Backyard Brawl (August 4, 2018) Tournament Preview

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Backyard Brawl – the last 2018 regular season tournament at Shi Wiffleball Park – is this Saturday. This seven-team field is wide open and has been difficult to predict as any MAW tournament this year. What does each team look like? What are some keys to success for each squad? What’s at stake? We go team-by-team later in this preview to attempt to answer those questions and more.

If you are not in York on Saturday, make sure to follow along on our social media accounts. In addition, we will stream several games on Facebook Live during the tournament (the games will include commentary). As always, game times are subject to change.

10:45 AM ET - My Name is ERL vs. Longballs
1:45 PM ET - Jersey Lemon Heads vs. York Yaks
5:00 PM ET - Semi-Finals
6:00 PM ET - Championship Game

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Barrel Bruisers

2018 MAW Record: 3-11 (1 TB loss)

Projected Roster: Jerry Hill (L), Chris Owen, Tony Manelli

Pitchers: (1) Chris Owen (R); (2) Jerry Hill (R)

2018 vs. Rest of the field: 0-1 vs. Lemon Heads; 0-1 vs. Longballs; 0-3 vs. My Name is ERL (1 TB loss); 1-1 vs. Yaks

Keys to Success:

* Bats Coming Alive? – The Bruisers’ bats have been on life support for most of the season – excluding games against the InHumans – but have shown signs of life recently. Hill has reached based in 11 of his last 30 non-InHumans plate appearances dating back to the June tournament. Manelli had one of the better days of any hitter against the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick at Wiffle Bash as he hit a solo home run and drew a pair of walks. Owen reached base in all four of his team’s games in July. It was a step in the right direction and one the Bruisers will need to build on this Saturday.

* A Big Day from Chris Owen – After an impressive two-game pitching performance in June, Owen seemingly took a step back in July. He struggled mightily against My Name is ERL and allowed twelve walks in just two innings of work. Owen rebounded somewhat against GCM. He couldn’t solve Ben Stant – although nobody could on that day – but he struck out seven over three innings while allowing four runs. Perhaps Owen was just shaking off some rust after missing the June tournament. Chris regaining his command of the strike zone would be huge for the Bruisers on the 4th. When he throws the ball over, he has been able to limit the damage and keep his team in games.

What’s at stake:

If the Championship Tournament were today the Barrel Bruisers would be in but they have yet to clinch. A top four finish at Backyard Brawl would all-but-ensure that they will still be playing come September.


Owen pitches the Bruisers to one win upset win but with easily the most difficult schedule in the field, the team fails to advance to the elimination round.

Jersey Lemon Heads

2018 MAW Record: 3-2 (1 TB loss)

Projected Roster: Matt Crispe, Ray Lutick, Tim Beck

Pitchers: (1) Ray Lutick (R); (2) Tim Beck (R)

2018 vs. Rest of the field: 1-0 vs. Barrel Bruisers

Keys to Success:

* Relief for Lutick – The Lemon Heads rode Lutick hard at Wiffle Bash and again a week later in Tennessee. The hard throwing righty pitched every game for his team at Wiffle Bash and six out of seven in Tennessee. Thus far, Ray’s arm has held up just fine, although he did understandably seem to tire late in last month’s tournament. Rumor has it that Beck will get the ball for at least a game in pool play this time around. The Lemon Heads seem confident that Tim can relieve some of the pressure from their ace. A fresh(er) Lutick late in the tournament could spell trouble for the opposition.

* Consistent Offense – It was an uneven day at the plate in July for this Jersey squad. The Lemon Heads offense handled the Barrel Bruisers and Wyld Stallyns with ease while struggling to push runs across against the Stompers and Giants. They hit well in Tennessee and will try to carry that over in the return to the Mid Atlantic. With a three-man squad this time around, each Lemon Head will have plenty of opportunities at the plate. We know Lutick can shut down opposing line ups so if the Lemon Heads can find a way to score runs off the Soups, Bulls, and Bingnears of the world, they will be in excellent shape.

What’s at stake:

Could the Lemon Heads make a late charge at the Championship Tournament? A fourth-place finish would place them on a bubble while a tournament title could have them sitting pretty heading into the final tournament of the regular season.


Beck gives the Lemon Heads one game, but otherwise they ride their ace hard yet again. Lutick is up to the task and the Lemon Heads make it to the final four and – perhaps – even farther than that.


2018 MAW Record: 2-3 (1 extra inning, play-in game loss)

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

Pitchers: (1) Sean Bingnear (R); (2) Colin Pollag (R); (3) Dylan Harshaw (R); (4) Tyler Nachbar (L)

2018 vs. Rest of the field: 1-0 vs. Barrel Bruisers

Keys to Success:

* Getting the most from their pitching depth – The Longballs boast the most pitching depth of any team in the field. The key will be how they use it. Bingnear is their clear ace and in an ideal world, he would be kept relatively fresh for the elimination round. Of course, the Longballs need to get their first. For that to happen, they will need to get the most they can out of the other three arms. Pollag has the most MAW experience and has pitched moderately well against tough competition (two games versus the Stompers and one versus the Yaks). When he is over the plate enough to tempt hitters into swinging, his two different risers make him difficult to square up on. One would assume that the Longballs will try to get at least one start from Colin. Harshaw has pitched well in the RPWL this year, but only one has started a game once. Including that start – coming in his latest appearance - Dylan has not allowed a single run over his last 12 2/3 innings. In Harshaw, the Longballs may have something not often seen in tournament wiffleball – a late inning relief weapon. Both Pollag and Nachbar are prone to losing command for long stretches of time. The option of using Harshaw for an inning or two in those scenarios might be an appealing one for the guys from Ridley Park.

* Use the Long Ball – The Longballs – and their splinter teams – have struggled to consistently score in MAW competition. That has resulted in narrow 1-0 losses with their ace on the mound to teams like In the Box, Cloud9, and New School Risers. The members of this Longballs squad have done well reaching base but the big hit has been elusive when they have needed it the most. If they make a deep run on Saturday, a timely home run or two will help. They certainly have the players to make that happen. Nachbar has legitimate home run power from the left side of the plate with three home runs in MAW this season. Harshaw hit a couple out at the NWLA Tournament and Bingnear has arguably been the most consistent hitter for the Longballs in MAW competition. A timely long ball could turn one of those frustrating shutout losses into a big win.

What’s at stake:

The Longballs have had a disappointing season from a results standpoint and would love nothing more than to erase that with a tournament victory at Backyard Brawl. A strong tournament on Saturday would make a big statement about the future of this talented group and set them up for a spot in the MAW Championship Tournament.


The Longballs navigate their way through pool play in solid but not eyepopping fashion to reach the elimination round. Once there, they pick up their biggest MAW win to date and make it to their first tournament title game.

My Name is ERL

2018 MAW Record: 12-6 (1 TB win, 1 TB loss)

Projected Roster: Connor Young, Joe Schlindwein

Pitchers: (1) Connor Young (R); (2) Joe Schlindwein (L)

2018 vs. Rest of the field: 3-0 vs. Barrel Bruisers; 4-0 vs. Yaks

Keys to Success:

* Soup’s Rubber Arm – It has been a while – almost a year in fact – since we last saw Connor throw all day at a tournament. After essentially pitching every inning for ERL last year, Soup has gotten some much appreciated help from Blake Hoffman and Dan Whitener this summer. With those two unavailable on Saturday, word has it that Connor is planning to go take the ball all day at Backyard Brawl. Between his knowledge of the competition, pitching acumen, and rubber arm, Soup is well-suited to throw all day at this tournament.

* Joe’s Bat – Joe is having a solid season at the plate, reaching base 28 times in 64 attempts with a pair of home runs to go along with it. Playing as a two-man, he will have a lot of opportunities to add to those numbers. Connor has spoken at length that Joe could stand to be more aggressive in the box. This tournament – where he is sure to receive a lot of chances – might be the perfect place to let it fly a little more. If Joe and Connor have a couple of games where they are simultaneously in a groove at the plate, ERL has a chance to put up some crooked numbers and take some of the pressure off Soup’s right arm.

What’s at stake:

First place heading into the final tournament of the year is what’s at stake for ERL. With the Stompers inactive and only ten points separating the two teams in the standings, ERL can force a two-way tie with a fourth-place finish or take sole possession of first with a third place or higher finish.


ERL gets their final four finish to overtake the Stompers in the season standings. However, Soup’s arm tires late and ERL falls short of the tournament title.

The Revolution

2018 MAW Record: N/A

Projected Roster: Tony Joseph, Tony Joseph, Gino Joseph, Alan Andrews, Jim Miller, Tim Maine, BJ Patterson

Pitchers: Unknown

2018 vs. Rest of the field: N/A

Keys to Success:

* Understand the Competition Level – Nobody really knows what to expect at their first wiffs tournament – and what should be expected of course varies tournament to tournament – but it always helps to have a sense of the skills needed to compete going in. We saw earlier this year how a team new to the scene like The Naturals can make an immediate impact when the team has prepared themselves for the competition they are about to face. That includes – among other facets – coming prepared with tournament caliber pitching. I have been told The Revolution have done their research into the organization. Having an idea of what it takes to compete from before the first pitch is thrown is always a good first step for a new team.

* Use their opponent’s unfamiliarity to their advantage – While it behooves The Revolution to have a sense of how good their competitors might be, their opponents not knowing their strengths and weaknesses can also be a significant advantage. Nobody knows the makeup of this team which makes it difficult – if not impossible – to game plan for them. Even after the first game is played, its tough to get a read on a team that is still learning as they go. That mystery component will often yield better-than-anticipated results, assuming the team has the on-field skills necessary to take advantage of it.

What’s at stake:

The Revolution have signed up for the Canonsburg tournament later this month. They would like to get off to a good start in their tournament debut, follow it up with another strong tournament on the 18th, and perhaps position themselves for a run in 2019.


Your guess is as good as mine. Based on no actual information, The Revolution bats show potential, but their pitching lags a bit behind, causing them to finish outside the top four.


2018 MAW Record: N/A

Projected Roster: Joey Van Houten, Ryan Drecher, Frankie Campanile, Nate Smith, Vinny Albanese

Pitchers: (1) Ryan Dresher (R); (2) Nate Smith (R); (3) Frankie Campanile

2018 vs. Rest of the field: N/A

Keys to Success:

* Get off to a quick start – The Shortballs roster is – well – short on proven, veteran players. An early win would be a huge momentum booster for this young but talented squad. It won’t be easy – not with the Yaks and Longballs on their schedule to open the day. If the Shortballs can come away with a win in one of those two games, they have a shot at a 2-2 record and possibly advancing onto the final four.

* Win the winnable games – That sounds like common sense advice – and it is to an extent – but it is doubly important for a bubble team like the Shortballs. If or when the Shortballs find themselves with a competitive advantage on Saturday, it will be important for them to take advantage of it. For example, if they face a second or third pitcher on the opposing team, trying to go for the win with their best pitcher – Ryan Drecher – on the mound is a reasonable strategy. In a very even field, the Shortballs could be on the nice side of some pitching match ups and taking advantage of those opportunities is key for them.

What’s at stake:

The Ridley Park Wiffleball League is deep on talent. A good showing by their secondary squad at Backyard Brawl will further drive home that point.


The Shortballs play well, losing one close game and winning another, but falling short of the final four.

York Yaks

2018 MAW Record: 6-11 (1 TB loss)

Projected Roster: Dan Potter, Jarod Bull, Nick Shirey, Jordan Reichard

Pitchers: (1) Jarod Bull; (2) Dan Potter; (3) Nick Shirey

2018 vs. Rest of the field: 1-1 vs. Barrel Bruisers; 1-0 vs. Longballs; 0-4 vs. My Name is ERL

Keys to Success:

* No Mercy – Down a couple of arms, the Yaks could use a ten-run route – or two – during pool play. Bull has averaged a tick over two games per tournament this season and while he can handle more than that should the Yaks reach the elimination round, they would not doubt like to limit his innings early in the day. One way to do that is to end games early via the ten-run mercy rule. The Yaks’ lineup can put up some runs. Any line up that has Potter in it is a dangerous one. The Yaks don’t have any obvious mercy rule opponents on their pool play schedule – for that matter, there are not necessarily any of those teams in the field – but should the opportunity arise, they’d benefit greatly by winning a game or two after a couple of innings. The more bullets Bull has in his arm later in the day, the better off the Yaks will be.

* Can Potter Find the Zone? – Another way the Yaks can accomplish that same goal is to steal a win with someone other than Bull on the mound. With Shirey’s arm in even worse shape than usual, that onus will likely fall on Potter. The strike zone has been a mystery to the veteran this season. Almost 48% of the batters Potter faced this spring and summer have reached via walk. When he throws the ball over, he at least gives himself a chance to wiggle his way through a line up. If Potter – just for a game – can regain some semblance of control and maneuver his way through a lineup, that will give the Yaks a huge leg up.

What’s at stake:

Realistically, the Yaks are not going to be able to improve their Championship Tournament position no matter what they do here. The good news is they are also unlikely to drop a spot, barring the Lemon Heads, Longballs or GCM showing up in Canonsburg.


The strike zone continues to elude Potter, but he eats some innings and Bull picks up a pair of pool play wins to give the Yaks a play-in-game’s chance of reaching the elimination round.