Of the 15 teams that participated at the Texas Open, five were local to Texas. The most prolific of the five teams – scratch that, the only team of the five with any profile – was the Master Batters comprised of Will and Paul Marshall and FP veterans Craig Freeman and Jon King. Joining them was fellow Texas Wiffle® Ball League (TWBL) fast pitch division team the Jager Bombers, plus medium pitch teams Wiffle Jam, Whose Your Daddy, and Cosby Show. The tournament organizers ranked the Jager Bombers and Master Batters in the fourth group for seeding purposes while the other three Frisco teams landed in the fifth and final seeding group. Clearly, there were not very high expectations for any of the local boys.
When all was said and done, however, three of those Texas teams – Master Batters, Jager Bombers, and Cosby Show – blew those expectations right out of the water.
As noted in our last-minute tournament preview from Friday evening, of all the fourth seeded teams the Master Batters were best equipped to make a run into the 8-team elimination round. The 2017 TWBL champions were seeded where they were because they were a largely unknown quantity, not because they didn’t have the talent to compete. Riding the arm of their ace and team captain, Will Marshall, the Batter’s opened up pool play with a pair of quasi upsets versus LV Wifflers and Jim’s Pub. Both games were won on total bases with Will on the mound. Their lone round robin loss game at the hands of Jordan Robles and Wiff Inc., a fate experienced by several teams during pool play. What ultimately did the Texas boys in was a lack of hitting, as they managed just one run (a Jon King solo shot) through their first three games. The Marshall brothers’ inexperience playing under Fast Plastic rules bit them in their quarterfinal game with eventual champions Cloud9. There were several mental defensive blunders early on that allowed the game to get out of reach. Nonetheless, a 3-2 record with losses to the champion and 3rd place team is a heck of a run, especially for a team making their Fast Plastic debut. Will Marshall established himself as a player to keep an eye on. If he sticks with Wiffle® Ball full time – rumor has it Will might test his hand in independent baseball – he has the chance to be one of the nation’s best pitchers in a few years and along with Paul, form a formidable 1-2 pitching punch.
While some might have had a notion that the Master Batters would outperform their seeding, nobody saw the Jager Bombers coming. The team competed in the fast pitch division of the TWBL but were undecided on participating in the Texas Open until late in the process. They are certainly glad that they did. The four-man team pulled off the tournament’s first upset in the very first round of games by taking down the well-traveled Freaky Franchise 3-0 on field #4. Pitcher Tye Webber followed that up with another strong outing in the Bombers second game against the veteran Moonshots, but tired late and walked in two runs in the loss. The draw didn’t get any easier next when the Jager Bombers faced tournament runners up, Remember the Rookies. The Bombers held tough and lost a 0-0 nail biter on total bases. The team ended pool play with a 2-2 record and snuck into the play-in round by virtue of their solid run differential. The tenacious Jager Bombers’ unforeseen run came to an end at the hands of Moonshots in one of the two play-in games. Their run to the final ten bodes well for their future in this sport. In the immortal words of one Bomber as they left the complex, “I know we could compete with any of these teams. . . if we actually practice.”
The most surprising of the three surprising Texas teams was undoubtedly the Cosby Show. In the day’s second group of games, Cosby went head-to-head with eventual tournament winners Cloud9. The Cosby kids only prior experience in the sport was in TWBL’s medium pitch division. Cooper – who pitched all four of Cosby’s game – featured above average velocity and strong command that silenced the Cloud9 bats. Think about it – these kids who had never competed in an unrestricted pitch speed environment before were one big hit or a few more walks away from completely altering the course of the tournament! Cosby hung tough all day with Cooper setting the tone on the mound. Although their record did not reflect it, these kids played really tough all day long against very high caliber competition. Cosby Show was a reminder how in this sport, no team should ever be taken lightly.
Mid-afternoon on Saturday – as the round robin portion of the tournament wound down and teams began to scatter – tournament director extraordinaire Tim Dean stood by as Whose Your Daddy and (later) the Jager Bombers headed for the exit.
“What did you learn today?”, Tim bellowed in his unmistakable Texas drawl.
The players on both teams rattled off a litany of lessons learned – about how to play the game, how to grip the ball, the quality of the other teams – from their first foray into national competition. It was a bit of a mixed bag for the Texas Teams but there is no doubt that every single one – the Master Batters on down to Wiffle Jam – walked away with some valuable learned information. If Fast Plastic returns to the Lone Star State in 2018, these Texas teams will be primed and ready to make some noise.