MAY 5, 2018 (YORK, PA) - It was a wild sixty hours for Dave Capobianco.
The Thursday before the second Mid Atlantic Wiffle tournament of the 2018 season, the New School Risers’ captain informed MAW officials that he would have to withdraw his team from the event. The erstwhile Old School Riser suffered a grade-2 calf strain a day earlier. As his team’s only pitcher, he believed the injury was severe enough that it would prevent them from competing. It was agreed upon by both parties that the New School Risers debut would be delayed until MAW’s June 16th event.
It was only after contacting the tournament organizers that Dave alerted his teammates of what was going on. Dave’s fellow Risers – who, we should mention, also moonlight as his teenage daughter and son – reacted with enough disappointment that it caused him to reconsider. The elder Capobianco – once a star southpaw on Fast Plastic Maryland region stalwarts, the Old School Risers – iced his calf muscles and decided to give the tournament his best shot. Some sixty hours later, the Risers had four big wins, a walk off homerun, several nail-biting victories, multiple clutch hits, and a second-place finish under their belts.
Good thing he listened to the kids.
The Risers’ run to the championship game was the talk of the tournament. The Salisbury, Maryland team began their day in impressive fashion by mercy ruling the Barrel Bruisers in 1 ½ innings. The Risers were patient and took the free passes offered up by the Bruisers’ Colin Dimitris. Dave made quick work of the Bruisers’ usually solid offense, striking out all six batters he faced.
The Risers failed to score a run off ERL’s Connor Young in their second game of the tournament and dropped the contest by a score of 1-0. The trio bounced back in their third game, taking it to the Yaks by a final score of 10-2. The Risers ended their pool play schedule with a 2-0 loss to the defending champions, the Stompers. A couple of wins and a .500 record would have made for a solid day, but the Capobiancos were just getting started. The two victories earned them a play-in game against a fellow debuting 2-2 team, the Ridley Park Longballs, with the final spot in the single elimination round at stake.
The play-in game made it through the two innings of regulation without a score. Dave picked up a single and a walk, while his son Matt also added a single, and the Risers took a comfortable total bases lead into extra innings. In the third, the Longballs’ Joey VanHouten narrowed the total base margin to 3-1 with a one-out single. Unfortunately for the Longballs, that was as close as they would get. In the bottom of the third, Dave led off with a walk and two batters later sent his team into the semi-finals on a walk off two-run blast.
The walk off ended what was an impressive showing for the Longballs. The group was as deep on the mound as any team in the field. They threw four different pitchers and all four showed talent and upward projection. The Longballs finished the tournament with a very solid +8 run differential. The team represented the Ridley Park Wiffleball League well and the talent in that league is undeniable. Look for these guys to continue to make some noise in MAW – and elsewhere – later this summer.
“I loved the Ridley Park guys’ energy and enthusiasm,” Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke told The Drop. “And that was before they stepped on the field. A lot of young talent out there. Multiple guys who could pitch and their bats really heated up as the day went along. These are the guys we need to keep coming back. They compete and will step to the next level quickly with a little bit more experience. They were really good on the field and good guys off the field as well.”
The Risers walk-off win set them up for a date with a 4-0 My Name is ERL squad. ERL pitchers suffocated opposing offenses throughout round robin play. Young shutout both the InHumans and Risers, while Dan Whitener – making his ERL debut – shutout both the Stompers and Bruisers. ERL’s bats, however, continued to lag well behind their arms. After putting up seven runs on the InHumans, ERL managed only two runs in their next three games – a pair of 1-0 victories and a 0-0 total bases win against the Bruisers. It was still an improvement over the first tournament, where ERL scored only one run in three games and created far fewer scoring opportunities.
“I’ll never be satisfied, let’s be honest,” ERL manager Young remarked about his team’s offensive output. “But truthfully we took a step forward today offensively. I would have liked for us to put together better at bats in the semis but we surely took a step forward . . . Joe [Schlindwein] has become more aggressive on balls in the zone, which is great.”
Having already scored off Dave Capobianco once and with Blake Hoffman completely fresh, ERL were the heavy favorites against the Risers in their semi-final meeting. The game that followed was the best of the tournament and among the most exciting games played in MAW’s 15 months of existence.
The game entered the third inning scoreless. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Hoffman walked Matt Capobianco but came right back to punch out his dad. A first pitch strike to Kyleigh Capobianco had Hoffman just one pitch away from getting out of the inning and keeping the game notched at zero. Instead, the talented southpaw left a screwball over the plate and Kyleigh got all of it. The ball nearly cleared the right field fence on Horn – an impressive feat given that field’s dimensions and slight upward slope – but instead bounced off the wall for a run scoring triple. The big blow seemed to take all the wind out of ERL’s sails. Hoffman regrouped to keep the margin at one, but ERL’s offense failed to convert on a first and second opportunity in the third and then went quietly in the fourth.
Three outs away from a loss, Soup took matters into his own hands. ERL’s captain led off the 5th inning with a triple to put the tying run ninety feet away. Whitener followed up with a walk but Capobianco got Schlindwein and Hoffman to strike out. Not deterred, Soup shot a single back up the middle to tie the game and give ERL new life.
A rejuvenated Hoffman struck out the side in the 6th. In the 7th inning, however, Dave got a hold of another pitch and pulled it over the right field fence for a tiebreaking homerun. This time around, Dave made the run hold up. He shut down ERL in the bottom half the inning to pitch his team into the finals.
As for ERL, Soup chose not to dwell on the loss and instead offered some perspective on his young left-hander.
“People haven’t grasped how new this kid [Hoffman] is to competitive wiffs. He’s just getting onto the field. He’s thrown what – maybe four games his whole career outside of the backyard? He’s learning every event. He probably learned more losing that game than he would have winning. I’m ecstatic he’s a part of this team. His development from young phenom to wiffs superstar is going to be fun to watch.”
The final was a matchup of the tournament’s two iron men as Capobianco squared off with the Stompers’ Chris Sarnowski. Entering the finals, Capobianco had 23 innings logged on his arm already while Sarno came in with 20 innings pitched. Despite the heavy workload, neither pitcher showed any signs of giving in early. It was not until the 4th inning when Sarno broke through with a solo homerun – his third of the tournament. The homerun seemed to ignite the Stompers’ offense as they followed with four straight baserunners (walk, single, double, single) to plate an additional three runs. The cushion was enough for Sarno and the Stompers held on for their second straight tournament win.
Cooke had plenty of praise for both of the championship game pitchers.
“Sarno was fantastic. Words really cannot describe the job he did. He let up his two runs in the first two games and then was lights out, which is incredible considering he had to face Capobianco twice and Potter once. I think the most impressive thing was he kept us engaged in the first two games. Once we got through those, his arm started to feel good and he went to another level . . . Capobianco was the first lefty we faced this season. You can see why he was so good in 2005/2006. Great drop, plus riser and occasional slider. I think his old style scuffing added something different to his drop. It never dropped the same and kept us off our of game for 7 innings. We were fortunate that he eventually tired out late in the championship game but if he comes back, I’m hoping he’ll be some other team’s problem until the later rounds.”
The tournament win is the Stompers’ fourth in a row dating back to last September and including the October Championship Tournament. The group holds a 19-1 record during that period.
Despite that, it was the Capobianco family that rightfully won the attention and affection of the rest of the tournament field. The trio battled all day, got major contributions from all three team members, and never wavered in their determination.
For Dave – whose experienced Wiffle Ball success in the past – making this run with his family was extra special.
“When I brought up the idea to them, they were pumped. They had heard about my competitive Wiffle Ball days and wanted to see what it was all about. Our goal was to simply have fun and enjoy the adventure, which we did! But after our first win, they both started thinking strategy and how we could make it into the playoffs and have a shot at winning it all. We are a pretty competitive family like that.”
While Dave was the driving force behind his team – and in almost any other tournament, the clear-cut tournament MVP – his two teammates contributed big hits throughout and only improved as the day went along.
“My highlight of the day was seeing them fight through the humbling at bats that naturally come facing any good Wiffle Ball pitcher,” The Risers’ patriarch commented after the tournament. “Each came through with big hits on our road to the finals . . . Priceless!”
Here and There
Did you notice anything different about Chris Owen on the rubber last Saturday? The tall righty ditched scuffed balls in favor of a clean one after figuring out a 12-6 overhand drop with it. The results – two runs over eight innings of work against the Yaks and ERL – were self-evident . . . As speculated upon in our tournament preview, Jarod Bull was indeed unavailable to pitch on Saturday, confirming why he played with the InHumans rather than the Yaks. Bull – who thinks the shoulder soreness may have come from throwing a football – believes the injury to be minor and is hopeful it won’t keep him off the flat hill for very long . . . The question was raised on Saturday as to whether the New School Riser’s 1 ½ inning mercy rule victory over the Barrel Bruisers was the shortest game in MAW history. Our crack team of statisticians went right to work on the answer and can confirm that the game did indeed set the record. Interestingly, the Bruisers were on the good side of the old record (two full innings) with 2017 drubbings of Squad 51 and the Stompers . . . The third-place game between the Yaks and ERL was only the second third place game in MAW history. Way Too Beautiful defeated the Barrel Bruisers last July in the first consolation game . . . On Sunday, several tournament participants made their way Baluvelt, NY for the second week of the Palisades WBL season. Connor Young made his debut with the Brewers, picking up two wins while tossing six scoreless innings. Young’s ERL teammate, Dan Whitener, went 1-1, but did not allow a run over 11 innings while playing for the Yankees. April tournaments participants Jordan Robles (1 run, 5 IP) and TJ Hannon (7 runs, 5 IP) also pitched on Sunday in New York.
- “For a guy whose scouting report was that he has control problems at times, he certainly didn’t show it on Saturday. Had his fastball and screwball working. The fastball riser got on you before you could feel comfortable in the box. Wish we had a gun on Saturday because it would have been very interesting to see what his fastball was registering.” – Tim Cooke on ERL’s Dan Whitener
- “Depth. We needed depth. Especially with me deciding to play Palisades as well this year. I won’t be able to take on the kind of innings in a single day like last year.” – Soup on the decision to add Whitener
- “Having my kids push and encourage me definitely gave me extra motivation. Ultimately, I am just pleased we had some success and they got a taste for professional Wiffle Ball and had a blast . . . We will be back!” – Dave Capobianco on his tournament experience
- “Our bats weren’t as good as we had hoped. Potter – I mean – once he gets going it is just scary to face him. I am glad he is on my team. It took him a few games to get going, but once he got going he was just crushing the ball.” – Adam Milsted on the Yaks’ offense
With two tournaments under our belt, it is time to take a first glance at the overall standings.
The Stompers put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the field but with four tournaments remaining, the top spot is still up for grabs. ERL sits solidly in the second spot thanks to consecutive 5th and 3rd place finishes. Things get really muddied in the middle with five teams sitting between 12 and 14 points. The runners up at the first two tournaments – Naturals and New School Risers – could be sitting pretty if they can repeat or better their prior finish at an upcoming tournament. The Yaks have yet to fire on all cylinders, yet still are right in the thick of things thanks in large part to their fourth place finish at Torneo de Wiffs. A top two finish in an upcoming tournament would put them in prime shape for a solid playoff seed.
With 15 teams competing over the first two tournaments, the Championship Tournament purse is on pace to top $1,800 dollars.* There is still more than enough time for returning teams and new teams to grab a spot in the six-team Championship Tournament with four tournaments – including the Canonsburg auto qualifier – yet to come!
* The cited Championship Tournament purse is based on 45 teams over six tournaments. The actual amount could be more or less depending on the number of teams that participate in the regular season tournaments.
Can you think of a better way to spend Father’s Day weekend than playing Wiffle Ball? We can’t! Join us on Saturday, June 16th in York, PA for Wiffle Wars – the third tournament of the 2018 MAW regular season! A handful of teams are already committed for the event and interest in this one is high. This could very well end up being one of the most competitive tournaments of the summer anywhere, so don’t wait to sign up! Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.midatlanticwiffle.com for more information!
After June, MAW returns to York twice more in 2018 on July 14th and August 4th. It is not too early to register for either of those events, both of which promise to be ultra-competitive as the season heads down the home stretch.
Last but certainly not least, MAW caps off the regular season with our debut in Canonsburg, PA on August 18th. Located just outside of Pittsburgh and home to our friends and co-tournament sponsors, the Wiff is Life League, Canonsburg is an ideal location for teams in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia looking to compete. Not to mention, the winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the MAW Championship Tournament on Saturday, September 8. This is a tremendous opportunity for teams from anywhere in the country to test themselves against top notch competition, win some cash, and earn a chance at winning even more come the Championship Tournament.
And as always, check out our friends at www.wiffleballtournaments.com for the latest information on tournaments and leagues all around the country. Whether is with MAW or elsewhere, get out there and play ball!