Roster: Blake Hoffman, Joe Schlindwein, Connor Young
Playing Out Of: Medford, New Jersey
2018 MAW Record: 19-6
Signature Wins: vs. Stompers 1-0 (5/5); vs. Longballs 1-0 (8/4)
Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 13-2
First Game: vs. 2-1 team (#4 seed) from double elimination bracket
Why They Will Win It All: Connor Young is having – without any hyperbole – an all-time great season inside and outside of Mid Atlantic. At present, he is on the [very] shortlist of best players in the game. The 2018 Mid Atlantic championship – one way or the other – will go through Soup. Connor has come up with big hit after big hit this season. He’s been a workhorse on the rubber and is rapidly approaching 200 fast pitch innings across multiple organizations. As great of a summer as Connor is having and as great of a career he has had at only 21 years old, he has yet to win a major title in the sport. The chance to rectify that should provide even more motivation to a player who has never lacked for drive.
Of course, ERL is far from a one-man show. As good as Connor has been, it is easy to forget that rookie southpaw Blake Hoffman pitched right with – and in certain areas outdid – the ERL captain on the carpet. Blake bested Connor in several statistical categories including WHIP and batting average against. Hoffman led MAW in both of those categories (minimum 24 IP), a telling sign that if you reach base against the rookie sensation you better make it count because there won’t be very many opportunities like it. Hoffman experienced some growing pains earlier this season but since July, he has allowed just a single run in 27 innings pitched. When Blake is mixing his pitches, he is as tough to square up on as any pitcher in the game.
The two-headed pitching monster of Young and Hoffman gives ERL the luxury to strategize and play match ups should they so choose. If ERL wants a lefty-lefty match up against a dangerous left-handed hitter like the Longballs’ Tyler Nachbar, they can turn to Hoffman. If ERL faces a team in the semi-finals that hasn’t done much damage against Young this season, they can throw him that series. Both pitchers have the stuff to throw championship-level innings, which may allow Connor get more creative early on in regards to lineup decisions without having to worry about any negative downstream effects.
Offensively, Young is the team’s best hitter and always seems to get a big hit when needed. Joe Schlindwein led MAW in walks this season. Joe’s ability to get on base could be an x-factor for his team. The more times Joe is on base, the more run producing chances Connor will have and chances are he will eventually cash in. Blake had arguably his best offensive tournament three weeks ago in Canonsburg. If he can carry that performance over to the Championship Tournament that will make ERL all the more dangerous. With their pitching, the team only needs a run or two per game on average to be successful and it is easy to see several ways they could go about getting them.
Lastly if you need one more reason to believe the #1 seed will hold up, ERL's 13-2 mark against fellow Championship Tournament teams is the best among all Championship Tournament teams. The club is a combined 12-0 against the Yaks, Longballs, and Bruisers, 1-2 versus the Stompers, and they have yet to play fellow Garden Staters, the Lemon Heads.
Why They Won’t: While Schlindwein and Hoffman are both capable of contributing on offense, each ranked in the bottom third of most offensive statistical categories during the 2018 regular season. There is no question that Young is a great hitter – particularly when it matters the most – but there is also no question that he is a notoriously free swinger. If pitchers take advantage of Connor’s aggressiveness and he is unable to change his approach, the results could be disastrous for the ERL offense. It is hard to see Hoffman and Young getting battered around for four games, but it is not nearly as hard to see their bats going cold for an extended period of time. If that happens, ERL will be in trouble.