PLAYOFF FIELD, ROSTERS SET AFTER FINAL REGULAR SEASON TOURNAMENT
YORK, PA (September 9, 2017) – The inaugural Mid Atlantic season ended on September 9th the same way it began on April 29th – with the veteran Stompers as the last team standing. Although, this was a much different Stompers’ squad from the one we are used to seeing.
With Dan “Doc” Isenberg on paternity leave and ace Nick Schaefer unavailable for the tournament, Stompers captain Tim Cooke went hard to work to find a player that would not only provide relief in September put could be paired with Schaefer in October to give the team a one-two pitching punch. Tim accomplished both those goals (and then some) in securing the services of star Palisades player and manager of the Palisades Padres, Jordan Robles. Arguably one of the games’ best players, Robles more than filled his end of the agreement by throwing 21 near-perfect innings. Over four games, Jordan did not allow a run or a hit, with a pair of walks serving as the only blemishes on his stat sheet.
“We needed pitching depth. Nick carried the pitching load on his shoulder all year. We wanted to keep him healthy but also wanted to better position ourselves to be the last team standing in October,” Stompers captain Tim Cooke remarked after the tournament when discussing the decision to add a player of Robles’ caliber to the roster late in the season. “Jordan fits our pitching needs perfectly but also brings a quality bat to the lineup.”
The eight-team field – the largest MAW field of the season – was a classic mix of experience and skill levels. A pair of newcomers – New Jersey’s Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies and Maryland’s Band of Brothers – joining two regular teams from the York area and the four playoff-bound clubs on Saturday.
The day began with ERL’s Joe Schlindwein making his Mid Atlantic mound debut opposite of the re-tooled and much improved Bacchus. Joe showed potential on the mound with a nice riser from a low side arm angle. Unfortunately, he succumbed to the walk bug that inflicts many an inexperienced tournament pitcher. Connor Young would take over in the first inning and pitch the rest of ERL’s innings as he is accustomed to doing. ERL rebounded from the shaky top of the first to put away Bacchus with relative ease. On Sam Horn (field #2), Nick Shirey took to the rubber against his young protégés, the InHumans. More than a few players commented on the noticeable strides these youngsters have made over the summer. Cameron in particular has turned himself into a strike thrower with a sneakily good slider that drew swings and mixes from a couple of veteran players. The InHumans once again went 0-3 for the tournament, but the potential is there. Gives these guys a few years and they will be competing on a regular basis.
The Yaks – scheduled for three straight games to begin the day – met a familiar foe with an unfamiliar pitcher when they faced the Stompers and Robles in their second game of the day. The Yaks entered the tournament with a 2-3 season record against the rival Stompers with a chance to even up (or even pull ahead) on the season series. They came up short, however, as Robles set the tone for his day by retiring all twelve batters he faced. Jordan struck out ten batters and handled two groundouts by himself to shut down the Yaks. On offense, Paul Cooke used his good eye to draw four walks and a couple of timely hits from Robles propelled the Stompers to victory. At the same time on Sheff, another very talented player was making his debut for an MAW mainstay. Ben Stant – who played in York back in June with Adam Milstead as Way Too Beautiful – was recruited by the Barrel Bruisers as a late season fill-in. Without ace Ryan Doeppel, the Bruisers were in desperate need for a top tier pitcher and they believe they found just that in Stant. Like ERL before them, the Bruisers tried to get by their first-round matchup without having to use their best pitcher. However, Chris Owen proved wild and was pulled in favor of Stant after walking in four runs against the debuting Band of Brothers. Band of Brothers’ pitcher Christian Wingate pitched his first of several solid games on the day and held down the usually potent Bruiser bats for the early tournament upset.
Forming the core of Band of Brothers is the Wingate family from Westminster, who have been actively involved in running, organizing, and playing on an amateur baseball team in South Pennsylvania for many years. That pedigree seemed to set them up well for a run in the September tournament. Such a run seemed to be in the cards after knocking off the Bruisers in the first round. Unfortunately, they ran into another baseball playing team in Bacchus who had their number on this day. Bacchus’ Trevor Neff showed noticeable improvement on the mound from his prior tournament appearances and the York baseball players took down the North Carroll baseball players in their head to head match up.
The strides Trevor Neff has made on the mound have not gone unnoticed by Yaks’ captain, Nick Shirey.
“Trevor – who is already almost everyone’s favorite person to play against (or maybe least favorite in some cases) – pitched really well compared to his first two tournament outings and brought his usual banter all day long.”
Back in Pool A, the Stompers finished pool play at 3-0 thanks in large part to Jordan Robles’ eight innings of shutout pitching and a few big hits. The Yaks rebounded from the loss to the Stompers to beat newcomers Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies. The win gave the Yaks a 2-1 record and a spot in the final four. The Rubber Duckies finished at 1-2 but kept the Stompers close (2-0 loss) and showed both the enthusiasm and skill necessary to blossom into a contending team.
“Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies reminded me of early Stompers,” Tim Cooke observered, using his own team’s early growing pains in the late 1990’s as an example. “Young and inexperienced, but full of enthusiasm which is how you get better. We saw firsthand how enthusiasm leads to more practicing and the more you practice, the better you get.”
While Block A shook out rather cleanly, the B Block was far messier. ERL finished pool play with a perfect 3-0 record while the other three teams in the bracket traded wins to end up in a 3-way tie. That meant the dreaded back-to-back play-in games to decide the final playoff participant. The Bruisers managed the best run differential of the bunch, which gave them a “bye” to the second play-in game. The first play-in game entered the bottom of the 2nd and final inning scoreless but with Band of Brothers ahead by one total base. Bacchus appeared to get on the board with a towering blast down the left field line. The ball was hit so well that it seemed to cut straight through the wind that knocked balls down on Horn field all day long. Band of Brothers outfielder Zach Wingate got a good beat on the ball, raced to the fence, and reached over to rob Bacchus of the homerun. The catch proved to be the difference as Band of Brothers held on to win by one total base.
The Band of Brothers found themselves one win – perhaps a few total bases – away from the final four but their bats remained silent against Stant and the Bruisers. Christian Wingate continued to pitch well and kept the Bruisers off the board, but Stant was even stingier. The Bruisers won the game on total bases to set the tournament playoff field.
For Band of Brothers, it was a very promising debut. “Man, they are going to be good,” Shirey commented on the newcomers from Maryland. “One guy [Christian Wingate] was throwing gas and they appear extremely legit. Some scuffing and more AB’s and they will be in the running to win every tournament.” Tim Cooke was equally impressed, stating that they he hopes to see Band of Brothers back in 2018 and if they do return “they will become a contender”.
While these play-in games were still ongoing, ERL hosted the Yaks on Sheff in the first semi-final. The game was also a re-match of the August finals and for most of the way, played out like an exact facsimile of the original. Jarod Bull and Connor Young once again engaged in a pitcher’s duel and once again one clutch Yaks’ hit decided the outcome. This time it was the Yaks’ Potter that delivered the damaged. With a runner on, the Mid Atlantic’s most dangerous hitter barreled up in the zone and launched it over the left center field fence. That homerun was all that Bull – a strong rookie of the year candidate – needed. For the third straight tournament the Yaks found themselves back in the championship game.
The Yaks had to wait quite a while to find out who their title game opponent would be thanks to quality pitching by Stant and Robles in the Bruisers/Stompers matchup. The second semi-final made it through the five regulation innings without a score. As good as Stant was that game, Robles was even better. The Bruiser’s Jerry Hill has a strong case to be considered the best or most consistent hitter in the Mid Atlantic but struggled to get anything going against Robles who made one big pitch after another. By the time the 5-inning regulation game reached the 6th, it seemed all but certain that this one would go the distance (8 innings) be decided on total bases. All three Stompers reached based at least once while the Bruisers had only a solitary runner courtesy of a Chris Owen walk. For the second time this season the Bruisers suffered the unenviable – although perhaps unavoidable – fate of being knocked out of the tournament on a total base loss.
The finals were yet another classic Yaks/Stompers match up. On the rubber Jordan Robles showed no signs of tiring as he approached and surpassed the 20 innings pitched mark. The more well rested Bull was up to the task as well and the game remained scoreless through three innings. In the 4th, Paul Cooke worked a walk and Robles followed it with a triple to bring a run across the plate. The ball looked to be gone off the bat and the three-bagger was still enough to score the game’s only run. Robles finished navigating his way though Yaks lineup to pick up his fourth shutout of the day.
To nobody’s surprise, Robles was named tournament MVP.
Cooke knew that picking up Robles for the stretch was huge, but didn’t understand just how huge it would be. “Jordan exceeded my expectations. I knew he was good. I didn’t know was this good – a strike throwing machine. His Palisades numbers back up what we saw on Saturday.
When asked for a comparison, the Stompers captain gave Robles the biggest compliment he could think up.
“He [Robles] reminded me of a 22-year old Nick Schaefer.”
Here and There
The “Wall of Wifflers” at Sheff – designed to honor great players in the game’s history – received two new entries on Saturday. Signs honoring legendary In the Box captain Tom LoCascio and the ageless Bruce Chrystie joined the existing sign for Billy Owens on right field outfield wall . . . We write this every tournament it seems like, but Saturday was another gorgeous day for Wiffle® Ball. The cooler temperatures were a surefire sign that October (and the playoffs) are just around the corner . . . The eight-inning game between the Stompers and Bruisers was the longest of the season, with a trio of six-inning games tied for second . . . Just how good was Jordan Robles on Saturday? Facing Robles was the first time all season the Bruisers’ Jerry Hill went an entire game without putting a ball into play . . . It was a day of marathon pitching performances as Ben Stant, Connor Young, Christian Wingate, Jordan Robles, and Trevor Neff all pitched almost every inning for their respective teams . . . Evan Rosenthal of the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies made perhaps the best defensive play (non-Dan Potter category) of the 2017 Mid Atlantic season when he robbed Tim Cooke of a single with a diving, one-handed grab during round robin play.
Final Playoff Point Standings
It all comes down to this . . .
After six months and five regular season tournaments, one team will leave York, PA on October 7th as the very first Mid Atlantic Champion! The winning team will walk away with over $1,000 in cash prizes and the honor of forever being the first Champions of the Mid Atlantic.
The playoff format consists of a pair of Best of 3 series in the semi-finals followed by a Best of 3 championship series. The semi-final games are set and both pack plenty of intrigue. The top seeded Yaks will take on My Name is ERL in the first semi-final. These two teams have played each other three times in the past two tournaments with the Yaks coming out ahead in all three (by scores of 1-0, 1-0, and 2-0). ERL’s Connor Young has taken the losses personally and will be looking to make sure the outcomes are different in October. In the other semi-final, the Stompers and Barrel Bruisers will battle it out one more time in 2017. The Bruisers hope to have Ben Stant back for them, while the Stompers – the only team to utilize all seven of their roster spots this season – will have a lot of weapons to choose from.
The playoffs are shaping up to be a tournament to remember and if you can’t be there, MAW hopes to bring the action TO you. Stay tuned to the MAW website and social media for details on you can watch the games live from anywhere.