YORK, PA (AUGUST 12, 2017) - A little after one o’clock on July 15th, the York Yaks’ season hit rock bottom.
In dropping their final pool play game of tournament #3 to the W2B squad of Ben Stant and Adam Milstead by a score of 8-4, the Yaks’ season record fell to a lowly 2-8. With one pool play game left to play that day, there was no guarantee that the Yaks would even make it into that day’s playoff round. The team was in danger of exiting July six games below .500 on the season and with only 5 playoff points. It was a result that would have left the Yaks – at best – tied for the final spot in the playoffs with only two tournaments left to play.
Then – just like that – their entire season changed.
The Yaks snuck past W2B 2-1 in the semi’s, used an extra-inning homerun to beat the Stompers in the tournament, and haven’t looked back since. In fact, the Yaks have not lost since. They are 7 for their last 7 after going 5-0 at the August 12th tournament to storm ahead into first place in the playoff standings. Their turnaround has been nothing short of remarkable.
Jarod Bull was the driving force behind the Yaks’ July tournament success, driving in the game winning runs against W2B and pitching 11 excellent innings in the semi’s and finals to seal the deal. And while he once again played an important role on Saturday, the Yaks used a full team effort to earn their second consecutive tournament championship.
So what has caused the sudden and dramatic turnaround?
“In all honesty I don’t know,” Nick Shirey commented. “We’ve played a lot of Wiffleball as a unit and knew we had it in us. Ultimately, we know every tournament and every game is going to be a grind and anyone could take it. It’s great fun and competition. Dan Potter’s pitching performance in tourney four was a big factor. He allowed us to get into playoffs with a totally fresh [Jared] Laird and only one inning pitched for [Jarod] Bull. That was huge and Pottsy's bat has come to life."
Speaking of Potter, the veteran has been excellent all season long both at the plate and on defense, although his pitching results have largely been mixed. That didn’t stop the Yaks from handing him in the ball in an important first round match up with the returning My Name is ERL. Runs are always at a premium when Connor Young is on the mound, which put substantial pressure on Potter to keep the game close. He did better that, blanking ERL through four innings. The Yaks squeezed a run across late in the game for the all-important first game victory.
Potter’s next task was silencing the bats of the always dangerous – yet undermanned – Barrel Bruisers. The Yaks got by the Bruisers with relative ease which set up yet another in a long series of games between the Yaks and Stompers. For the third consecutive game, Potter was handed the ball. Fatigue and opponent familiarity got the best of him and he struggled for the first time all day, allowing ten runs to the Stompers. Dan “Doc” Isenberg – rejuvenated at the plate after some early season struggles – did the brunt of the damage with a pair of long homeruns (and just missed out on a third). Unfortunately, Isenberg’s command of the baseball in the late innings wasn’t as sharp as his hitting. Down 10-5 in the last inning, the Yaks’ patiently waited Isenberg out on their way to scoring nine runs for the come-from-behind victory. Bull came on to [abruptly] close the door on the Stompers in the bottom of the 4th. The win gave the Yaks their third win of the tournament their 5th straight dating back to July.
Elsewhere, the debuting Jackson Wiffleball squad proved dangerous at the plate and effective on the mound, taking down the Stompers in the tournament opener. Isenberg uncharacteristically struggled with his command and the usually reliable Paul Cooke had a disastrous game at the dish. Jackson is far too solid of a team to struggle against like that and they easily took down the Stompers. They followed up that performance with an audacious drubbing of the InHumans. Jackson had a chance at making a big statement by going 3-0 and ending ERL’s day unexpectedly early, but came up just short 3-2.
In a play-in game for the final tournament playoff spot, Isenberg hit a wall and the Bruisers walked over the Stompers in easy fashion. With only two players the Bruisers showed their usual tenacity and never-say-due attitude in making yet another semi-finals appearance. The numbers game finally caught up with them, however, and the Yaks – with Jared Laird on the rubber – advanced via the 10-run mercy rule. In the other semi-final, ERL slipped passed Jackson yet again to make it back to the tournament championship after winning the June event.
The finals promised to be a great pitching matchup and it more than lived up to its billing. Bull – fresh after only one inning of work earlier in the tournament – locked horns with the rubber armed Connor Young. Young – while not as unhittable as he was back in June – always a presents a serious challenge to hitters due to his various arm angles, velocity, movement, and command. With Bull and Young pitching, this one seemed destined for extra-innings, but the Yaks had other ideas. The Yaks mounted a third inning rally that was capped off by a Nick Shirey RBI double. That one run proved to be the difference as Bull shut down ERL over five strong innings for his second straight finals shutout.
For Bull, it was another strong outing in what is becoming a routine occurrence. In 25 innings pitched this season, the tall righty has allowed just four runs (0.64 ERA). The clubhouse leader for the Rookie of the Year award might be surprising some, but not Shirey.
“"Bull is a hell of a competitor and athlete. I’m not surprised at all. I knew he was going to be a solid arm after I had him throw his first wiffle (a screwball) and he hit the zone with gas."
While Potter, Laird, and Bull got it done on the mound, it was the Shirey who at least one opposing team captain felt was the difference maker for the Yaks in the August tournament.
"Nick [Shirey] was huge for the Yaks on Saturday," tournament director and Stompers' captain Tim Cooke remarked when reached for comment. “There is no objective way to measure ‘clutchness’ but by my subjective eyes, there weren’t two bigger hits this tournament than his homerun off of Dan [Isenberg] and his RBI double off of Connor [Young] in the championship game.”
With the tournament victory, the Yaks shoot up the playoff standings to first place with 15 points.
Here and There
The weather was kind to MAW once again. Despite chances of rain all day, there was not a single drop during the tournament with a heavy downpour coming only after the tournament had wrapped up . . . Jackson Wiffleball’s 44 runs scored in a single game is – unsurprisingly – the organization’s single game scoring record . . . The Yaks current seven game winning streak is the longest of the season . . . The InHumans might be winless this season but they continue to be everyone’s favorite team due to their spirited play . . . In a first for Sheff Field, a ball was hit off the left field foul pole in the Jacksons/InHumans game for a home run . . . The Stompers are 2-0 versus the Barrel Bruisers in games where aces Nick Schaefer and Ryan Doeppel are pitching. The Stompers are 0-3 versus the Barrel Bruisers in all other games . . . My Name is ERL’s 8-3 record and .727 winning percentage ranks tops among teams who have played more than five games this season.
MAW closes out the 2017 regular season September 9th in York, PA. With a half-dozen teams already registered for the tournament and significant interest from others, MAW officials are hopeful for a full 8 or 10 team field on the 9th. Make sure to register today to reserve your spot before it is too late!
The playoff match ups will be determined as well in early September. The current top four consists of the Yaks, Stompers, Barrel Bruisers, and ERL but the order of those teams could change significantly with the results of the September tournament. An encore performance from July tournament 3rd place finishes Way Too Beautiful – should they play – could throw a major wrench into the postseason as well.