season at the plate, with more than double the number of walks (64) than strikeouts (31) to go with three doubles and three home runs. On the other side of the ball, Anderson has been a solid number two pitcher for the first place Castle Rock Rapids, forming a top notch 1-2 combo with Rapids’ ace Jeter Larson.

I had the opportunity to chat with many players this summer who participated in the NWLA Tournament. When I asked these individuals to name the players from the tournament that impressed them the most, almost to a man the name Gus Skibee came up. The St. Louis based player finished top three in batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, and totals bases at the yellow bat, fast pitch tournament. Skibee did at least some of his damage against known commodities including Austin Berger (WILL), Anthony LaValley (AWAA), and K-Von (AWAA). Gus was solid on the carpet as well, throwing six shutout innings for his Cardinals team. Skibee’s 2018 unrestricted pitch speed resume is diminished by it’s relative brevity, but you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who saw him play in Morenci that was impressed with his bat. Certainly, participating in a major fast pitch tournament or league outside of the NWLA tournament would go a long way to assessing just how good of a hitter this NWLA Tournament standout is but there is little doubt that he has the tools.

Only two pitchers so far this year have managed to hold the dangerous McElrath brothers hittless over a full 5+ inning game. One is the Palisades’ Dodgers Tim Trenary. The other? The Jersey Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick. And oh yea, if that weren’t enough Ray also has head-to-head victories over Jordan Robles, Conor Young, and Chris Sarnowksi this year. The Lemon Heads were one of the busiest and winningest teams during the back-half of the summer with Ray leading the charge. During four MAW tournaments this summer – including September’s Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament – Ray ran over opposing batters to the tune of 267 strikeouts and 18 ER in a whopping 104 innings pitched. The Lemon Heads’ workhorse pitched nearly every game for his team, using a power drop pitch - reminiscent of Dan Cryan - to befuddle hitters. In addition, Ray went 5-1 for the Lemon Heads at the tournament formally known as National Wiffle. On September 8th at the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament, Ray had a tournament for the ages as he pitched at least a part of all nine of his team’s games on the way to a second-place finish and tournament MVP honors.

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Speaking of the Lemon Heads, Ray’s teammate Dave Clark is another player to keep an eye on in 2019. Clark’s numbers in MAW – both on the regular season and in the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament – don’t jump off the page by any means, but he has all the makings of a top flight Wiffle Ball hitter. Until running into Robles – who he did hit up for a triple and a single – Clark had a heck of a Championship Tournament, including eight hits in twenty at bats against Young and Blake Hoffman. Clark is a line drive hitter and tends to keep the ball in the middle of the field – which limited his home run totals – but he is nonetheless a major threat at the plate with a great swing and effortless power. Now that he has a full season under his belt, 2019 could be a breakout year for Clark. Keep him on your radar.

Ryan Bush has been on the radars of most serious players for years now but his performance during the second half of the 2018 calendar year is going a long way towards reaffirming his spot as a top tier pitcher. It began for Ryan at the NWLA Tournament in July when he threw 14 shutout innings over the course of three games for OCWA. His underlying numbers were just as good. The tall righty allowed a measly three hits and nine walks while striking out 36 batters throughout the course of the two-day tournament. After disappearing for a year from Palisades following a great rookie campaign and tremendous 2016 post-season, Ryan re-emerged this year throwing 20 innings of two-run ball for the pennant-winning Giants. Although he has been far less impressive at the plate this season, Bush has already proven this year that he can shut down hitters no matter what the environment. A good showing at the Fast Plastic Texas Open would only add to his impressive and diversified pitching resume.

It was a bizarre summer for the Ridley Park Red Sox. The team began the 2018 RPWL season 0-6 and needed a 6-2 run to sneak into the playoffs. Lefty Tyler Nachbar had an inconsistent season on the rubber but pitched three shutouts down the stretch to get his team into the postseason. A power threat every time he steps to the plate, Nachbar sent seven of his eleven hits during the RPWL regular season out of the park for home runs. In the playoffs, Nachar’s pitching woes continued and he eventually came down with a sore shoulder following an impressive pitching performance – 11 innings of one run ball – at MAW’s August 4th tournament. With nowhere else to turn, Nachbar handed the ball to his team’s number two pitcher – Cam Farro – who only had 8 2/3’s innings of pitching work to his name during the regular season. That lack of experience mattered little to the high school senior. Farro took the ball for his team’s next five games and threw 27 innings of 2-run ball on the way to clinching the title for the Red Sox. Farro is still a raw flame thrower but was picking up new pitches as the playoffs rolled along. With plus velocity already, he is another pitch or two away from joining what seems to be an endless supply of quality pitchers to come out of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League.

Correction 9.19.18 7:00 PM:

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The minor league arm of Palisades WBL is only three seasons old, but it may have already found its poster boy in Vinny Lea. Lea had a cup of coffee in Palisades proper back in 2015, was missing in action in 2016, and returned in 2017 on the minor league Dragons. Lea had a tremendous season for the Dragons last year on both sides of the ball. He picked up hits in almost half of his plate appearances and worked 33 innings on the carpet while allowing just 11 runs. Despite his minor league success, Lea made it to just one Major League in game ’17 for the Mariners. This year, however, Vinny was not to be denied. In 25 1/3 innings with the Dragons this season, Lea did not allow a single run. He carried that success over to the majors for the first time, pitching to a 0.71 ERA in 60+ regular season innings to lead an underdog Royals squad into the post season.

Two veteran players made good in Tennessee the weekend of July 22nd at the aforementioned National Wiffle tournament.  David “Toast” Wood – back in action for the first time since last year’s Fast Plastic Texas Open – pitched both the semi-finals and finals for the all-star Golden Sticks squad, defeating both the Mothmen and Chicken ‘n Wiffles (a team name of the year contender) to capture the championship. Toast did not allow a base runner the entre championship game. His teammate that weekend – Josh Pagano – took care of the rest, smacking a walk off homerun in the last of the sixth inning. The multi-time Fast Plastic National Champion has been very good at the plate in fast pitch competition when he played this year – including a 10 for 17, four-homerun performance in two games in Palisades – and will no doubt be looking to build off that in a few weeks in Texas.

It takes a special kind of player to be universally known by a nickname. It also doesn’t hurt when your last name is such a mouthful that a nickname becomes a necessity. Kyle “K-Von” Vonschleusingen spent the prior five seasons in Palisades WBL blossoming into one of the league’s cornerstone players, which culminated in back-to-back sub 1.00 ERA seasons in 2016 and 2017. This season, K-Von took another step forward towards becoming one of the game’s best. While his Palisades’ ERA is up over the prior two seasons (1.45), his walk rate is significantly down, his strikeout rate is up, and his batting average has remained virtually unchanged. More importantly, K-Von took a major step forward at the plate by adding nearly .110 points to his ISO (slugging percentage less batting average) this season. Also for the first time, K-Von ventured to a few tournaments outside of Palisades where his plus movement wowed more than a few people. It began in April at AWAA’s Opening Day tournament, continued at the NWLA Tournament where – despite some command issues – K-Von impressed with his ability to throw non-scuffed, and wrapped up with a victory in a late season 2 on 2 tournament in New York. His biggest accomplishment this year might be yet to come as the Palisades Padres – which K-Von is owner/manage of – has a very good shot at winning the 2018 championship.

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On the subject of pitchers who proved adept in both the clean ball environment of the NWLA Tournament and elsewhere, you can add Austin Berger of the Wiff is Life League Waves to that list. Some felt that Berger’s NWLA Tournament performance – where he pitched to a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings of work including the championship game – should have earned him tournament MVP honors. In a tournament with a lot of walks, Berger bucked that trend allowing just 5 walks to 69 batters, for a walk rate that was a fraction – a fifth to be exact – of the overall tournament rate. After relying mainly on an uncut slider in the NWLA tournament, one month later Berger showed off a still developing but already above average cut screwball while pitching in the MAW Canonsburg Classic. In games against the Lemon Heads and Stompers, Berger allowed only a single run. Whether pitching with clean or cut balls, Berger attributes his success not just to his ability to throw strikes, but to his ability to work both sides of the zone effectively.

The Frisco Braves ran over the competition in the Texas Wiffleball League, finishing with an 8-1 regular season record in the league’s top division and then capping things off by winning the league playoffs. The Braves owe a fair amount of their 2018 dominance to right-hander Brian Simpson. Simpson was a force at the dish all season long, batting .500 and reaching base in 62% of his plate appearances – rankings that bear out to the top of both statistical categories in TWBL – while hitting eight home runs. It was his work on the mound, however, that truly made a difference. As his team’s main pitcher, Simpson allowed run one in his first start of the season on June 13th and nothing more the rest of the regular season. Simpson went 21 straight innings without allowing a run to finish out June and July. His best pitch appears to be a hard, sweeping slider that combines velocity and movement in a way not often seen from that particular pitch.

When Nate Cruz left the house on Sunday mornings this summer, he probably had to do a double take to make sure he was wearing the right t-shirt. Cruz played eight games in Palisades over four weeks, which would not be unusual if not for the fact that he did so for FOUR different teams. This year alone, Nate suited up for the Giants, Padres, Cardinals, and Expos for weekend series in Palisades. He proved to be more than just a warm body, hitting a respectable .222/.333/.352 in 54 plate appearances. The ultimate utility player enjoyed more regular playing time at the NWLA Tournament in July as a member of the AWAA Blue Kamikazes. Cruz made the most of it and finished the tournament as arguably his team’s best all around hitter, leading the Kamikazes in OBP while finishing second in batting average and slugging percentage to K-Von and Jimmy Cole, respectively. Here’s hoping Nate can find himself a permanent Palisades home next season.

2018 Regular Season Award Winners

 

Mark “The Bopper” DeMasi Home Run Champion

The Mark “The Bopper” DeMasi Home Run award is given to the most prolific home run hitter in the regular season. This year, two players tied for the most home runs with ten. In the event of a tie, the award is decided by which player left the park in a larger percentage of his plate appearances. With a homerun once every 11.8 plate appearances compared to one homerun every 17.1 plate appearances, the Stompers’ Chris Sarno edges out Connor Young for the 2018 Mark DeMasi Home Run award. 

Winner: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Runner Up: Connor Young (ERL) 


Jerome “The Legend” Coyle Hitting Award

The Jerome “The Legend” Coyle Hitting Award is given to the player the voting committee considered the best all-around hitter during the regular season. This was a close race with three players receiving at least one first or second place vote and seven players showing up on at least one ballot. The winner of this award beat out Sean Bingnear, Ryan McElrath, Tyler Nachbar, Dan Potter, Chris Sarno, and Ben Stant, by hitting .355/.415/.671 while leading the league in at bats, total bases, runs, and hits. The 2018 Jerome Coyle Hitting Award recipient is My Name is ERL’s Connor Young. 

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ben Stant (G€M); Dan Potter (Yaks); Tyler Nachbar (Longballs); Sean Bingnear (Longablls); Ryan McElrath (Giants)


Billy “The Kid” Owens Pitching Award

The award with the narrowest margin of victory this year was the Billy “The Kid” Owens pitching award, given to the player the voters felt had the best overall season on the carpet. Seven players received at least one vote in this category including Sean Bingnear, Blake Hoffman, Ray Lutick, Jordan Robles, and Dan Whitener. In the end, it was another battle between Sarno and Soup for the top spot. In the end – thanks to his miniscule walk rate, league leading 16 starts, and league leading ERA, Connor Young is the 2018 Billy Owens pitching award winner.

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ray lutick (lemon heads); Blake hoffman (erl); Jordan robles (stompers); sean bingnear (longballs); dan whitener (erl)


Joe Nord Rookie of the Year Award 

Eight players received votes in a stacked MAW rookie of the year category. Players that did not compete in a major MAW style (i.e. non-base running) tournament prior to this season were eligible for the award. Tyler Nachbar, Ryan Drecher, Colin Pollag, Tony Manelli, and Gino Joseph all received non-first place votes in this category. On the strength of top four finishes in every single significant statistical pitching category, ERL’s Blake Hoffman edged out the Longballs’ Sean Bingnear to become the 2018 MAW Joe Nord Rookie of the Year recipient.

Winner: Blake Hoffman (ERL)

Runner Up: Sean Bingnear (Longballs)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Tyler Nachbar (Longballs); Ryan Drecher (Shortballs); Colin Pollag (Longballs); Tony Manelli (Bruisers); Gino Joseph (Revolution); Dave Clark (Lemon Heads) 


Mike “The Czar” Palinczar Most Valuable Player Award

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The best overall player during the course of a full Mid Atlantic season is honored with the Mike “The Czar” Palinczar Most Valuable Player Award. The winner of this award must get it done at the plate, on the rubber, and in the field, while leading his team to top four finishes and tournament titles. Eight players received votes in this category including – in order from 8th to 3rd – Jarod Bull and Adam Milsted of the Yaks, the Stompers’ Jordan Robles, Sean Bingnear of the Longballs, G€M captain Ben Stant, and the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick. However, this category once again came down to a battle between Soup and Sarno. Both players had incredible seasons and were neck-and-neck by nearly all criteria. The 2018 Mike Palinczar MVP award winner – for a second straight year – is My Name is ERL’s Connor Young.

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads); Ben Stant (G€M); Sean Bingnear (Longballs); Jordan Robles (Stompers); Adam Milsted (Yaks); Jarod Bull (Yaks)

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament: Timeline

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The 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship began at 9:10 AM ET with the Longballs’ Tyler Nachbar taking a called strike from the Yaks’ Jarod Laird and ended nine hours later with a walk off single in extra innings of Game 3 of the championship series. Here are some of the moments - one from each of the day’s thirteen games - that defined the tournament.

9:20 AM – Sheff - Longballs vs. yaks
Harshaw’s Home Run

After Sean Bingnear reached on a walk and Colin Pollag struck out to start the bottom of the 2nd inning, Longballs’ captain Dylan Harshaw stepped in the box against the Yaks’ Jared Laird. Behind in the count 0-2, Harshaw deposited a hanging drop pitch over the Wall of Wifflers to put the Longballs up 2-0. The Ridley Park crew would hold on to take game one.

10:12 AM – Buffalo - Bruisers vs. Lemon Heads
“Yea Baby!” - Hill Escapes jam & Celebrates

With two outs in the bottom of the 5th and the winning run in scoring position, the Barrel Bruiser’s Jerry Hill got the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick to ground back towards the carpet. Jerry pounced on the ball, partook in a rare mid-play celebration, and competed the throw to escape the jam. Although the Bruisers would eventually lose in six innings on total bases, the Bruisers gave the eventual runners up all they could handle.

10:40 AM – Buffalo - Longballs vs. Lemon Heads
Pollag’s HR Sends the Longballs to the Semi’s

In a battle to see who would face the Stompers in the semi-finals, the Jersey Lemon Heads and Ridley Park Longballs entered the 3rd inning locked at zero. After taking a riser right over the plate, Colin Pollag unloaded on a Ray Lutick dropper and deposited the ball over the left field fence. The solo shot held up and the Longballs punched their ticket to the semi-finals

11:10 AM – Sheff – Barrel Bruisers vs. York Yaks
That was brutal” – Milsted & the Yaks stay alive

Adam Milsted paints the outside corner of the strike zone to get Jerry Hill looking. The strikeout keeps the Yaks’ championship hopes alive while eliminating the Barrel Bruisers from the tournament.

11:50 AM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. York Yaks
Clark’s Clutch 2b Puts the Lemon Heads in Front

Things changed in a hurry in the Lemon Heads and Yaks elimination game. With two outs in the third and no score, Ray Lutick draws a walk and Dave Clark immediately cashes in with an RBI double. The Lemon Heads hold on and secure the last spot in the semi-finals, eliminating the Yaks in the process.

12:29 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G1)
Clark’s Triple Knocks out Hoffman

Dave Clark brings Blake Hoffman’s day on the mound to a premature end with a 2-run triple in the top of the first inning. Connor Young would stem the tide, but the damage was already done and the Lemon Heads take game one.

12:35 PM – Buffalo – Longballs vs. Stompers (G1)
Robles Goes Deep in First At Bat

In his first at bat of the Championship Tournament, 2017 Championship Tournament MVP Jordan Robles went deep off the Longballs’ Sean Bingnear. The run stood up and the Stompers took game one of the semi-finals by a score of 1-0.

1:35 PM – Buffalo – Stompers vs. Longballs (g2)
Sarno Strikes Out Bingnear; Stompers advance

With a steady rain falling, two runners on, and two outs, Sarno trikes out Sean Bingnear to wrap up a win for the Stompers and send the Longballs home.

2:22 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G2)
“I’ve got plenty left!” – Soup Forces a Game 3

Mere minutes after breaking a 7th inning tie with a solo home run, Connor Young finishes off the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick to force a game 3.

3:19 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G3 - post-game)
“We’re really excited. We don’t get here often.” – Lemon Heads Advance to the Finals

Moments after punching their ticket to the finals, the Lemon Heads chat with MAW’s Nick Schaefer about their improbable run to the finals 

4:11 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (g1)
Tim Beck & the Lemon Heads Strike First

Tim Beck stays hot by taking Jordan Robles deep to straight away center for a second inning solo home run. Ray Lutick would see to it that the run held up and the Lemon Heads take the first game of the Championship Series 1-0.

4:45 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (G2)
Robles Strikes Backs

Robles extracts a small measure of revenge with a home run of his own in Game 2. The Stompers tack on several runs from there to even the series at one game apiece.

6:09 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (G3)
There It is!” - Tim Cooke Walks It Off

The marathon final game of the day comes to an end in the 7th inning when Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke singles back up the middle to drive in the game’s only run, giving the Stompers both the game and the 2018 Championship

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament Recap

The Stompers’ Jordan Robes delivers a pitch to the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick during the championship series with ERL’s Connor Young providing commentary in the background.

The Stompers’ Jordan Robes delivers a pitch to the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick during the championship series with ERL’s Connor Young providing commentary in the background.

Six months ago, Mid Atlantic’s sophomore season commenced with the 8-team Opening Day tournament. In The Drop’s recap of that event, we highlighted the well-balanced nature of the field by noting that thirteen of the tournament’s fifteen games were decided by three runs or less. As it turned out, that level of balance and competitiveness would be a staple of the 2018 MAW season.

It is only fitting, therefore, that the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament – the culmination of the MAW summer season – was yet another tournament decided by the thinnest of margins. Of the thirteen games played on Saturday, eleven were decided by three runs or less. Two of the three 3-game series went the distance, a trio of games required extra innings, and the eventual runners up were one out away from losing their very first game of the day to the one team that went winless in the tournament. From the very first pitch of the day to the very last, there was little margin of error for any team or any player.


The Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill delivers a pitch while teammate Tony Manelli gets set in the infield.

The Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill delivers a pitch while teammate Tony Manelli gets set in the infield.

The tournament format ensured that one team – and only one team – would leave York without a win. While the smart money was on that team being the Barrel Bruisers – which ultimately would be the case – no team better exemplified the nail-biting nature of this tournament. Bucking conventional wisdom, captain Jerry Hill took the ball in his team’s first game against the Lemon Heads. When the Lemon Heads’ Tim Beck allowed a pair of runs in the first – and was quickly removed in favor of Ray Lutick – Hill recognized a big opening to pull off an upset. At a stage where most wifflers are putting their plastic balls away for good, Hill has quietly and steadily grown into a solid pitcher. Working out of the stretch and relying heavily on a three-quarters drop, Hill pitched the game of his Wiffle Ball life against the Lemon Heads, holding them scoreless through three innings while the Bruisers clung to their two-run lead. 

A familiar refrain for the Barrel Bruisers this year has been their inability to close out games late. Unfortunately for them, that refrain would play out one more time this season. In the 4th inning, the Lemon Heads put together a string of patient at bats, which led to their first run of the game. With the bases loaded, Hill only needed a single out to pull off the shocker but issued a game tying walk instead. Jerry rebounded immediately by getting the final out of the inning and escaping another jam in the 5th, but the damage had already been done. The Barrel Bruisers dropped their opener on total bases and couldn’t muster up any magic against the Yaks, exiting the tournament in two games.

One out removed from pulling off a major upset to two-and-done, the Bruisers will carry that sudden turn-of-events with them all winter long. However, their tournament – as brief as it was – is also a testament to the their tenacity and competitive nature.  


Dylan Harshaw of the Longballs digs in during a semi-final series game.

Dylan Harshaw of the Longballs digs in during a semi-final series game.

In the Championship Tournament preview, we pointed to the Ridley Park Longballs’ depth as their greatest strength and the major reason why they had a chance at winning it all. The Longballs didn’t disappoint in that regard, steamrolling through the double elimination portion of the day thanks to contributions from all four team members. In going 2-0 and grabbing the #3 seed, the Longballs took down both the York Yaks and Lemon Heads. Although the games were anything but, the Longballs made those early games look easy through a combination of shutdown pitching and timely hitting.

Sean Bingnear – the 2018 MAW Rookie of the Year runner up – handled a tough Yaks’ squad with the command and poise of a veteran. The Yaks took quality swings against Bingnear from the first pitch to the last, but the hard throwing righty continually found ways to get them out. The fact that the Longballs were so willing and able to use their best arm in the first game was, if nothing else, a testament to their ballyhooed depth. Southpaw Tyler Nachbar picked right up where Bingnear left off when facing the Lemon Heads in game two. Nachbar – with one win against the Lemon Heads already on the season – allowed his opponents very few scoring opportunities and pitched his team to a narrow 1-0 win. Although Nachbar and Bingnear are considered rookies for MAW award purposes, the poise they showed in pressure situations on Saturday is a direct result of their years of experience in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League and their national experience at the NWLA Tournament.

All the shutout innings in the world from Bingnear and Nachbar may have been for not if it wasn’t for the clutch hitting of their teammates, Dylan Harshaw and Colin Pollag. Harshaw got the scoring going with a two-run opposite field blast off a game Jared Laird in the Longballs’ opener. Against the Lemon Heads, it was the Colin Pollag show. Pollag hit Ray Lutick as well as any player all tournament long, picking up three hits including a solo shot. The solo home run – a no doubter that Colin pulled over the left field fence on Buffalo – held up as the game winner. So good was Pollag against the Lutick that late in the game Ray decided to intentionally walk Colin rather than risk any further damage.

Although the Longballs’ bats could not solve Chris Sarnowski in the semi-finals – leading to a quiet exit in the semi-finals – the Ridley Park crew were the most impressive of any team in the opening round thanks to their vaunted depth. If the Longballs add Tommy Loftus to their MAW roster next season – which they are rumored to do – that depth is only going to get deeper and scarier.


First year Yak Adam Milsted delivers a pitch to the Bruisers’ Jerry Hill in the day’s first elimination game.

First year Yak Adam Milsted delivers a pitch to the Bruisers’ Jerry Hill in the day’s first elimination game.

In the finals of the repechage bracket, the York Yaks’ Adam Milsted was cruising right along through the first 2 2/3’s innings. Sure, the Yaks’ offense still had that pesky task of trying to figure out how to score off Ray Lutick but it looked as if Milsted was going to give the offense ample time to figure Ray out. Games could – and did – change in an instance all day long, however, and Milsted was about to experience that firsthand.

With two outs in the third, Milsted temporarily struggled with his mechanics and issued what looked to be a harmless walk to Lutick. One minute and one Dave Clark double later, that walk no longer looked so harmless. Just like that, the Yaks were staring down the barrel of elimination and were indeed knocked out not too long after.

It was that kind of day for the hometown team. Jared Laird appeared to have a little extra giddy up on his pitches against the Longballs, but a walk and well-timed home run did him in. The Yaks left the tournament with a +5 run differential, but that matters little when two games are lost by a combined margin of 3 runs. Milsted and Laird pitched reasonably well, but runs were hard to come by for the Yaks on this day. A key hit here or there from the Yaks’ hitters and the 2018 Championship Tournament may have played out in significantly different fashion.


With a steady rain falling around him, Connor Young (My Name is ERL) goes into his patented windup.

With a steady rain falling around him, Connor Young (My Name is ERL) goes into his patented windup.

Nobody can win on will alone. I know this to be true. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to momentarily questioning that fact while watching Connor Young play in game two of the semi-final series.

The Championship Tournament did not go as the top seeded My Name is ERL planned. Pitching in a steady rain, Rookie of the Year winner Blake Hoffman struggled early in the first semi-final game against the Lemon Heads and got the hook before he ever got a chance to redeem himself. ERL’s offense struggled all game and a straight two-game sweep did not seem out of the question at the time.

Young, however, would not allow that to happen. He returned for game two – after a lengthy pause in the action – with even more steadfast resolve than he brings to a “normal” game. Soup pitched a brilliant game, exploiting whatever little holes could be found in the Lemon Heads’ lineup while waiting for his pitch at the plate.  

That pitch finally came in the top of the 7th inning with only one frame left to be played before the total bases tiebreaker kicked in. Young got a hold of a Lutick drop pitch and hit it out over the season awards wall in right-center – Young’s go-to home run spot on Sheff. Screaming out “I told you I’d get mine!” he returned to his bench and focused on finishing off the game. In the bottom half of the inning, Young made quick work of his opponents, punctuating the final strike out with a fist bump while loudly letting everyone know that he still had plenty left in the tank.

In the moment, it certainly seemed like Young would push his team into the finals any way possible. If winning was as simple as willing it into existence, Young and ERL almost certainly would have taken the third game of the series. It never is, however, and despite Young’s heroics and positive energy, ERL was bounced from the tournament before the championship series.


Ray Lutick of the Lemon Heads - shown here pitching to Colin Pollag - was named tournament MVP.

Ray Lutick of the Lemon Heads - shown here pitching to Colin Pollag - was named tournament MVP.

When MAW organizers put together the format for the six-team Championship Tournament prior to the start of the season, there was some concern about a team potentially playing nine games in a single day and the impact that might have on their pitchers. In the end, MAW concluded that it would take a perfect storm for that to happen. That team would have to start in the double elimination bracket and go two-for-three every single round, which from a pure odds standpoint was a long shot. In the unlikely event that storm occurred, surely that team would have to be at least three pitchers deep to get that far and thus there would not be too much strain placed on the arm of any one pitcher.

The problem with that logic was nobody took the Lemon Heads and Ray Lutick into account.

After a near loss to the Bruisers, the Lemon Heads weren’t as lucky against the Longballs and dropped to the loser’s bracket, thus ensuring they would play the maximum three games during the opening round. In getting by the Yaks, the Lemon Heads officially reached the semi-finals, but it would have been a stretch at that time to state that they had any significant momentum on their side. After all, they had scored just one run in three games entering the series with ERL. That didn’t matter one bit to this New Jersey-based club as they knew that with Ray on the mound, one timely hit per game was all that was required – momentum be damned.

The Lemon Heads, of course, are by no means a one-man team and that showed as the day progressed. Dave Clark had the game-defining hits against the Yaks and in game one of the ERL series. Tim Beck had the game winning hit in the third game against ERL and then he took Jordan Robles deep early in the first game of the finals. Ray’s pitching and the Lemon Head’s timely hitting helped create the aforementioned perfect storm whereby the Lemon Heads won when they got a timely hit and lost when they didn’t, resulting in the team playing the maximum number of games in the day.

Somehow Lutick’s right arm stayed in one piece through it all. Throwing the bulk of all nine games his team played, Ray racked up an unbelievable number of innings and strikeouts on his way to the tournament MVP award. The Lemon Heads long day is – in one respect – a once in a lifetime run. It is almost certainly not, however, the last time the Lemon Heads will be in the finals of a major tournament. And the scary thing is, this team is only going to get better. 


The Stompers’ Jordan Robles awaits a pitch during the Championship Series. Robles had a big home run and threw 18 quality innings in the series to pick up a second straight title for his team.

The Stompers’ Jordan Robles awaits a pitch during the Championship Series. Robles had a big home run and threw 18 quality innings in the series to pick up a second straight title for his team.

The Stompers franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary this season. After a rare crooked number win, the longest tenured members of the team will often joke that winning in that fashion is not “the Stompers’ way”. No matter the roster – which has obviously changed over the years – the Stompers have long made a habit out of making things hard on themselves. For a team that made its name on winning ugly, the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship turned out to be an appropriately themed anniversary gift.

The defending Mid Atlantic champions slogged through the rain to take two straight games from the Ridley Longballs thanks to two more shutout performances from Chris Sarno in a season full of them. The mere presence of rain was itself a reminder of the team’s past, as the franchise’s memorable 2003 postseason run took place almost entirely in wet conditions in both New Jersey and Texas.

With a fresh Jordan Robles on the carpet to start the finals, the Stompers felt good about their chances, but those good feelings went away in an instant courtesy of Tim Beck’s second inning home run. Just like that, the Stompers had their backs against the wall. The outlook improved slightly with a win game two, but even that was a drawn out contest marred by a disputed tag play. Speaking of long and drawn out, the deciding game of the series felt – at times – as if it would never end. The ever dangerous Chris Sarno was issued intentional walk after intentional walk, but the other Stompers’ failed to get him in. From the second inning through the seventh, the team had bases loaded each inning but failed to score. To the Stompers’ credit, Robles kept the Lemon Heads at bay and was never in serious danger of being scored upon in the third game. At long last – and appropriately enough – Stomper founder and captain Tim Cooke poked a Lutick dropper into centerfield for the game-ending single.

The path to a second straight Mid Atlantic title certainly wasn’t pretty, but then again with the Stompers, it rarely ever is.


Although the champion remained the same, there is no doubt that the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship was a significant step up from the 2017 iteration. From the cash purse - up $1,200 to $2,500 - to the robust live streaming schedule and the previously mentioned high level of competition, everything was a little bit bigger and better this September. Even the rain couldn’t dampen what was a an excellent day of wiffs and a fitting end to a quality season in the Mid Atlantic. MAW officials would like to thank all of the Championship Tournament teams as well as every single team and player that competed in a Mid Atlantic tournament this season.

Planning is already under way for the 2019 season, which will be here sooner than you think . . .

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: My Name is ERL

Roster: Blake Hoffman, Joe Schlindwein, Connor Young

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Playing Out Of: Medford, New Jersey

2018 MAW Record: 19-6

Seed: #1

Signature Wins: vs. Stompers 1-0 (5/5); vs. Longballs 1-0 (8/4)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 13-2

First Game: vs. 2-1 team (#4 seed) from double elimination bracket

Why They Will Win It All:  Connor Young is having – without any hyperbole – an all-time great season inside and outside of Mid Atlantic. At present, he is on the [very] shortlist of best players in the game. The 2018 Mid Atlantic championship – one way or the other – will go through Soup. Connor has come up with big hit after big hit this season. He’s been a workhorse on the rubber and is rapidly approaching 200 fast pitch innings across multiple organizations. As great of a summer as Connor is having and as great of a career he has had at only 21 years old, he has yet to win a major title in the sport. The chance to rectify that should provide even more motivation to a player who has never lacked for drive.

Of course, ERL is far from a one-man show. As good as Connor has been, it is easy to forget that rookie southpaw Blake Hoffman pitched right with – and in certain areas outdid – the ERL captain on the carpet. Blake bested Connor in several statistical categories including WHIP and batting average against. Hoffman led MAW in both of those categories (minimum 24 IP), a telling sign that if you reach base against the rookie sensation you better make it count because there won’t be very many opportunities like it. Hoffman experienced some growing pains earlier this season but since July, he has allowed just a single run in 27 innings pitched. When Blake is mixing his pitches, he is as tough to square up on as any pitcher in the game.

The two-headed pitching monster of Young and Hoffman gives ERL the luxury to strategize and play match ups should they so choose. If ERL wants a lefty-lefty match up against a dangerous left-handed hitter like the Longballs’ Tyler Nachbar, they can turn to Hoffman. If ERL faces a team in the semi-finals that hasn’t done much damage against Young this season, they can throw him that series. Both pitchers have the stuff to throw championship-level innings, which may allow Connor get more creative early on in regards to lineup decisions without having to worry about any negative downstream effects.

Offensively, Young is the team’s best hitter and always seems to get a big hit when needed. Joe Schlindwein led MAW in walks this season. Joe’s ability to get on base could be an x-factor for his team. The more times Joe is on base, the more run producing chances Connor will have and chances are he will eventually cash in. Blake had arguably his best offensive tournament three weeks ago in Canonsburg. If he can carry that performance over to the Championship Tournament that will make ERL all the more dangerous. With their pitching, the team only needs a run or two per game on average to be successful and it is easy to see several ways they could go about getting them.

Lastly if you need one more reason to believe the #1 seed will hold up, ERL's 13-2 mark against fellow Championship Tournament teams is the best among all Championship Tournament teams. The club is a combined 12-0 against the Yaks, Longballs, and Bruisers, 1-2 versus the Stompers, and they have yet to play fellow Garden Staters, the Lemon Heads. 

Why They Won’t: While Schlindwein and Hoffman are both capable of contributing on offense, each ranked in the bottom third of most offensive statistical categories during the 2018 regular season. There is no question that Young is a great hitter – particularly when it matters the most – but there is also no question that he is a notoriously free swinger. If pitchers take advantage of Connor’s aggressiveness and he is unable to change his approach, the results could be disastrous for the ERL offense. It is hard to see Hoffman and Young getting battered around for four games, but it is not nearly as hard to see their bats going cold for an extended period of time. If that happens, ERL will be in trouble.

Highlights:

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: Stompers

Roster: Paul Cooke, Tim Cooke, Jordan Robles, Chris Sarnowski, Nick Schaefer

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Playing Out Of: Baltimore, MD

2018 MAW Record: 20-5

Seed: 2

Signature Wins: vs. My Name is ERL 1-0 (4/14); vs. My Name is ERL TB’s (07/14); vs. Lemon Heads 1-0 (8/18)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 6-3

First Game: vs. 2-0 team (#3 seed) from double elim bracket

Why They Will Win It All:  On a per tournament basis, the Stompers have had the most success of any team in Mid Atlantic this season with three tournament titles and one runner up finish. The team has done so in large part because of an MVP caliber season from Chris Sarnowski. Chris is a legit two-way threat, equally capable of changing the game with his bat as he is with his arm. Sarno is one of only four players to toss 20 or more innings in a single Mid Atlantic tournament this year. Should the Stompers find themselves locked in extra inning battles and/or long series, his ability to go long will come in handy. At the plate, Sarno is a big time power threat and has accounted for his team's only runs with a homer a handful of times this summer.

Furthermore, if the team so chooses, they can ride Sarno for multiple games and 15 or more innings in the semi-finals with the comfort of knowing that they have Jordan Robles waiting in the wings. Jordan was his typically impressive self at the plate and on the carpet this season. Nobody loves the drama and intensity of a championship game more than Robles who almost always rises to the occasion when the lights are the brightest. Robles is one of the best the sport has to offer and probably the last hitter or pitcher any team will want to see on the 8th with a game on the line.

The 1-2 combo of Sarno and Robles is hard to beat, but the Stompers will also have veteran Nick Schaefer to go to if needed. In this format, Schaefer might act as a safety net of sorts for his squad. In the unfortunate event of an injury or underperformance, Schaefer – with years of big game experience – can take the ball as a spot starter or a late inning reliever. Schaefer could also take the ball in less pressure-packed situations and take some of the burden off Robles and Sarno. The Stompers undoubtedly have the pitching depth needed to win the tournament.

Offensively, the Stompers ran hot and cold this year but have gotten the big hits when needed from virtually everyone on their roster. They are the only Championship Tournament team with four players bringing a .200+ batting average into the Championship Tournament. Robles and Sarno are liable to go on a tear at a moment’s notice while Schaefer and Tim Cooke are veteran hitters who showed they still have a few big hits left in their bats. As a team, the Stompers get on base enough that they are usually able to find a way to push a run or two across against top tier pitchers.

Why They Won’t:  If the Stompers’ bats do run cold, all the pitching in the world might not be enough to save them. In 25 games played during the regular season, the Stompers scored one run or less 13 times. They won their fair share of those games thanks to the pitching but living on the edge in that fashion can come back to bite them. In terms of potential Championship Tournament opponents, the Stompers are 2-2 against the Lemon Heads and have yet to really solve Ray Lutick. Their 2-1 record versus ERL looks solid but the third game was a veritable coin flip and one run decided the other two games. Which is all to say that the Stompers will likely have very little margin for error on the 8th. A lengthy stretch of offensive futility or a single down day from one player could easily spell the end of their quest to repeat as Mid Atlantic champions.

Highlights:

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: York Yaks

Roster: Jared Laird, Adam Milsted, Dan Potter

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Playing Out Of: York, Pennsylvania

Seed: 3rd

2018 MAW Record: 8-15

Signature Wins: vs. Longballs 6-3 (5/5); vs. Lemon Heads 1-0 (8/4)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 4-9

First Game: vs. Longballs

Why They Will Win It All:  No trio on any other playoff team hit as many regular season home runs (16) as Laird (4), Milsted (4), and Potter (8). If those three are clicking on all cylinders offensively, they can make up for any pitching deficiencies the Yaks may have in the Championship Tournament. Any lineup that affords Potter an opportunity to hit at least once per inning is a potentially dangerous one. He is one of a few hitters in this tournament who can single-handedly take over with his bat. The Yaks’ 3-man offense has the potential to score runs in droves if everyone is locked in. That production could allow them to shorten a game or two by mercy rule and/or give Milsted a breather after getting out to a big lead.

Jared Laird had a sneakily solid season on the carpet, posting a 4.46 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. It is conceivable that the Yaks could squeeze a win out of Laird, which would take some pressure off Milsted. On August 4th, Milsted threw 15 shutout innings against a pair of playoff teams – Barrel Bruisers and Lemon Heads – and a quality Shortballs squad. Based off that single tournament performance, it is fair to assume that – on a really good day – Adam might have 20-ish quality innings in his arm, which might be just enough to help his team to the finish line if he gets an assist from Laird.

Perhaps most importantly, the veteran Yaks have become quite adept at finding ways to sneak into the later rounds of tournaments while still leaving bullets in the chamber for later. The Yaks don’t care how they survive, as long as they do. While other teams in the Championship Tournament might be tempted to shift into high gear in their very first game, the Yaks have demonstrated a willingness and ability to hold back early so that they can still put their best foot forward in elimination games. That experience could prove especially useful under this tournament format.

Why They Won’t:  The absence of Jarod Bull might be too big for the Yaks to overcome. If the Yaks had Bull, it would be relatively easy to chart a path to the finals for the hometown team. Without two top tier pitchers, it is far more difficult to see how Yaks will reach the championship series. Even if Laird gives the Yaks two quality games – which might be asking a lot – the team would still need at least four big performances form Milsted. In addition, the Yaks will be without team captain Nick Shirey, who is currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. The absence of Shirey deprives the team of one of their biggest on base threats. All told, there is a good chance the Yaks will run out of pitching at some point during the day and finish short of the finals.

Highlights:

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament Overview

A memorable and competitive summer of Wiffleball in the Mid Atlantic area comes to a head on Saturday, September 8th at the second annual Mid Atlantic Championship tournament!

The six teams that have earned their way to this point will compete for $2,500 in cash prizes and the title of 2018 Mid Atlantic Champions. The teams competing on September 8th participated in multiple Mid Atlantic regular season tournaments, accrued points based on their finishes in those tournaments, and placed in the top six in the final point standings. The Championship field is a mix of veteran teams and players, several of the best players in the sport, and a plethora of up-and-coming players that – if they aren’t already – will very soon be on radar of every serious wiffler.

For ongoing team-by-team previews, see below and continue reading beyond the jump for a full run down of what you can expect to see on the 8th in York.

Ridley Park Longballs Preview
Barrel Bruisers Preview
Jersey Lemon Heads Preview
York Yaks Preview
Stompers Preview
My Name is ERL Preview

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The 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament is the culmination of a six-tournament regular season that began on April 14th in York, PA and wrapped up on August 18th in Canonsburg, PA. This is the second year in a row that MAW will host a championship tournament. The Stompers outlasted My Name is ERL, York Yaks, and Barrel Bruisers to win the 2017 Mid Atlantic Championship last October. The Championship Tournament field expanded from four teams to six teams prior to the 2018 season to account for the increased participation in Mid Atlantic tournaments.

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The top six teams in the point standings – as listed in the graphic above – all accepted their bids to the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament and will be in action on the 8th.

As announced prior to the start of the 2018 season, the six-team Championship Tournament format provides byes to the top two teams in the point standings – the Stompers and My Name is ERL. The remaining four teams will compete in a modified double elimination bracket to determine the 3rd and 4th seeds for the Best of 3 semi-finals. This is a double elimination bracket with one exception – the winner of the champion’s bracket and repechage bracket will not face each other. Instead, the team that goes 2-0 will become the #3 seed in the semi-finals and the team that goes 2-1 will become the #4 seed in the semi-finals. The other two teams will be eliminated from the Championship Tournament. The games in this opening round will be four inning regulation games. Home field advantage and the right to choose which field to play on during this round will belong to the highest seed. The Yaks, therefore, will hold home field advantage throughout this round.

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The semi-final round will kick off around noon with the Stompers (#2 seed) facing the team that comes out of the winner’s bracket and My Name is ERL (#1 seed) facing the team that comes out of the repechage bracket. The winners of these two Best of 3 series will meet in a Best of 3 championship series. All semi-final and championship series games will be five inning regulation games. Seeds will re-reset for the semi-finals and finals, with the team that comes out of the winner’s bracket assuming the #3 seed. The higher seeded team in the semi-finals and finals will have home field advantage in games one and three (if necessary), with the lower seeded team being home in the second game of each three game series.

The top four teams will finish in the money, meaning the two teams that survive the double elimination portion of the day will go home with a little cash for their accomplishment. The payout is as follows:

  • 3rd & 4th Place - $150 each
  • 2nd Place - $400
  • 1st Place - $1,800
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Games will start at approximately 9:00 AM ET. For those who want to follow along, MAW will go live on Facebook (www.facebook.com/midatlanticwiffle) at approximately 9:00 AM with the Longballs vs. Yaks game. The broadcast will continue straight on through to the winner’s bracket game, which will decide who will face the Stompers in the semi-finals. The morning broadcast will include commentary. In the afternoon, at least one semi-final game and one game in the finals will be streamed live. Follow the MAW Facebook page and MAW Twitter (@midatlanticwiff) to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the live action.

In addition, the 2018 Mid Atlantic regular season award winners will be announced in between the double elimination round and the semi-finals. Who is this year's Mike Palinczar Most Valuable Player award winner and this year's Joe Nord Rookie of the Year winner? Find out on the 8th!

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: Jersey Lemon Heads

Roster: Tim Beck, Dave Clark, Matt Crispe, Ray Lutick

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Playing Out Of: Jackson, New Jersey

2018 MAW Record: 10-5

Seed: 4th

Signature Wins: vs. Stompers 1-0 (7/14); vs. Yaks TB (8/4); vs. Stompers 1-0 (8/18)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 5-4

First Game: vs. Barrel Bruisers

Why They Will Win It All:  Ray Lutick not only has shutdown stuff, he can carry it deep into a tournament. Just a couple of weeks ago in Canonsburg, Ray threw 15 innings for his team in pool play and then still had enough left in the tank to go pitch-for-pitch over nine innings with a fresh Chris Sarnowski. That combination of stuff and durability is particularly scary in this tournament format. While facing Lutick after he has already thrown two or three games is preferable to facing him completely fresh, the drop off is not that significant. Ray is one of the few pitchers in the field who can throw high pressure innings for his team in the opening round and still have enough left over to be effective in the semi-finals and finals.

Having said that, there is a very real possibility that the Lemon Heads could reach the semi-finals without having to go to Lutick for more than four to six innings. On August 4th, the Lemon Heads got nearly three innings out of Matt Crispe against the same Barrel Bruisers club they will match up against to begin the Championship Tournament. Lutick eventually was forced into the game to close things out, but if the Lemon heads try something similar on the 8th and it works out, that could make them all the more dangerous later on.

Then there are the Lemon Heads’ bats, which are heating up with every tournament. All four members of the team have picked up key hits against quality pitchers in recent weeks. There are no obvious holes in this lineup. With Ray on the rubber, the team only needs a run or two per game to win and they have been able to get that more often than not in three regular season MAW tournaments. The Lemon Heads’ hitters bring both patience and power, which makes their lineup a difficult one to navigate through.

Lastly, while the Lemon Heads have yet to face My Name is ERL this season they did beat ERL’s Blake Hoffman in Canonsburg when he played for the rival Stompers. The team also has a win over the Stompers proper. No other team in the double elimination portion of the field can boast that same level of success against the top two seeds.

Why They Won’t: As impressive as Lutick has been on the carpet, he is – as far as we can tell – still human and this will be a long tournament. While the Championship tournament can be won by a lower seed in a manageable six games, the reality is that it will probably take at least seven games and could take as many as nine. That’s a minimum of 33 innings. If anyone in this field is going to pull a 1999 Billy Owens it is Lutick, but that kind of performance cannot be expected of anyone. Lutick is going to tire at some point and odds are it will happen before the Lemon Heads pick up their sixth win of the tournament.

Highlights:

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: Barrel Bruisers

Roster: Jerry Hill, Tony Manelli, Chris Owen

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Playing Out Of: Alexandria, Virginia

2018 MAW Record: 3-15

Seed: #5

Signature Wins: vs. York Yaks 14-11 (4/14)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 1-10

First Game: vs. Lemon Heads

Why They Will Win It All:  Realistically, the odds are heavily stacked against the Bruisers. Short-handed all season, the club has struggled to put up wins and have limped into the Championship Tournament. Any team in any tournament has a shot at winning it all but the Bruisers chances in this tournament are admittedly rather slim.

But not all is lost! We may not be able to tell you exactly why the Barrel Bruisers will win it all, but we CAN tell you why they will throw a wrench – or even two – into the plans of their competitors.

Let's start with the Bruisers' Chris Owen. One-half of Owen’s eight starts this season have been quality ones against playoff and playoff-caliber teams. In four games spanning 14 innings versus the Cuban Raft Riders, Yaks, ERL, and G€M, Chris pitched to a 2.29 ERA and struck out 46% of the hitters he faced. Clearly Chris can shut down quality teams as long as he is able to command his breaking ball. If Owen has it all working for one game, the Bruisers could pull off an opening round upset.

Tony Manelli has several hits – including a pair of homers – off Championship Tournament pitchers and Jerry Hill is never an easy out. If teams aren’t careful, they could find themselves in the loser’s bracket or out of the tournament at the hands of the Bruisers.

Even in games in which they are ultimately defeated, the Bruisers could still cause trouble for their opening round opponents. The team has several narrow loses to Championship Tournament and playoff caliber teams this season including a total base loss to My Name is ERL and a walk off loss to the Yaks. Any team hoping to casually slip past the Bruisers will likely be forced to rethink that strategy sometime during the game. Although the record might not reflect it, this team is no easy out and will force their opponents to battle, particularly if Chris has command of his pitches.

Why They Won’t:  The Bruisers’ overall lack of offensive production this season and their inconsistent pitching will be their downfall. If Chris is on early and the Bruisers find themselves in the semi-finals, they will likely run out of pitching in short order.

Highlights:

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: Longballs

Roster: Sean Bingnear, Dylan Harshaw, Tyler Nachbar, Colin Pollag

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Playing Out Of: Ridley Park, Pennsylvania

Seed: 6th

2018 MAW Record: 5-5

Signature Wins: vs. Lemon Heads 8-1 (8/4)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 3-4

First Game: vs. York Yaks

Why They Will Win It All: No team in the field can match the Longballs’ pitching depth. At four pitchers deep, the Ridley Park club is well situated for a tournament that could take as many as nine games to win. This is not shallow depth, either. Sean Bingnear established himself this season as one of the game’s brightest young pitchers, if not prone to a bit of bad luck. Sean is tournament tested and gives the Longballs a true late-tournament ace that should match up well with the Robles, Sarnos, Soups, and Luticks of the world. Hard throwing lefty Tyler Nachbar was fabulous at the August 4th tournament and if healthy, forms a potent lefty-righty combo with Bingnear. Pollag has extensive experience on the carpet in RPWL and MAW. If he can harness his command, Pollag will be a weapon in the opening round. And while captain Dylan Harshaw has yet to toe the rubber in MAW, he pitched well for the Ridley Park A’s this year in league action and gives his team yet another pitching option.

If Chris Owen, Adam Milsted or Ray Lutick have an off-day on the 8th, their teams will struggle to keep runs off the board. The Longballs, however, can keep passing the baton until they find a pitcher or pitchers who can get the job done. That advantage is a potentially significant one in a Championship environment.

The Longballs' offense is nearly as deep as their pitching. Nachbar has power to spare and poses a real threat from the left side of the plate. Pollag's .467 OBP in MAW in 2018 ranks 4th among batters with at least 50 plate appearances. Bingnear's .508 OBP ranks 2nd and his .326 batting average is 6th among hitters with a minimum of 50 plate appearances. And while Harshaw might not have the numbers his teammates have, he has had success against several of the MAW playoff teams and was one of the few Ridley Park players to do any damage off Cam Farro in that league's playoffs. As a team, the Longballs gave Connor Young all he could handle in the finals of the August 4th tournament and clearly will not be intimidated by any pitcher they see on the 8th.

Why They Won’t:  A side effect of having such pitching depth is that none of the Longballs have had to throw 15 or 20 innings in a single tournament this year. That’s not to say that none of them can but they are unproven in that regard. Even if the team gets quality innings and wins from the likes of Nachbar, Pollag, and Harshaw early on, eventually they will be tempted to turn to Bingnear to either avoid elimination or to attempt to pick up a first-game win in a Best of 3 series. While we know that pitchers like Soup, Sarno, Robles, and Lutick can be let lose in the semi’s and go the rest of the day, Bingnear is unproven in that regard. Historically speaking, tournaments like this are won by teams who can ride a hot pitcher for three, four, or more games down the stretch. At least on paper, the Longballs lack that type of pitcher and for that reason, their depth maybe rendered moot later in the day.

Highlights:

Canonsburg Classic (August 18, 2018) Tournament Recap

Gino Joseph (Left) and Austin Berger (Right) shake hands following the 3rd place game.

Gino Joseph (Left) and Austin Berger (Right) shake hands following the 3rd place game.

The hungry and talented 2018 NWLA Tournament Champions on the hunt for another 2018 tournament title. A second-time tournament team seeking marked improvement over their recent debut. One of the most active and best teams in the country over the past thirty-five days. The second-place team in the 2018 MAW point standings joined by – for one day only – a key player on the team they are looking up at in the standings.

This was the eclectic four-team field that assembled in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania for MAW’s final tournament of the 2018 season and the organization’s first regular season tournament away from Shi Wiffleball Park. As different as these four teams are in terms of makeup and motivation, they were nonetheless evenly matched. Of the eight games played on Saturday, all but one was decided by three runs or less and six came down to just a single run. There was little margin of error for any team the entire tournament.

After a disappointing – but not all that atypical – tournament debut on August 4th, the Revolution’s Gino Joseph vowed to one day be among the best in the game. If the improvement Gino showed in the two-weeks between Backyard Brawl and the Canonsburg Classic is indicative of his future learning curve, he will reach his goal sooner than anyone expected.

On the 4th Gino – working mainly with non-scuffed, beat up balls – struggled with his command to the tune of a 58% walk rate. His 3-pitch mix of riser, drop, and screwball was impressive for a rookie, but the strike zone eluded him. On the 18th, Gino showed up in Canonsburg with that same 3-pitch mix, only this time he brought along added velocity and much improved command. The results speak for themselves. Joseph allowed 14 runs while working all 18 innings for the Revolution. His 3.11 ERA (per 4 IP) is a drastic improvement over his 24.00 ERA in five innings two weeks earlier. Aside from an 8-0 loss to the Stompers, Joseph kept opposing hitters in check and gave his offense plenty of chances to pull out a victory. The Revolution once again went winless but if they can find a way to put up a few runs for their ace and perhaps develop another pitcher behind Gino, they will have an opportunity to make some noise in 2019.

Just one month earlier, the Wiff is Life League (“WILL”) sent shockwaves throughout the National Wiffleball League Association (“NWLA”) ranks when their team went 5-0 in the double elimination round of the NWLA Tournament to take home the title. Like many teams over the years, the WILL Waves’ ascension to tournament champions was quick and sudden, prompting some to label them as a Cinderella squad – the beneficiaries of one magical day. For their part, the Waves have brushed off those remarks and plan to prove that what happened in Morenci was no fluke.

Mike Graziani (Waves) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

Mike Graziani (Waves) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

To their immense credit, the Waves have not rested on their laurels, instead taking on the challenge of competing in a tournament with vastly different rules than the NWLA Tournament. Armed with cut balls and big barrel bats, the Waves made relatively quick work of the Revolution behind Mike Graziani’s arm (5 IP, 0 runs, 14 K’s) and Jake Davey’s bat (3-6, 2B, 3B, 2 R).

Steven Keelon – who held a lean and locked in My Name is ERL offense of Connor Young, Gerard Fitzgerald, and Dan Whitener to two runs over three innings back at MAW’s June event – took the ball against the Lemon Heads in game two. Keelon immediately walked the first three batters, which threatened to place his team in an insurmountable hole. That’s when Davey and the Waves’ experience with larger rosters – common at the NWLA tournament – came into play. The Waves went with a 3-man lineup this game to give their better hitters as many reps as possible. With Keelon unable to find the zone, Davey summoned ace Austin Berger off the bench to put the fire out. Berger nearly did that as he struck out the side but not before allowing a pair of runs on two wild pitches. The Waves immediately fought back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one run and stranding a couple more. Berger kept the Lemon Heads in check the rest of the way, striking out 15 batters and allowing just a single hit. Davey went to his bench once again in the bottom of the 5th – subbing Graziani in for Berger as a pinch hitter with the idea that Mike would stay in as the pitcher should the Waves tie the game – but Graziani went down swinging to finish off a 2-1 defeat.

[WATCH: Lemon Heads vs. Waves Full Game]

Berger got right back at it against the Stompers, racking up an additional nine K’s thanks to a plus screwball that he was able to locate on both sides of the zone. Unfortunately, one pitch told the story of this game for Berger and the Waves and they fell to the Stompers 1-0. The Waves finished strong, defeating the Revolution in the third-place game behind a tag team effort on the carpet from Graziani and Davey. While they certainly hoped to reach the title game, the Waves’ proved that no matter the rules, they can compete with top-level teams. Their +4-run differential was the second best of the tournament. Keep an eye out for the Waves in MAW and elsewhere next year – these guys are gamers no matter the style of play.

The Lemon Heads made the long trek from New Jersey to western Pennsylvania in search of their first tournament title. The Lemon Heads made their first appearance of 2018 back at MAW’s Backyard Brawl on July 14th. Heading into Canonsburg, the team had played in three competitive fast pitch tournaments in just over a month, compiling an impressive record of 13-4 along the way. Over the past month and change, there haven’t been many teams better anywhere in the country than the Lemon Heads.

Despite those quality results, the Lemon Heads arrived in Canonsburg still in search of their first tournament title. For much of the day, it looked like they were going to get what they came for. The group picked up a huge early win when they knocked off the Stompers 1-0 thanks to triples from Tim Beck and Dave Clark. The team’s ace, Ray Lutick, took over from that point, pitching his squad past the Waves and Revolution in a pair of low scoring contests. The Lemon Heads had strong at bats all tournament long and their offense continues to improve every time out. They found ways to score just enough runs to make Lutick’s strong pitching performances stand up.

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) went 3-1 on the carpet and within run of pitching his team to their first tournament championship.

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) went 3-1 on the carpet and within run of pitching his team to their first tournament championship.

At 3-0, the team seemed well-positioned to win that elusive championship. For nine innings, Lutick – working his fourth game of the day – went toe-to-toe with his much fresher opponent, the Stompers’ Chris Sarno. Unfortunately, it was heartbreak yet again for the Jersey boys. In the top of the 9th, Sarno hit a solo home run to give his team the lead and then shut the door in the bottom half of the inning on the carpet. Nonetheless, the second-place finish is the Lemon Heads’ highest finish in a tournament this season and it moved them ahead of the Barrel Bruisers for the fourth spot in the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament.

As for the Stompers, the 2017 Mid Atlantic champs came to Canonsburg with a somewhat surprising addition in the person of ERL’s Blake Hoffman. ERL pulled out of the tournament the week of, leaving the Ohio native without a team to play on. Hoffman hooked on with the rival Stompers, who forewent a chance at earning crucial playoff points by making the move. The addition allowed the Stompers to save Chris Sarno for the finals while Hoffman handled all the pool play pitching duties. Hoffman was on his game, allowing only a single run over 14 innings of work as he pitched his temporary team into the finals. For good measure, the 2018 MAW Rookie of the Year candidate hit a homerun versus the Revolution and appears to be peaking at the right time both at the plate and on the carpet.

Not to be outdone, however, was Hoffman’s teammate for the day, Chris Sarno. Chris was the star of the tournament thanks to two game winning home runs and an excellent nine inning title game pitching performance. In earning his second tournament MVP honor of the season, Sarno has placed himself near the top of the shortlist of season MVP candidates. Perhaps more importantly, after a slightly down – by his own lofty standards – pitching display in July and after sitting out the August 4th tournament, Sarno showed he is locked in and ready to go on in three weeks at the Championship Tournament.

Here and There

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When the Waves defeated the Revolution in their first game of the tournament, they joked about finally winning a pool play game this season. While the Waves did have a pool play win already – at MAW Wiffle Wars this June – they went 0-2-1 in pool play at the NWLA tournament before rattling off five straight to win the title . . . In that regard at least, the Lemon Heads are the polar opposite of the Waves. The Jersey quartet is now an unbelievable 16-1 in non-elimination games and 0-4 in elimination games on the year . . . Sarno’s MVP performance was extra special as it came in front of family members, including his new fiancé. Sarno – who is used to traveling upwards of five hours to play in tournaments – lives just miles away from the Canonsburg tourney site . . . MAW debuted new logo target strike zones at the tournament . . . When asked by a teammate if he was aware of the wild pitch rule that allowed two runs to score against the Lemon Heads, Berger said that he was but temporarily forgot. “If I remembered, I wouldn’t have thrown the riser,” Berger added . . . The 9-inning championship game between the Stompers and Lemon Heads marked the fourth time this season that a game has gone beyond six innings. At least one of the Stompers or ERL have competed in each of the four games . . . MAW tournaments have been blessed with great weather during the organization’s two-year existence. Rain was forecasted for Saturday, but the weather largely held up, save for a few sun showers during the 3rd place game and championship game . . . MAW officials would like to thank Jake Davey and WILL for their hospitality all weekend.

Championship Tournament Point Standing Update

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When it comes to post-season positioning, the Lemon Heads were the big winners in Canonsburg, leap frogging over the Barrel Bruisers into fourth place in the playoff point standings. While that outcome does not alter the first round Championship Tournament match ups, the Lemon Heads do pick up home field advantage in the opening round. With the Stompers ineligible to earn points in Canonsburg, the top two spots remained the same even though ERL was inactive. Although they were also inactive, the Longballs secured the sixth and final spot in the Championship Tournament as a result of neither the Waves nor Revolution winning the auto bid.

With that, we now know the identities of the six squads that earned their way to the no entry fee, invitation only Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament. Which one will emerge as the 2018 Mid Atlantic champions?

Up Next

Chris Sarno (Stompers) won his second tournament MVP award of the 2018 season by hitting two game winning home runs and shutting out the Lemon Heads in the championship game.

Chris Sarno (Stompers) won his second tournament MVP award of the 2018 season by hitting two game winning home runs and shutting out the Lemon Heads in the championship game.

To paraphrase the Stompers’ Jordan Robles, it’s championship season! We have reached the end of August, which means several major titles will be decided over the next six weeks.

Chief among those events is the second Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament, which emanates from Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA on Saturday September 8th.  This unique six-team tournament – comprised of the top six team in the year-end playoff point standings – will kick off with a modified double elimination round with the 3rd – 6th seeds to decide which teams will join ERL and the Stompers in the semi-finals. The semi-finals and finals will both be Best of 3 series. The cash purse for this invitation only tournament is $2,500 and the final four teams will all finish in the money.

Stay tuned to midatlanticwiffle.com and the MAW social media accounts over the next two weeks for MUCH more on this major tournament!

Backyard Brawl (August 4, 2018) Tournament Recap

Joe Schlindwein (left) and Connor Young (right) celebrate their tournament win at  Backyard Brawl  seconds after the final out was recorded.

Joe Schlindwein (left) and Connor Young (right) celebrate their tournament win at Backyard Brawl seconds after the final out was recorded.

No more than sixty seconds after striking out the Longball’s Dylan Harshaw to win MAW’s Backyard Brawl tournament, Connor Young fell to the ground next to Sheff Field and lied there for a moment, exhausted.

The four-game pool play schedule and hot and humid conditions enervated almost every player, but it was an especially taxing day for ERL’s captain. Young threw all twenty-six innings for his two-man squad, came up with big hit after big hit, made several key defensive plays, and did not allow a single run along the way. On top of all of that, Connor had to twice navigate his way through a hungry and relentless Longballs lineup. That type of workload will sap the strength out of even the best conditioned athletes.

“That was certainly the most exhausted I’ve ever been after a tournament. I was drained,” Young told The Drop via text message. “I was honestly running on fumes those last three innings of the championship.”

The tournament had a throwback feel to it for ERL. Young took the ball from the first pitch to the last out with only Joe Schlindwein by his side, just as he did most of last summer. The Connor Young we saw on Saturday, however, was not the same player from 2017 who burned himself out by going a mile-a-minute each game of every tournament. This was not even the same player we saw earlier this season – a player who at times pressed too hard at the plate and who on several occasions allowed a single mistake pitch to turn into a hard luck loss.

At Backyard Brawl, Connor avoided the pitfalls that occasionally plagued him in the past. He judiciously navigated his way through opposing lineups. He added and subtracted as necessary to ensure that his arm would hold up through the long and humid day. Connor took care of business at the plate and saw to it that games would not be lost on one pitch. His pitch selection was – at times – impeccable. The result was arguably Young’s best all-around tournament in Mid Atlantic and ERL’s first MAW tournament title since the team’s MAW debut last June.

Connor Young ran away with tournament MVP honors, getting it done for ERL both on the carpet and at the dish.

Connor Young ran away with tournament MVP honors, getting it done for ERL both on the carpet and at the dish.

The path to ERL’s second MAW championship was a tough one, beginning with their first game of the day versus the Longballs from Ridley Park, PA. After competing in tournaments in May and June with suboptimal rosters, the Longballs arrived at Backyard Brawl with a foursome (Dylan Harshaw, Sean Bingnear, Tyler Nachbar, and Colin Pollag) that can match talent with any team in most any field. The Longballs’ roster on Saturday was at least three pitchers deep, which allowed them to throw their top starter – Bingnear – against ERL without having to worry about how that might impact their ability to compete later in the day.

As expected, a classic pitcher’s duel ensued between Young and Bingnear. The game breezed through the first three frames. Several half innings were over in a blink of an eye as the pitchers pounded the zone with strike after strike. Young did so with his full assortment of pitches while Bingnear relied mainly on a screwball-fastball-side arm drop combination. In the 4th, the Longball hitters got a read on Young and strung together some quality at bats that resulted in a pair of base runners. Armed with a 3-1 total base lead, the Longballs headed to the 5th inning with a chance to score a signature win.

For the second time in as many tournaments – the first coming in June against Cloud9 – Bingnear entered the 5th inning with a chance to pick up a major upset against a top team. Unfortunately for him and the Longballs, it was once again not meant to be. Joe led off the inning with a big walk. The base on balls allowed the ridiculously clutch Young an opportunity to deliver, which he did by smacking a double into the right field corner. The hit – which came with nobody out in the inning – gave ERL a one base lead and a big scoring opportunity. To Bingnear’s credit, he hit right back at ERL and set the next three batters down in order. The damage had been done, however, and in the bottom half of the inning Soup went into lockdown mode. He retired the Longballs in order to pick up the big early pool play win.

With one major challenge out of the way, Young settled into a groove for the rest of the round. He maneuvered his way through the offenses of the Barrel Bruisers and Revolution and used the extra at bats that come with playing as a two-man team to get into a routine at the plate. That routine, as usual, consisted of a lot of free swinging. Perhaps even more so than usual, Young was aggressive at the plate chasing – and often hitting – pitches six inches outside the zone. To round out pool play, ERL downed the Yaks to improve to a perfect 4-0.

Elsewhere, the Jersey Lemon Heads - led by another excellent pitching performance from ace Ray Lutick - also swept through pool play at a perfect 4-0 with victories over the Bruisers, Shortballs, Revolution, and Yaks. Both Jersey teams had one total base win to their names, so the top seed came down to run differential which ERL took by several runs. The 3-1 Longballs picked up the third seed while the 2-2 Yaks were given an immediate rematch against ERL.

A fresh – as fresh as one can be after playing six hours in the sticky late summer heat – Jarod Bull took the mound for the Yaks. The Yaks’ game plan of holding back Bull and sneaking into the elimination round anyway possible played out to near perfection. They entered the semi-finals with the no pitches thrown by their ace, something no other team in the field could boast.

The matchup between Bull and Young is one of the great pitcher-batter rivalries in MAW’s brief history. Bull and the Yaks got the better of it last August and September with wins over ERL in the finals and semi-finals, respectively. Connor got his payback in last October’s Championship Tournament and has carried that momentum into this season. Young continued to be a thorn in Bull’s side on Saturday, hitting two more home runs off him. It would have been three, if not for a sensational catch by the newest Yak, Jordan Reichard, who tumbled over the center field fence on Buffalo while holding onto the ball. The offensive explosion gave Connor some breathing room on the carpet and he made relatively easy work out of the Yaks to the reach the finals.

ERL’s win set up a re-match with the Longballs in the tournament championship and like the first encounter between these two teams, this one did not disappoint.

The Longballs' Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw, and Tyler Nachbar (left to right) discuss strategy during the tournament championship.

The Longballs' Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw, and Tyler Nachbar (left to right) discuss strategy during the tournament championship.

Armed with the valuable information on Young’s pitching style that they picked up six hours earlier, the Longballs launched a consistent, patient, and relentless offensive attack. When Young was over the plate, the Longball hitters were ready to pounce. They picked up five hits and only some quality defensive plays by ERL’s defense kept them from more. The Longballs loaded the bases in the fourth with only one out and had runners on in three out of five innings. Perhaps even more impressively, the Longball batters refused to offer at almost any pitcher’s pitches off the plate. All four members of the team had a tremendous read on Young and they forced him to beat them with strikes.

To Young’s credit, that is exactly what he did. Connor and Joe pounced on any balls put in play. As the Ridley Park batters fouled off pitch after pitch, Young continued to mix it up until he was able to sneak one by them. Due to the consistently tough at bats put together by the Longballs – even when the end result was not in their favor – this was the type of game that played out far more impressively in actuality than it does in the box score.

“The Ridley Park crew made me work harder than anyone all day, in both games. All of them are experienced Wiffle Ball hitters and were making adjustments throughout the game,” Young remarked about his title game opponents. “I tip my hat to those guys. They’re very, very good Wiffle Ball players and anyone who doesn’t know that is in for a rude awakening.”

Bingnear once again toed the rubber for the Longballs and – once again – was on the receiving end of a tough loss. ERL used the same combination they used in the first game – a walk from Joe and an extra base hit by Soup – to score the game’s only run. That combination of clutch-hitting and shutdown pitching gave ERL its first title in over a year.

“We were fully determined to win this tourney,” Young stated matter-of-factly the Monday after the tournament.

On an individual level, Connor’s single-day performance moved him ahead of the Stompers’ Chis Sarno in most Mid Atlantic pitching categories for the season, including innings pitched, strikeouts, and ERA (min. 20 innings pitched/avg. one game per tournament). He once again proved why he is among the very best players in the game right now. Perhaps more importantly, the tournament win moved ERL six points ahead of the Stompers in the season point standings. With only one tournament to go, ERL now has a tight grip on the top spot in September’s Championship Tournament.

Ridley Park Talent On Display

The Longballs and Shortballs - both out of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League - pose for a picture together after the tournament. Combined, the teams allowed just five runs in 46 innings on the day.

The Longballs and Shortballs - both out of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League - pose for a picture together after the tournament. Combined, the teams allowed just five runs in 46 innings on the day.

It took a couple of tournaments to get there, but the Ridley Park Longballs broke through at Backyard Brawl by not just advancing the semi-finals for the first time, but also by coming within one run of their first tournament title. The most impressive aspect of the Longballs tournament was their balance. The team got quality innings and two wins out of Pollag and Nachbar, while Bingnear did the heavy lifting against ERL.

Bingnear entered the tournament as the most ballyhooed of the current Longballs thanks to his strong starts against tough teams like Cloud9, In the Box, and New School Risers. His 1-5 record in MAW competition is very deceptive. A look below the surface reveals a pitcher on the verge of a major breakout. MAW Tournament Director Tim Cooke – drawing from his first-hand experience with Stomper lefty Dan Isenberg a decade and a half ago – is fond of pointing out how a string of one-run losses to quality teams by a young pitcher is often a sign that success is just around the corner. Bingnear’s five losses include a 1-0 extra inning loss to the reigning Fast Plastic champions Cloud9, a total base loss to ERL, an extra-inning walk off loss to Dave Capobianco and the New School Risers, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tom LoCascio of In the Box, and a 1-0 loss to ERL in Saturday’s championship game. If Tim’s theory is correct, Sean is in store for big things very soon.

At the plate, Dylan Harshaw picked up right where he left off at the NWLA Tournament with another above average offensive display. All four Longballs showed off average to above average patience and contact hitting, with flashes of power. That trifecta is rare in a single player, nonetheless on an entire team. The Longballs did not blow a routine play the entire tournament in easily a dozen chances. At Backyard Brawl, the Longballs proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can and will contend on a regular basis in MAW.

As impressive as the Longballs performance was, it was the play of Ridley Park Wiffleball League’s second team – the Shortballs – that hammered home just how talented of a league it is. This young team – all of their players are still in high school – went 1-3 but lost in six innings to the Yaks on total bases, came up just short against the Longballs, and hung in there against the Lemon Heads. Frankie Campanile, Ryan Drecher, and Nate Smith all impressed on the carpet, Vinny Albanese displayed plus power potential, and Joey Van Houten was a tough out the entire tournament. If we see more of the Shortballs next season, it stands to reason that they will follow a similar path to the Longballs and be contending by mid-year. The Shortballs have the pitching to compete now and their bats should only improve with additional reps.

Here and There

The Lemon Heads' Matt Cripse gets ready to deliver a pitch while teammate Tim Beck looks on.

The Lemon Heads' Matt Cripse gets ready to deliver a pitch while teammate Tim Beck looks on.

As is the case for many first-time tournament players, Gino Joseph’s control issues spoiled his debut but he has no intentions of letting that slow him down. Already ahead of the curve with a nice 3-pitch mix, Gino wrote Tuesday on Instagram: “First time ever . . . went 0-4 on the mound but it was one hell of an experience. Canonsburg in 12 days, then it takes off from there. Can’t wait to be one of the best” . . . The Jersey Lemon Heads are 7-1 in pool play in two MAW tournaments this year, but 0-2 in semi-final games. Including other organizations, they are 13-1 before the semi-finals this year and 0-3 with a chance at the championship game on the line. It is a question of when – not if – they will get over that hump . . . Consider this – just how scary might the Longballs be next year if they add a healthy Tommy Loftus to their lineup? . . . Last year, the Yaks’ Jarod Bull allowed one home run in 37 innings of work and that lone homer came in the Yaks’ last game of the year in the Championship Tournament. This year in 34 innings of work, the tall righty has already surrendered six home runs . . . Another Yak, Adam Milsted, flew under the radar on Saturday but was arguably the second most valuable player of the tournament. Milsted threw 15 innings for the Yaks, won two games, and lost a third on total bases to pitch his team into the playoffs . . . Best wishes to Milsted and Connor Young who celebrated birthdays this past week . . . How did Soup follow up his 26 innings of shutout ball on Saturday? By pitching 6 more against ERL teammate Dan Whitener in Palisades on Sunday . . .  The Barrel Bruisers' season long struggle to pick up victories continued on Saturday but there are some continuing positive signs. Chris Owen continued to be difficult to hit when he was over the plate, Jerry Hill looks better on the rubber every single tournament, and Tony Manelli continues to collect his hits no matter the pitcher . . .  The Lemon Heads used all four of their players on the flat hill this past weekend. If he can cut down the walks, Matt Cripse looks like a viable option for the Lemon Heads for pool play duty in a less competitive field. Also rumor has it that the team is already looking outside MAW to shore up their 2019 roster . . . It appears as if the Yaks will be without their captain, Nick Shirey, for the remainder of the season. Shirey is expected to undergo surgery later this month to repair a torn labrum he suffered at the Fast Plastic NCT nearly a decade and a half ago . . .Their two meetings on Saturday were not the first times members of the Longballs got an up close look at Soup's stuff. Young recently stopped by the Lot in Ridley Park to play a pick up game with some of the league's players.

Championship Tournament Update

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With one regular season tournament remaining, the Championship Tournament field is nearly in place. Three teams – ERL, Stompers, and Yaks – have clinched a spot with four other teams vying for the final three spots. That is without mentioning the potential shakeup that could occur should a team outside of that group win in Canonsburg. For a more thorough account of where things stand going into the last tournament of the season, click here.

Up Next

Members of the NWLA Tournament champion WILL Waves will compete in MAW's next tournament in Canonsburg, PA on the 18th. Pictured here are Waves players Jake Davey (foreground) and Mike Graziani.

Members of the NWLA Tournament champion WILL Waves will compete in MAW's next tournament in Canonsburg, PA on the 18th. Pictured here are Waves players Jake Davey (foreground) and Mike Graziani.

The season is down to its final tournament! MAW debuts in the Pittsburgh area next Saturday with the Canonsburg Classic. A competitive field is expected, including several teams hoping to improve or solidify a playoff spot. There are still slots available and registration will remain open to the end of the week. Don’t miss out on the last to compete in an open entry MAW tournament this summer!

After Canonsburg, all attention will turn towards the Championship Tournament on September 8th back in York. Not only will the second Mid Atlantic Champion being crowned on the day, the six teams involved will all vie for $2,500 in cash prizes! More information on this major tournament and how you can follow along from home in the coming weeks.

Quick Championship Tournament Update

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The final tournament of the season is just two weeks away and the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament picture is coming in to focus. However, there are still plenty of moving pieces and potential spots up for grabs in Canonsburg, not to mention the Auto Bid that goes to the winning team of that tournament.

To recap, the top two teams in the point standings after the 18th will receive a bye to the semi-finals of the Championship Tournament. Seeds #3 through #6 will compete in a modified double elimination tournament (i.e. no final game between the winner’s bracket champion and the loser’s bracket champion) for the other two semi-final spots. The semi-finals and finals will then be best two-out-of-three series. Click here for an example of the Championship Tournament format.

After Backyard Brawl, there is a new name atop the leader board. For the first time this season, a team other than the Stompers occupies the top position. My Name is ERL made up a 10-point difference in one tournament by finishing first while the Stompers sat inactive. Both the Stompers and ERL have clinched a spot in the Championship tournament but both teams will be on action on August 18th. The Stompers have a lot of work to do – and will need some help – to regain the top position.

Mathematically, the Yaks could still overtake the Stompers for the coveted second spot but as of this date are not expected in Canonsburg. The Yaks have clinched the third seed in the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament. None of the other teams currently in the top six – the Barrel Bruisers, Longballs, G€M or the Lemon Heads – have clinched a spot.

The biggest shake up to the Championship Tournament could occur if the winning team in Canonsburg is a team other than one of the seven listed above and that team accepts their auto bid. Under that scenario, the Lemon Heads and/or G€M would find themselves on the outside looking in if they are inactive on the 18th. Similarly, there could be some movement among the final four seeds depending on what happens on the 18th.

The season is going to go right down to the wire. Which teams will be tempt fate and which ones will try to take matters into their own hands in Canonsburg? We will find out in two weeks!