Connor Young

2018 Regular Season Award Winners

 

Mark “The Bopper” DeMasi Home Run Champion

The Mark “The Bopper” DeMasi Home Run award is given to the most prolific home run hitter in the regular season. This year, two players tied for the most home runs with ten. In the event of a tie, the award is decided by which player left the park in a larger percentage of his plate appearances. With a homerun once every 11.8 plate appearances compared to one homerun every 17.1 plate appearances, the Stompers’ Chris Sarno edges out Connor Young for the 2018 Mark DeMasi Home Run award. 

Winner: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Runner Up: Connor Young (ERL) 


Jerome “The Legend” Coyle Hitting Award

The Jerome “The Legend” Coyle Hitting Award is given to the player the voting committee considered the best all-around hitter during the regular season. This was a close race with three players receiving at least one first or second place vote and seven players showing up on at least one ballot. The winner of this award beat out Sean Bingnear, Ryan McElrath, Tyler Nachbar, Dan Potter, Chris Sarno, and Ben Stant, by hitting .355/.415/.671 while leading the league in at bats, total bases, runs, and hits. The 2018 Jerome Coyle Hitting Award recipient is My Name is ERL’s Connor Young. 

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ben Stant (G€M); Dan Potter (Yaks); Tyler Nachbar (Longballs); Sean Bingnear (Longablls); Ryan McElrath (Giants)


Billy “The Kid” Owens Pitching Award

The award with the narrowest margin of victory this year was the Billy “The Kid” Owens pitching award, given to the player the voters felt had the best overall season on the carpet. Seven players received at least one vote in this category including Sean Bingnear, Blake Hoffman, Ray Lutick, Jordan Robles, and Dan Whitener. In the end, it was another battle between Sarno and Soup for the top spot. In the end – thanks to his miniscule walk rate, league leading 16 starts, and league leading ERA, Connor Young is the 2018 Billy Owens pitching award winner.

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ray lutick (lemon heads); Blake hoffman (erl); Jordan robles (stompers); sean bingnear (longballs); dan whitener (erl)


Joe Nord Rookie of the Year Award 

Eight players received votes in a stacked MAW rookie of the year category. Players that did not compete in a major MAW style (i.e. non-base running) tournament prior to this season were eligible for the award. Tyler Nachbar, Ryan Drecher, Colin Pollag, Tony Manelli, and Gino Joseph all received non-first place votes in this category. On the strength of top four finishes in every single significant statistical pitching category, ERL’s Blake Hoffman edged out the Longballs’ Sean Bingnear to become the 2018 MAW Joe Nord Rookie of the Year recipient.

Winner: Blake Hoffman (ERL)

Runner Up: Sean Bingnear (Longballs)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Tyler Nachbar (Longballs); Ryan Drecher (Shortballs); Colin Pollag (Longballs); Tony Manelli (Bruisers); Gino Joseph (Revolution); Dave Clark (Lemon Heads) 


Mike “The Czar” Palinczar Most Valuable Player Award

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The best overall player during the course of a full Mid Atlantic season is honored with the Mike “The Czar” Palinczar Most Valuable Player Award. The winner of this award must get it done at the plate, on the rubber, and in the field, while leading his team to top four finishes and tournament titles. Eight players received votes in this category including – in order from 8th to 3rd – Jarod Bull and Adam Milsted of the Yaks, the Stompers’ Jordan Robles, Sean Bingnear of the Longballs, G€M captain Ben Stant, and the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick. However, this category once again came down to a battle between Soup and Sarno. Both players had incredible seasons and were neck-and-neck by nearly all criteria. The 2018 Mike Palinczar MVP award winner – for a second straight year – is My Name is ERL’s Connor Young.

Winner: Connor Young (ERL)

Runner Up: Chris Sarnowski (Stompers)

Others Receiving votes (in order): Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads); Ben Stant (G€M); Sean Bingnear (Longballs); Jordan Robles (Stompers); Adam Milsted (Yaks); Jarod Bull (Yaks)

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: My Name is ERL

Roster: Blake Hoffman, Joe Schlindwein, Connor Young

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Playing Out Of: Medford, New Jersey

2018 MAW Record: 19-6

Seed: #1

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.

Highlights:

Backyard Brawl (August 4, 2018) Tournament Recap

Joe Schlindwein (left) and Connor Young (right) celebrate their tournament win at  Backyard Brawl  seconds after the final out was recorded.

Joe Schlindwein (left) and Connor Young (right) celebrate their tournament win at Backyard Brawl seconds after the final out was recorded.

No more than sixty seconds after striking out the Longball’s Dylan Harshaw to win MAW’s Backyard Brawl tournament, Connor Young fell to the ground next to Sheff Field and lied there for a moment, exhausted.

The four-game pool play schedule and hot and humid conditions enervated almost every player, but it was an especially taxing day for ERL’s captain. Young threw all twenty-six innings for his two-man squad, came up with big hit after big hit, made several key defensive plays, and did not allow a single run along the way. On top of all of that, Connor had to twice navigate his way through a hungry and relentless Longballs lineup. That type of workload will sap the strength out of even the best conditioned athletes.

“That was certainly the most exhausted I’ve ever been after a tournament. I was drained,” Young told The Drop via text message. “I was honestly running on fumes those last three innings of the championship.”

The tournament had a throwback feel to it for ERL. Young took the ball from the first pitch to the last out with only Joe Schlindwein by his side, just as he did most of last summer. The Connor Young we saw on Saturday, however, was not the same player from 2017 who burned himself out by going a mile-a-minute each game of every tournament. This was not even the same player we saw earlier this season – a player who at times pressed too hard at the plate and who on several occasions allowed a single mistake pitch to turn into a hard luck loss.

At Backyard Brawl, Connor avoided the pitfalls that occasionally plagued him in the past. He judiciously navigated his way through opposing lineups. He added and subtracted as necessary to ensure that his arm would hold up through the long and humid day. Connor took care of business at the plate and saw to it that games would not be lost on one pitch. His pitch selection was – at times – impeccable. The result was arguably Young’s best all-around tournament in Mid Atlantic and ERL’s first MAW tournament title since the team’s MAW debut last June.

Connor Young ran away with tournament MVP honors, getting it done for ERL both on the carpet and at the dish.

Connor Young ran away with tournament MVP honors, getting it done for ERL both on the carpet and at the dish.

The path to ERL’s second MAW championship was a tough one, beginning with their first game of the day versus the Longballs from Ridley Park, PA. After competing in tournaments in May and June with suboptimal rosters, the Longballs arrived at Backyard Brawl with a foursome (Dylan Harshaw, Sean Bingnear, Tyler Nachbar, and Colin Pollag) that can match talent with any team in most any field. The Longballs’ roster on Saturday was at least three pitchers deep, which allowed them to throw their top starter – Bingnear – against ERL without having to worry about how that might impact their ability to compete later in the day.

As expected, a classic pitcher’s duel ensued between Young and Bingnear. The game breezed through the first three frames. Several half innings were over in a blink of an eye as the pitchers pounded the zone with strike after strike. Young did so with his full assortment of pitches while Bingnear relied mainly on a screwball-fastball-side arm drop combination. In the 4th, the Longball hitters got a read on Young and strung together some quality at bats that resulted in a pair of base runners. Armed with a 3-1 total base lead, the Longballs headed to the 5th inning with a chance to score a signature win.

For the second time in as many tournaments – the first coming in June against Cloud9 – Bingnear entered the 5th inning with a chance to pick up a major upset against a top team. Unfortunately for him and the Longballs, it was once again not meant to be. Joe led off the inning with a big walk. The base on balls allowed the ridiculously clutch Young an opportunity to deliver, which he did by smacking a double into the right field corner. The hit – which came with nobody out in the inning – gave ERL a one base lead and a big scoring opportunity. To Bingnear’s credit, he hit right back at ERL and set the next three batters down in order. The damage had been done, however, and in the bottom half of the inning Soup went into lockdown mode. He retired the Longballs in order to pick up the big early pool play win.

With one major challenge out of the way, Young settled into a groove for the rest of the round. He maneuvered his way through the offenses of the Barrel Bruisers and Revolution and used the extra at bats that come with playing as a two-man team to get into a routine at the plate. That routine, as usual, consisted of a lot of free swinging. Perhaps even more so than usual, Young was aggressive at the plate chasing – and often hitting – pitches six inches outside the zone. To round out pool play, ERL downed the Yaks to improve to a perfect 4-0.

Elsewhere, the Jersey Lemon Heads - led by another excellent pitching performance from ace Ray Lutick - also swept through pool play at a perfect 4-0 with victories over the Bruisers, Shortballs, Revolution, and Yaks. Both Jersey teams had one total base win to their names, so the top seed came down to run differential which ERL took by several runs. The 3-1 Longballs picked up the third seed while the 2-2 Yaks were given an immediate rematch against ERL.

A fresh – as fresh as one can be after playing six hours in the sticky late summer heat – Jarod Bull took the mound for the Yaks. The Yaks’ game plan of holding back Bull and sneaking into the elimination round anyway possible played out to near perfection. They entered the semi-finals with the no pitches thrown by their ace, something no other team in the field could boast.

The matchup between Bull and Young is one of the great pitcher-batter rivalries in MAW’s brief history. Bull and the Yaks got the better of it last August and September with wins over ERL in the finals and semi-finals, respectively. Connor got his payback in last October’s Championship Tournament and has carried that momentum into this season. Young continued to be a thorn in Bull’s side on Saturday, hitting two more home runs off him. It would have been three, if not for a sensational catch by the newest Yak, Jordan Reichard, who tumbled over the center field fence on Buffalo while holding onto the ball. The offensive explosion gave Connor some breathing room on the carpet and he made relatively easy work out of the Yaks to the reach the finals.

ERL’s win set up a re-match with the Longballs in the tournament championship and like the first encounter between these two teams, this one did not disappoint.

The Longballs' Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw, and Tyler Nachbar (left to right) discuss strategy during the tournament championship.

The Longballs' Colin Pollag, Dylan Harshaw, and Tyler Nachbar (left to right) discuss strategy during the tournament championship.

Armed with the valuable information on Young’s pitching style that they picked up six hours earlier, the Longballs launched a consistent, patient, and relentless offensive attack. When Young was over the plate, the Longball hitters were ready to pounce. They picked up five hits and only some quality defensive plays by ERL’s defense kept them from more. The Longballs loaded the bases in the fourth with only one out and had runners on in three out of five innings. Perhaps even more impressively, the Longball batters refused to offer at almost any pitcher’s pitches off the plate. All four members of the team had a tremendous read on Young and they forced him to beat them with strikes.

To Young’s credit, that is exactly what he did. Connor and Joe pounced on any balls put in play. As the Ridley Park batters fouled off pitch after pitch, Young continued to mix it up until he was able to sneak one by them. Due to the consistently tough at bats put together by the Longballs – even when the end result was not in their favor – this was the type of game that played out far more impressively in actuality than it does in the box score.

“The Ridley Park crew made me work harder than anyone all day, in both games. All of them are experienced Wiffle Ball hitters and were making adjustments throughout the game,” Young remarked about his title game opponents. “I tip my hat to those guys. They’re very, very good Wiffle Ball players and anyone who doesn’t know that is in for a rude awakening.”

Bingnear once again toed the rubber for the Longballs and – once again – was on the receiving end of a tough loss. ERL used the same combination they used in the first game – a walk from Joe and an extra base hit by Soup – to score the game’s only run. That combination of clutch-hitting and shutdown pitching gave ERL its first title in over a year.

“We were fully determined to win this tourney,” Young stated matter-of-factly the Monday after the tournament.

On an individual level, Connor’s single-day performance moved him ahead of the Stompers’ Chis Sarno in most Mid Atlantic pitching categories for the season, including innings pitched, strikeouts, and ERA (min. 20 innings pitched/avg. one game per tournament). He once again proved why he is among the very best players in the game right now. Perhaps more importantly, the tournament win moved ERL six points ahead of the Stompers in the season point standings. With only one tournament to go, ERL now has a tight grip on the top spot in September’s Championship Tournament.

Ridley Park Talent On Display

The Longballs and Shortballs - both out of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League - pose for a picture together after the tournament. Combined, the teams allowed just five runs in 46 innings on the day.

The Longballs and Shortballs - both out of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League - pose for a picture together after the tournament. Combined, the teams allowed just five runs in 46 innings on the day.

It took a couple of tournaments to get there, but the Ridley Park Longballs broke through at Backyard Brawl by not just advancing the semi-finals for the first time, but also by coming within one run of their first tournament title. The most impressive aspect of the Longballs tournament was their balance. The team got quality innings and two wins out of Pollag and Nachbar, while Bingnear did the heavy lifting against ERL.

Bingnear entered the tournament as the most ballyhooed of the current Longballs thanks to his strong starts against tough teams like Cloud9, In the Box, and New School Risers. His 1-5 record in MAW competition is very deceptive. A look below the surface reveals a pitcher on the verge of a major breakout. MAW Tournament Director Tim Cooke – drawing from his first-hand experience with Stomper lefty Dan Isenberg a decade and a half ago – is fond of pointing out how a string of one-run losses to quality teams by a young pitcher is often a sign that success is just around the corner. Bingnear’s five losses include a 1-0 extra inning loss to the reigning Fast Plastic champions Cloud9, a total base loss to ERL, an extra-inning walk off loss to Dave Capobianco and the New School Risers, a 1-0 defeat at the hands of Tom LoCascio of In the Box, and a 1-0 loss to ERL in Saturday’s championship game. If Tim’s theory is correct, Sean is in store for big things very soon.

At the plate, Dylan Harshaw picked up right where he left off at the NWLA Tournament with another above average offensive display. All four Longballs showed off average to above average patience and contact hitting, with flashes of power. That trifecta is rare in a single player, nonetheless on an entire team. The Longballs did not blow a routine play the entire tournament in easily a dozen chances. At Backyard Brawl, the Longballs proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they can and will contend on a regular basis in MAW.

As impressive as the Longballs performance was, it was the play of Ridley Park Wiffleball League’s second team – the Shortballs – that hammered home just how talented of a league it is. This young team – all of their players are still in high school – went 1-3 but lost in six innings to the Yaks on total bases, came up just short against the Longballs, and hung in there against the Lemon Heads. Frankie Campanile, Ryan Drecher, and Nate Smith all impressed on the carpet, Vinny Albanese displayed plus power potential, and Joey Van Houten was a tough out the entire tournament. If we see more of the Shortballs next season, it stands to reason that they will follow a similar path to the Longballs and be contending by mid-year. The Shortballs have the pitching to compete now and their bats should only improve with additional reps.

Here and There

The Lemon Heads' Matt Cripse gets ready to deliver a pitch while teammate Tim Beck looks on.

The Lemon Heads' Matt Cripse gets ready to deliver a pitch while teammate Tim Beck looks on.

As is the case for many first-time tournament players, Gino Joseph’s control issues spoiled his debut but he has no intentions of letting that slow him down. Already ahead of the curve with a nice 3-pitch mix, Gino wrote Tuesday on Instagram: “First time ever . . . went 0-4 on the mound but it was one hell of an experience. Canonsburg in 12 days, then it takes off from there. Can’t wait to be one of the best” . . . The Jersey Lemon Heads are 7-1 in pool play in two MAW tournaments this year, but 0-2 in semi-final games. Including other organizations, they are 13-1 before the semi-finals this year and 0-3 with a chance at the championship game on the line. It is a question of when – not if – they will get over that hump . . . Consider this – just how scary might the Longballs be next year if they add a healthy Tommy Loftus to their lineup? . . . Last year, the Yaks’ Jarod Bull allowed one home run in 37 innings of work and that lone homer came in the Yaks’ last game of the year in the Championship Tournament. This year in 34 innings of work, the tall righty has already surrendered six home runs . . . Another Yak, Adam Milsted, flew under the radar on Saturday but was arguably the second most valuable player of the tournament. Milsted threw 15 innings for the Yaks, won two games, and lost a third on total bases to pitch his team into the playoffs . . . Best wishes to Milsted and Connor Young who celebrated birthdays this past week . . . How did Soup follow up his 26 innings of shutout ball on Saturday? By pitching 6 more against ERL teammate Dan Whitener in Palisades on Sunday . . .  The Barrel Bruisers' season long struggle to pick up victories continued on Saturday but there are some continuing positive signs. Chris Owen continued to be difficult to hit when he was over the plate, Jerry Hill looks better on the rubber every single tournament, and Tony Manelli continues to collect his hits no matter the pitcher . . .  The Lemon Heads used all four of their players on the flat hill this past weekend. If he can cut down the walks, Matt Cripse looks like a viable option for the Lemon Heads for pool play duty in a less competitive field. Also rumor has it that the team is already looking outside MAW to shore up their 2019 roster . . . It appears as if the Yaks will be without their captain, Nick Shirey, for the remainder of the season. Shirey is expected to undergo surgery later this month to repair a torn labrum he suffered at the Fast Plastic NCT nearly a decade and a half ago . . .Their two meetings on Saturday were not the first times members of the Longballs got an up close look at Soup's stuff. Young recently stopped by the Lot in Ridley Park to play a pick up game with some of the league's players.

Championship Tournament Update

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With one regular season tournament remaining, the Championship Tournament field is nearly in place. Three teams – ERL, Stompers, and Yaks – have clinched a spot with four other teams vying for the final three spots. That is without mentioning the potential shakeup that could occur should a team outside of that group win in Canonsburg. For a more thorough account of where things stand going into the last tournament of the season, click here.

Up Next

Members of the NWLA Tournament champion WILL Waves will compete in MAW's next tournament in Canonsburg, PA on the 18th. Pictured here are Waves players Jake Davey (foreground) and Mike Graziani.

Members of the NWLA Tournament champion WILL Waves will compete in MAW's next tournament in Canonsburg, PA on the 18th. Pictured here are Waves players Jake Davey (foreground) and Mike Graziani.

The season is down to its final tournament! MAW debuts in the Pittsburgh area next Saturday with the Canonsburg Classic. A competitive field is expected, including several teams hoping to improve or solidify a playoff spot. There are still slots available and registration will remain open to the end of the week. Don’t miss out on the last to compete in an open entry MAW tournament this summer!

After Canonsburg, all attention will turn towards the Championship Tournament on September 8th back in York. Not only will the second Mid Atlantic Champion being crowned on the day, the six teams involved will all vie for $2,500 in cash prizes! More information on this major tournament and how you can follow along from home in the coming weeks.

Mid-Year in Review: Twenty Prominent Players from the First Half of 2018

By: Paul Cooke

At the midway mark of the 2018 Wiffle Ball calendar, The Drop takes a look at the players that caught our attention over the first half of the season. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of the best players in the game but rather a collection of players and stories that stood out over the past six months. This article covers players that have played in an unrestricted pitch speed environment in 2018.

Iron Man

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Jimmy Cole entered 2018 with an ambitious goal in mind – play in 175 games over the course of the calendar year. So how is it going? By my own unofficial count, Cole has made it north of 50 games but a little short of the 87 games representing the halfway mark of his ambitious goal. Cole has been all over place the first six months of the year, competing in three winter indoor tournaments, playing regularly in at least two leagues in upstate New York, competing in the Skibee Wiffleball League in St. Louis, traveling to a pair of tournaments in Pennsylvania, and suiting up for two of games in the Palisades. Whether or not he reaches his stated goal, Jimmy is well on his way to being Wiffle Ball’s 2018 Iron Man. [HIGHLIGHT: Cole's Grandslam at the MAW Winter Classic]

Tough Outs

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For an eight-day stretch in April, Cole’s Palisades Cardinals teammate and fellow New Yorker, Kris Morse, was an unstoppable force at the plate. It started on April 22nd at AWAA’s Opening Day tournament when Morse pounded out an insane thirteen homeruns for the tournament champion River Monsters. One week later in Palisades, Morse had a game for the ages. Playing for the Cardinals, Kris went six for eight with three homeruns, three walks and a whopping sixteen RBI in a route of the White Sox. Morse has since cooled off a bit – how could he not? – but the eight days in April when he suddenly became the wiffle equivalent of 2001 Barry Bonds is one of the more fascinating statistical feats so far in 2018.

The one-pitch rule in the Washington based JAL league was the subject of some debate earlier this year. What seems undeniable is that making good on one pitch isn’t easy even if you are getting nothing but fastballs straight over the plate (which – to be clear – is not the case in JAL). That is what makes Matthew Morton’s JAL XVII output so impressive. Morton saw 95 pitches during the winter/spring season. He let 30 go by for walks and picked up hits on 23 of them for an impressive .558 on base percentage. Even more impressive was that 13 of his 23 hits (57%) went for extra bases. To make extra base contact on 14% of the pitches you see over the course of a long season is impressive in any fast pitch environment. Due to his relentless offensive output, Morton was named MVP of the JAL XVII season.

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Way back in February at Mid Atlantic’s Winter Classic, Dan Potter deposited the first pitch he saw in 2018 over the left-center wall for a solo home run. That proved to be a harbinger of his season – in more ways then one. The leadoff home run was the first of three game opening shots Potter has hit this season, with the other two coming on April 14th against Ben Stant and June 16th against Tom LoCascio. Since the start of the calendar year, Potter has done nothing but rake against quality competition. The longtime York Yak leads MAW in almost every major offensive category through three tournaments. One of the best athletes in the sport for the better part of two decades, the “Wiffle Ninja” – as he is known – is finally get his due. [HIGHLIGHT: Potter goes deep twice off of Cole]

Veteran Presence

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Saturday May 5th was supposed to be a fun day of bonding between a veteran competitive wiffler and his two kids. And it was, but for Dave Capobianco, Mid Atlantic’s Torneo de Wiffs ended up being so much more. The longtime Wiffle Up player and former Fast Plastic NCT participant – serving as his team’s only pitcher and on a bad leg to boot – held down quality hitters like Dan Potter and Connor Young as he guided his New School Risers team to a 2-2 round robin record. Capobainco hit a walk off homerun in a play-in game to put his team into the semi-finals against heavily favorited My Name is ERL. That’s when Dave saw his two teenage children – who were growing more comfortable with each at bat – mount a rally on a walk and a triple which gave them the momentarily lead. In extra-innings, Dave took care of the rest by hitting his second game winning homerun in as many opportunities. Although the Risers came up short in the finals, their unlikely run to the championship game is one of the best stories of the half-year. [HIGHLIGHT: Dave Capobianco May 5th tournament Pitching Reel]

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Tom LoCascio – a first ballot Wiffle Ball Hall of Famer if there ever was one – received a heck of a Father’s Day gift this year. The captain of In the Box spent the day before Father’s Day back on the Wiffle Ball field flanked by his 15-year old son, Gianni. For one afternoon at least, the 51-year old turned back the clock and even better, got a chance to introduce his son to a sport he had previously only heard about. As everyone expected, Tom played well and left everything he had on the field while pitching all three games for his team. Among Tom’s highlights were a 1-0 victory in their second game of the day and seeing Gianni pick up the nuances of wiffle ball hitting, culminating in several well struck balls against a couple of high quality pitchers. More than a few fellow players remarked that Tom could still make a major contribution on a lot of teams, should he choose to play more than once a season. [HIGHLIGHT: Tom LoCascio June 16th MAW tournament Pitching Reel ]

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Being underestimated and proving his doubters wrong is nothing new to the Stompers’ Nick Schaefer. By way of example, in 2001 as a member of In the Box, Nick was benched during a pivotal USPPBA East regional finals game against the Lakeside Kings because of the misconception that Nick is a weak hitter. Eight months later, Nick hit a walk-off 3-run home run against that same Kings’ squad to capture a tournament title for his new team, the Stompers. Thirteen years later – after being written off as a player on more than one occasion –Schaefer is still competing at a high level both on the mound and on the plate. His velocity is down a notch or two and his barely scuffed balls look like an ancient artifact to some younger players, but Nick continues to produce at high level. Although his pitching workload has been limited in 2018 – the days of 25+ inning tournaments are in the rearview for Nick– he is nonetheless highly effective both on the hill and at the plate. Nick is 2-0 on the carpet this season in MAW against quality competition and he has hit the game winning homerun in both of those outings. Showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon, Nick has been one of the game’s best full-time veteran players this season. [HIGHLIGHT: Nick Schaefer helps himself with a Grand Slam]

Two Way Stars

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At 21-years old, Connor Young is what you might call a “young veteran”. Connor first played in competitive tournaments when he was just twelve years old and has been a mainstay in the sport ever since. 2018 might just be his finest season to date. The man they call Soup has a good shot of winning back-to-back MVP awards in Mid Atlantic and he steadied a Palisades Brewers team that was going nowhere fast before his arrival. After pitching nearly every single inning for My Name is ERL in 2017, Young relieved some of the pressure with several clever additions to round out the roster. That has allowed Soup to be at the top of his pitching game more often than not, even though he still racking up the innings. Young logged 70 innings between MAW and Palisades in the first half of the year, allowing a meager 16 runs in the process. The extra assistance from his teammates has also positively impacted Connor’s offense. Young is a true two-way threat now, just as capable of taking a top ranked pitcher deep as he is to strike out a big time power hitter. [HIGHLIGHT: Young Takes Matters into His Own Hands]

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In 2017, Ryan McElrath put together one of the most impressive individual seasons in Palisades WBL history. Ryan took home the MVP and Cy Young honors to go along with a league championship, becoming only the second player in that league’s history to earn both MVP and Cy Young honors in the same season. So far in 2018, Ryan has picked up right where he left off. His hitting line through twelve games (.250/.407/.597) is nearly identical to last season but with a little more power. On the mound he has already racked up 36 innings for the Giants. While opposing batters have gotten to him more frequently in 2018 than 2017, a 1.25 ERA (per 5 IP) still ranks high up the leaderboard, particularly for pitchers who have thrown thirty or more innings. Ryan’s ability to pick up big hits and shoulder the bulk of the pitching load for his team make him one of the most valuable players anywhere. An impressive eight-inning victory in the finals of the Mid Atlantic Winter Classic this February only adds to his already impressive Palisades resume. [HIGHLIGHT: Ryan McElrath Winter Classic Pitching Reel]

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You know that a player is truly special is when he is among the top all around players on the year and nobody makes a fuss over it simply because it is expected of him. Such is the case for Jordan Robles. Robles is having one of his typically great seasons but because we have seen this level of performance and winning from him time and time again, it may not register to the same way it has with players in the midst of breakout or career years. Jordan started 2018 in impressive fashion by winning three unrestricted pitch speed tournaments in a row – the MAW Winter Classic, MAW Opening Day, and AWAA Opening Day. He is on pace to record anywhere from his second to fourth best pitching season in his illustrious Palisades career. It is easy to take Robles’ talent for granted, which itself is a testament to his immense skill. [HIGHLIGHT: Robles April 14 MAW tournament championship game pitching reel]

Chris Sarnowski was bred to be a championship level wiffler. The son and namesake of the former State of Mind and Hitsom great, Sarno has been around the game almost his entire life and has played competitively for much of this past decade. 2018, however, has been a revelation. While it was abundantly clear from his past successes in GSWL Yard and elsewhere that Sarno had a bigtime bat, he’s shown this year that he has the arm to go along with it. Through three MAW regular season tournaments, Sarno has allowed just four runs in 43 innings of work. His resume includes wins over top-flight teams like My Name is ERL and Cloud9. Sarno is a hard thrower with a typical mix of pitches and has seemingly put his control issues behind him. [HIGHLIGHT: Sarno May 5th MAW Tournament pitching reel]

Another name that might fit that taken-for-granted mold is Tim Trenary of the Palisades Dodgers. Since 2012, Trenary has been one of the best and most consistent players in the Palisades, particularly on the mound where he has averaged 13 strikeouts per games over his eight Palisades’ seasons. This year he is putting up his typical strong pitching numbers with a 0.71 ERA and a tick over 12 strikeouts per game over 27 1/3 innings. While Tim’s offensive output is usually safely above average, he has really taken it to another level this season. In 51 at bats through the end of June, he has slugged nine extra base hits including six homeruns, which is good enough for a .725 slugging percentage. Combined with his solid .410 OBP, Trenary currently has a 1.135 OPS which if he can maintain would be the best of his career.

As a first-time player in Palisades WBL last year, Ty Wegerzn ran away with the league’s Rookie of the Year award. This year, his brother Dave is attempting to make it back-to-back ROTY awards for the Wegerzn clan. Dave Wegerzn – like Ty was in 2017 when he won Rookie of the Year honors – is by no means a newbie to fast pitch Wiffle Ball and that prior experience has allowed him to hit the ground running. Midway through the year, Dave is dominating the action on both sides of the ball with a 1.213 OPS and 0.67 ERA. If Dave can finish the season the way he has started it, he seems poised be the second Wegerzn in a row to finish as a season as Palisades’ top “rookie” player.

Flame Throwers

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48 IP, 4 R, 134 K’s. That is Dan Whitener’s combined Mid Atlantic and Palisades pitching line through the first three months of the spring/summer season. Whitener – who also pitches at Chowan University in North Carolina – poses one of the most electric arms in our sport. He’s put his abilities to fine use this year, retiring quality hitters at a rate unmatched by any of his peers. Whitener has gone through a murder’s row in those two organizations and handled them with relative ease. If Whitener has a shortcoming it is that he is prone to the occasional lapse of command but his stuff and velocity is so good that he is often able to work around any walks. With his pedigree and stuff, the sky is the limit. [HIGHLIGHT: Whitener May 5th MAW tournament pitching reel]

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It is rare to strike out 27 batters over one 10-innning game and lose, as Whitener did back on June 16th in Mid Atlantic. A lot of things need to occur for that to happen, chief among them an opposing pitcher that is up to the challenge. In this particular game that was Cloud9’s Sean Steffy, who kept ERL off the scoreboard by scattering five hits, walking one, and striking out twenty over those same ten innings. Sean’s first tournament appearance of 2018 was a doozy, as he showed off the overpowering stuff that helped propel his team to victory in the 2017 Texas Open. Sean is 5-0 in his last five starts dating back to last October. The matchup with Whitener and ERL in June was easily his biggest test in those handful of games – ERL collectively picked up five hits and made ten outs on balls in play – but as big game pitchers do, Sean found a way to work out of and around jams to get the job done. [HIGHLIGHT: Sean Steffy MAW June tournament pitching highlights]

Two-Sport Stars

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Texas Wiffleball League head honcho and talented pitcher, Will Marshall, is spending a plastic free summer while playing for the Utica Unicorns of the United Professional Shore Baseball League. The UPSBL – an independent league in the Detroit metro area – began its season in mid-May and runs through early September. Working in relief, Marshall has held opponents scoreless in 7 of 12 outings and has a 4.12 ERA through games on June 23rd. Will has been on his game more often-than-not, with seven of his nine earned runs coming in just two outings. Will poses one of competitive Wiffle Ball’s most electric arms and this summer he is proving he can still get it done on the diamond as well. [HIGHLIGHT: Will Marshall FP Texas Open pitching clips]

Georgia's Village Idiots won an eight team tournament in Tennessee in 2017 but have yet to play in 2018. There’s a good reason for their absence, however. One of the Idiot’s key players – Justin Jones – is currently playing professional baseball in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Jones – a four year starting shortstop at Georgia state – signed with the Angels as an undrafted free agent this summer and is currently assigned to their rookie-level team Arizona. 

Next Generation

What do you get when you take the overwhelming arsenal and velocity of Sean Steffy and put it on a nineteen-year old southpaw? You get My Name is ERL’s Blake Hoffman. It is unfair to burden Blake with such high expectations so early in his career, but there is no denying he has the stuff and ability to eventually justify that comparison. Blake has shown off his considerable talent over three MAW tournaments in 2018 but also struggled on occasion, as can be expected of any young pitcher. A longtime student of the game – Hoffman spent the prior five years uploading his backyard bullpen sessions to YouTube before making his pro debut in ’18 – he has the drive needed to become a top tier pitcher. Blake travels from his home in Marion, Ohio to York, Pennsylvania – a one-way trip of about 6 ½ hours – to compete in MAW tournaments. There’s no question the want-to is there and with his stuff, it is only a matter of time before he puts it all together. [HIGHLIGHT: Hoffman versus Way Too Beautiful]

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Last summer, it was Tommy Loftus who broke out of the pack in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League and established himself as one of the game’s bright young pitchers. This year, it looks like its Sean Bingnear’s turn to do the same. Bingnear followed up on his sparkling 2017 RPWL playoff run (15 innings, 0 runs, 24 K’s) with an excellent start to the 2018 RPWL season (16 innings, 0 runs, 28 K’s) before a nightmarish outing on June 20th where he seemingly couldn’t locate the strike zone. Outside of the Ridley Park league, Bingnear is opening eyes with his work in Mid Atlantic. In two tournaments, Bingenear has tossed 16+ above average innings and was one pitch away from defeating Cloud9 by total bases on June 16th. Relying on a heavy screwball and smooth delivery, Bingnear has shown he can get top tier hitters out and should only get better as he gains more experience. The NWLA recently spotlighted the Longballs’ pitcher as one of their players to watch at this year’s NWLA tournament. Sean will likely do the hefty lifting for the Longballs at that tournament, with Loftus still on the shelf as he rehabs an arm injury. [HIGHLIGHT: Bingnear MAW June tournament pitching reel]

Another young pitcher with a near upset over Cloud9 on his resume is Cooper Ruckel of the Texas Wiffle Ball League’s Cosby Show. Last October, the hard throwing sixteen year old kept the eventual Texas Open champions scoreless in a pool play game, but came up short on total bases. In sixteen innings spanning four games this season in the Texas Wiffle Ball League, Ruckel has struck out 46 batters and allowed only two hits. With an electric arm and a deceivingly simple delivery, Ruckel can throw the ball past opposing hitters in a way very few others can. [HIGHLIGHT: Ruckel strikes out Ed Packer]

The Drop National Player of the Year

Wiffle Ball is ostensibly a team sport but in its current state, the game belongs to the individual player. While I hope that one-day soon we will again have the full-time teams and system necessary to accurately rank and compare squads, that time is not now. It is a player's sport right now and there is no shortage of talented players to be found throughout the United States and beyond.

The Drop wishes to recognize the outstanding achievements of the games best, most consistent, and game tested WINNING players. To that end, The Drop will name a 2018 National Player of the Year this fall. In addition to the award, the winning player will receive a cash prize of $500. This is an editor’s choice award, meaning there will not be an open or closed door voting process. The winner will be selected by the The Drop based on the following criteria:

  • Based on a player’s performance in unrestricted pitch speed games* between January 1st and October 15th, 2018.

  • The award will take into account a player’s pitching, hitting, and defensive accomplishments between (and including) January 1, 2018 and October 15, 2018.

  • Among other considerations, the level of competition the player competed against, the player’s statistics, the number of games played at a high level, individual and team accolades earned by the player (i.e. championships), and the variety of competition will be taken into account when selecting the finalists and the award winner.

  • A player’s FULL body of work will be considered for the award. One good tournament is not necessarily enough to make up for a lack of play or performance the rest of the award period nor can will one "poor" tournament performance overshadow an otherwise superb season.

  • The selection will be made based on the hours upon hours of in-person and digital Wiffle Ball watching undertaken on a regular basis here at The Drop, conversations with players and organizers, and 2018 statistics.

* Organizations that meet this criteria include, but are not limited to: Palisades WBL; Mid Atlantic Wiffle; NWLA affiliated leagues that provide an unrestricted speed option (AWAA, Ridley Park Wiffle Ball League, WSEM, etc.); the NWLA national and qualifying tournaments;  the Fast Plastic tournament; JAL; and the Texas Wiffle Ball League.

The finalists will be announced on Monday, October 22nd. The award winner will be announced Friday, November 2nd. The award will be presented to the winner at a yet to be determined date and location.

So keep on playing and GOOD LUCK!

2018 Winter Classic Recap

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The high temperature in Medford, New Jersey this past Saturday was a chilly 30-degrees but inside the Big League Dreams Wiffle Ball complex, it sure looked a lot like summer.

A full eight-team field competed on Big League Dream’s custom indoor Wiffle Ball stadiums for the right to be crowned the first ever Mid Atlantic Wiffle Winter Classic champion. The tournament provided many of the competitors with their first live look at two of the game’s brightest young pitching prospects. Two local squads made their major northeast tournament debuts. One player attempted to return to the mound after an injury while a few others left Big League Dreams with newly acquired injury concerns. There were several classic pitching duels and a game where the teams combined for a whopping 44 runs. At the end of all of that action, it was the pre-tournament favorites that were left standing.

The tournament format was the standard eight-team fare with two pools of four teams for round robin play. The top two teams in each bracket advanced to a four-team single elimination round. The tournament field was slightly imbalanced in favor of quality veteran teams which left one pool – Pool A – with a decidedly tougher draw. Among the teams in Pool A were the experienced Golden Stick trio of Chris Sarnowski, Ben Stant, and Rob Longiaru playing under the team name, Fingerballzzzz. That team was expected to be even more potent, but Kevin Norris and Ty Wegerzn dropped out earlier week and replacement Phil Fresiello will apparently be in the market for a new alarm clock. Joining Fingerballzzzz in Pool A was an AWAA all-star team (Backdoor Sliders) of Jimmy Cole, Anthony LaValley, Michael VanNostrand, and Kris Morse with special guest TJ Loftus of Ridley Park Wiffleball and the veteran Re-Union team comprised of Dan Potter, Adam Milsted, and veterans Mike Soltesz, Lou Worthington, and Lou's nephew, Noah. With any one of those clubs serving as potential favorites, Pool A’s fourth team – El Flamas Blanca – had their work cut out for them.

Re-Union struck first in this high competitive pool taking down Fingerballzzzz 1-0 behind the superb pitching of Adam Milsted. Normally the captain of New Jersey mainstays Way Too Beautiful, Milsted provided much needed pitching depth to this veteran team. He kept the Sliders’ bats in check all game. Potter provided Milsted with all the runs he would need courtesy of a first inning leadoff homerun. Shortly after Potter’s blast, things went from bad to worse for the Sliders when Cole pulled himself from the game after suffering an apparent shoulder injury. The unfortunate injury did have one silver lining – it gave the spectators, which included several Ridley Park players, an earlier-than-expected look at TJ Loftus. The 19-year old made waves on the mound at the NWLA Pennsylvania regionals and the NWLA tournament last summer to the point that some folks already peg him as the second best pitcher in that circuit behind Michigan’s Stephen Farkas. Loftus made good on his reputation by retiring every single Re-Union player he faced via strikeout. His emergency relief heroics were not enough, however, as Milsted and company held on for the 1-0 shutout win.

TJ Loftus (Backdoor Sliders) is one of the game's rising pitching stars. Loftus struck out every Re-Union hitter he faced after being summoned for emergency relief duties.

TJ Loftus (Backdoor Sliders) is one of the game's rising pitching stars. Loftus struck out every Re-Union hitter he faced after being summoned for emergency relief duties.

El Flamas Blanca flashed definite signs of potential – one of their pitchers in particular has promise and their hitters never looked overmatched at the plate despite facing high caliber competition – but were ultimately overmatched on the day. Flamas Blanca finished the tournament without a win but with a little more pitching experience they will be just fine.

After a disappointing start, the Sliders bounced back against Fingerballzzzz thanks to an excellent outing from Kris Morse. Morse – a member of the Palisades Expos alongside Cole – held Stant, Longiaru, and Sarno in check all game long. The Backdoor Sliders took the lead early and added to it in the fourth courtesy of a Jimmy Cole grand slam. The win put the upstate New York squad right back into contention.

As many predicted, Pool A came down to the 1:30 PM showdown between Re-Union and Fingerballzzzz. With the Sliders already sitting pretty at 2-1, a Re-Union win would eliminate Fingerballzzzz. On the opposite side of the coin, a Fingerballzzzz win of ten runs or more would catapult them from the brink of elimination to the top seed in the bracket. The Ballzzzz handed the ball to Stant, who kept Re-Union in check all game long. Meanwhile, Adam Milsted was tasked with pitching a second important round robin game after both Potter and Worthington looked shaky in warms up. While not quite as good as he was against the Sliders to start the tournament, Milsted still carried solid stuffy but was let down by the play of his defensive. The Fingerballzzzz jumped out to a commanding lead and never looked back. The trio grabbed the ten-run win they needed and suddenly found themselves atop Pool A with the best run differential (the head-to-head tiebreaker was itself a tie). In the play-in game for the Block’s second spot, the Sliders put down a battered Re-Union team to move onto the semi-finals.

Evan Rosenthal (Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies) goes into his wind up on BLD's Fenway Park replica.

Evan Rosenthal (Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies) goes into his wind up on BLD's Fenway Park replica.

Over in Pool B, things were not quite as dramatic. Sophomore team The Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies showed noticeable improvement from their MAW debut last September. Evan Rosenthal flashed a previously unseen slider while his brother, Cory, once again showed off a strong arm that with some refinement could turn him into a solid pitcher. Offensively, the Duckies flashed their muscles against Sauce Squad by putting up 18 runs in a loss. With a little more experience and confidence facing top tier pitching, they will start to put up some runs against veteran teams as well. For their part, Sauce Squad packed a punch up and down their lineup to go along a couple of pitchers that showed off potentially solid sliders. Sauce Squad has extensive experience, but only on a shorter (33 feet) mound. We hope to see both Sauce Squad and the Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies back on the field this summer.

Pool B came down a 10:30 AM match up between My Name is ERL and the Giants. The Giants were the pre-emptive favorites to win the tournament but had to get through ERL in pool play first. ERL captain Connor Young handed the ball to debuting southpaw Blake Hoffman. The Ohio native gained a following over the years thanks to his backyard bullpen sessions and signed with ERL during the offseason. In only his second tournament ever and facing top tier competition in the form of the McElrath brothers and Jordan Robles, Hoffman showed that that the hype surrounding him is justified. The lefty used a wide assortment of pitches, including a rarely used riser that he had working on Saturday. The riser started so low that more than a few veteran hitters gave up on it, only for it to rise at the last second and nick the bottom part of the target strike zone. Ultimately, the Giants worked the young pitcher for three runs and ERL dropped the game, but with additional tournament experience Hoffman will blossom into a top tier pitcher.

Young southpaw Blake Hoffman (ERL) gets ready to deliver a pitch as teammate Joe Schlindwein looks on from the outfield.

Young southpaw Blake Hoffman (ERL) gets ready to deliver a pitch as teammate Joe Schlindwein looks on from the outfield.

ERL bounced back from the loss to post a 2-1 record in round robin and second place in their block. The 3-0 Giants took the first seed and chose to play their semi-final opponents – the Backdoor Sliders – on Fenway while ERL battled Finkerballzzzz on the Philly field.

Connor Young took the mound for ERL, relatively fresh after allowing Hoffman to handle much of the round robin pitching duties. It was far from Young’s best outing and ERL fell into an early hole. ERL crawled back to tie the game at 3-apiece when Young followed a Gerard Fitzgerald single with a two-run blast over the left center field wall. The game did not stay tied for very long. The next inning Young – struggling with the command of his riser – allowed back-to-back home runs to Sarno and Longiaru to once again give Fingerballzzzz the lead. Shortly thereafter, Young pulled himself from the game citing shoulder pain and Hoffman finished out what would end up being a 7-3 Fingerballzzzz win.

On Fenway, the Giants made relatively easy work of the Sliders to set up a meeting with Fingerballzzzz in the championship game. Both teams managed to reach the finals with a fresh pitcher – Ryan McElrath for the Giants and Rob Longiaru for Fingerballzzzz. Both pitchers were well rested and it showed early on, as the game breezed through the first three frames with little in the way of offense. In the fourth, Longiaru got a hold of one of McElrath’s offerings and sent the ball rocketing towards the right-center field fence. Before the ball could reach the wall, however, it banged off one of the ceiling beams some 30+ feet in the air and fell into the infield where it was cleanly played for an out in accordance with the tournament ground rules. Turnabout is fair play and in the 5th inning, the ceiling robbed the Giants of what also looked like a surefire homerun but ended up being nothing more than a loud force out.

Ryan McElrath (Giants) fires a pitch during the championship game as Jordan Robles gets set in the infield.

Ryan McElrath (Giants) fires a pitch during the championship game as Jordan Robles gets set in the infield.

The game entered the 7th inning still scoreless. As the innings ticked by, so did the clock. With a hard curfew of 6:30 PM, it was announced prior to the game that a new inning would not be allowed to start after 6:00 PM. The Giants took to the plate for the bottom of the bottom of the 7th around 5:40 PM, which meant that if the game stayed tied the eighth inning would likely also be the final one.

Fortunately, Jordan Robles made sure the curfew would not be a factor.

After one quick out to start the 7th, Robles stepped into the batter’s box and immediately fell behind. He refused to offer at the second pitch – a pitch that did not miss inside by much – signaling to Longiaru that he was going to have to bring the ball over the plate. Rob did just that – perhaps too much – and Robles deposited the hanger over the “Green Monster” in left field for the walk off home run.

The Giants were impressive all tournament long, taking down a trio of tough teams (My Name is ERL, Backdoor Sliders, and Fingerballzzzz) on the way to the title. Ryan McElrath showed the grit and skills that made him the 2017 Palisades WBL MVP while Robles – who in addition to his home run heroics, pitched 3 of the first 4 games for his team – demonstrated again why he is one of the best players around. For their effort, the Giants took home the $450 first place cash prize and the title of the first ever MAW Winter Classic champions.

The 2018 MAW Winter Classic Champions (R:L Ryan McElrath, Tim McElrath. Jordan Robles)

The 2018 MAW Winter Classic Champions (R:L Ryan McElrath, Tim McElrath. Jordan Robles)

Final Standings

1.     Giants (NY)                                         5-0
Ryan McElrath, Tim McElrath, Jordan Robles

2.     Fingerballzzzz (NY/PA/DE)                4-1
Rob Longiaru, Chris Sarnowski, Ben Stant

3.     Backdoor Sliders (NY)                                    3-2
Jimmy Cole, Anthony LaValley, TJ Loftus, Kris Morse, Michael VanNostrand

4.     My Name is ERL (NJ/OH)                  2-2
Blake Hoffman, Gerard Fitzgerald, Jim Linhart, Joe Schlindwein, Connor Young

5.     Re-Union (PA/NJ)                               2-2
Adam Milsted, Dan Potter, Mike Soltesz, Lou Worthington, Noah

6.     Sauce Squad (PA)                               1-2
Kyle Brocket, Bryan Goldman, Blank Fink, Jason Fink, Christian Kulczytzky

7.     El Flamas Blanca (NJ)                                    0-3
Neil Demarco, Paul Duffy, Kyle Fenwick, Rob Hanstien, Nate Potts

8.     Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies (NJ)  0-3
Connor Benus, Danny Devine, Cory Rosenthal, Evan Rosenthal, Steve Rosenthal

Injury Report

Jimmy Cole (shoulder) was removed from his team’s first round game with shoulder soreness and did not pitch again in the tournament. Cole did continue to bat and play the field, which is a positive sign . . . Dan Potter (shoulder) left his team’s third round robin game after colliding with the wall while making a spectacular catch on a ball that ricocheted off the ceiling. Potter sat out the remainder of the tournament due to a shoulder injury . . . Connor Young (shoulder) pulled himself from ERL’s semi-final game due to shoulder soreness as well and was listed as day-to-day after the tournament . . . Tim McElrath – who went down early last season in Palisades with an arm injury – pitched one game for the Giants but was noticeably still less than 100% . . . Jenkins (knee) of the Sauce Squad tore up the skin on his right knee diving for a ball on the Philly field but played through it.

Ben Stant had a strong tournament on the mound and at the plate.

Ben Stant had a strong tournament on the mound and at the plate.

Here and There

While Big League Dreams is unparalleled in its ability to provide a high-level Wiffle Ball experience indoors, the facility is not without its quirks. The short fences on the Philly field (60 feet down the lines) led to some relatively “cheap” home runs while the ceilings (30+ feet high) took several no doubters away. In the end, however, it largely seemed to even out . . . Mike “Salt” Soltesz was an important member of the only three-time national champions, Team Trenton, and joined the legendary Lakeside Kings in the early 2000’s. Making his return to the mound in Medford, Salt battled his command at times but still showed off an excellent drop pitch that made one of the game’s best. Salt picked up a win in his only game on the mound on Saturday . . . In lieu of a coin, the phone of ERL’s Jim Linhart was tossed before several games to decide home and away . . . In accordance with standard MAW rules, any ball that rolled to the wall was a double. The smaller dimensions – particularly on the Philly field – and the fast-moving turf contributed to most untouched ground balls finding their way to the wall. When MAW returns to BLD in the future this rule is expected to be altered in some fashion . . . The Backdoor Sliders were accompanied to the tournament by some of TJ Loftus’ fellow Ridley Park Wiffleball players. We hope to see these guys out in York this spring & summer . . . Just prior to injuring his shoulder diving into the outfield wall, Dan Potter (Re-Union) pointed out that what both teams initially thought was an inning-ending put out was in fact a hit. Potter is not only one of the game's best defensive players, he is a class act to boot!

Up Next

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The 2018 Mid Atlantic Wiffle regular season kicks off on April 14th in York, PA with “Opening Day”. Two teams are already registered for the event, which will be capped at 10 teams. Don’t hesitate to register today! And if April 14th doesn’t work, MAW returns to York just three weeks later on Cinco de Mayo for the second tournament of the 2018 regular season. Registration for all six 2018 tournaments is open now at the MAW pro shop.

We want to once again thank the staff at Big League Dreams for being helpful and accommodating on Saturday. MAW officials are already discussing possible return dates to BLD for the fall of 2018 and winter of 2019. Look for more information later this year as it becomes available!

2018 Winter Classic Preview

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Mid Atlantic Wiffle kicks off its 2018 schedule on Saturday February 3rd at Big League Dreams in Medford, New Jersey with the 2018 Winter Classic. The 8-team standalone tournament will take place on BLD’s two unique indoor Wiffle Ball fields. With a diverse field of teams, a one-of-a-kind setting, and numerous storylines to follow, Saturday promises to be an exciting start to the 2018 Mid Atlantic calendar.

Players to Watch

TJ Loftus (Backdoor Sliders) turned some heads this past summer playing as a member of the Ridley Park Wiffleball League at the NWLA tournament. The young right-hander struck out 44 batters over 15 innings of work while allowing only a single run. Loftus’ performance was impressive enough that some already rate him as the second best pitcher in the NWLA. Saturday will be another test for Loftus as he goes up against accomplished hitters like Jordan Robles, Dan Potter, Ben Stant and Chris Sarnowski.

2017 was a bittersweet year for Tim McElrath (Giants). His Palisades WBL team, the Giants, captured the league championship giving them a claim to – if not outright ownership of – the title of ‘best team in the nation’. Tim, however, injured his right arm early in the season and was relegated to the role of fielder and designated hitter for the rest of the year. Unable to pitch, the usually powerful right-hander struggled at the plate as well registering just a .126 ISO in Palisades games. Tim could be back on the mound in Medford and how he looks after a long layoff will be one of the stories of the day.

New My Name is ERL pitcher Blake Hoffman with a trio of K's.

New My Name is ERL pitcher Blake Hoffman with a trio of K's.

As much as we want to see Loftus and McElrath in action, the player that might draw the most attention in Medford is rookie southpaw Blake Hoffman (ERL). A native of Ohio, Hoffman has dazzled Wiffle Ball players for years with YouTube videos of his backyard pitching sessions. Hoffman dipped his toes into the tournament waters last year and now is ready to make his northeast tournament debut after agreeing to play with My Name is ERL for the 2018 MAW season. Those that have seen Hoffman pitch – including Cloud9’s Sean Steffy – rave about his overall stuff and vast potential. We will get first look at just how good Hoffman can be on Saturday.

Deep Depth

                               Jimmy Cole fires 3 strikes at the Fast Plastic Texas Open.

From a pure stuff standpoint, no team might have a better pitching combo than My Name is ERL and with the addition of Gerard Fitzgerald, they may have the bats to match. Likewise, it seems foolish to bet against a team  like the Giants that includes both McElrath brothers and Jordan Robles. If pressed to pick a pre-tournament favorite, however, we would have go with the Backdoor Sliders. Playing out upstate New York and led by veritable Wiffle Ball iron man Jimmy Cole, the Sliders go four quality pitchers deep. That depth could allow the quintet to make it to the elimination round – if not the finals – with a completely fresh top tier pitcher waiting in the wings. In addition to Cole and Loftus, the Sliders' roster is expected to include Kris Morse, Anthony LaValley, and Michael VanNostrand. This team clearly has both the talent and experience to win the whole thing, while their pitching depth could be a true difference maker.

unknown quantities

Saturday’s tournament will also include a pair of teams – Sauce Squad (Newton, PA) and El Flamas Blanca (Bordentown, NJ) – that are unknown to the rest of the field. As always, that presents a challenge for the opposition. Not only is there no scouting report to go off of but the temptation to assume an unknown team is also inexperienced can lead to an otherwise avoidable upset. In other words, do not overlook either of these teams. Sauce Squad, in particular, does have prior Wiffle ball tournament experience although the nature and extent of it is . . . unknown.

the Benefits of Experience

Evan Rosenthal (Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies)  with a spectacular one-handed grab. 

Last September in the final MAW regular season tournament of 2017, New Jersey’s Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies made their competitive tournament debut. As it often is with debuts, the Duckies struggled at times but finished with a respectable 1-2 record while demonstrating notable improvement in each of their three games. The enthusiastic young team followed up their debut by playing in the Wiffle Fall Classic outside of Philly later that same month. Now with a couple of tournaments under their belts, the Duckies are no longer wide-eyed newcomers and will be looking to take another step forward on February 3rd.

Lou Worthington firing a strike at a Maryland tournament in 2003.

Lou Worthington firing a strike at a Maryland tournament in 2003.

Speaking of experience, Re-Union has more than enough to spare. The team is led by one of the game’s more under-appreciated players in current York Yak and former Mr. Ault and State of Mind player, Dan Potter. The 2017 MAW Jerome “The Legend” Coyle Hitting Award winner will be joined by a pair of veterans who are among the best to have ever played. Mike “Salt” Soltesz made history from 1995 – 1997 as a member of the only back-to-back-to-back national fast pitch champions in Team Trenton. Salt went onto having many productive years with the legendary Lakeside Kings and was one of the more feared pitchers of his era. Rounding out the squad is “Sweet” Lou Worthington. The former Fluffhead and Lakeside King was known in his prime for his fluid and inimitable low sidearm delivery. Like Salt, Lou has plenty of big game experience including playing for the Kings in the 2001 National Championship at Lakeside Park.

late additions

                                 Rob Longiaru goes deep at Fast Plastic Texas Open

Team rosters submitted upon registration are often preliminary and rosters do not need to be finalized until prior to first pitch. As such, we expect some "late" roster additions that could significantly impact the tournament. The Fingerballzzzz original roster consisted of just two players, Ben Stant and Chris Sarnowski. The word going around is that the Fingerballzzzz might be adding a trio of impact players. The rumor is that an All-Star trio of Ty Wegerzn, Kevin Norris, and Rob Longiaru could be joining the Fingerballzz lineup which would catapult them to the head of the pack.

Likewise, Re-Union's roster is rumored to be in flux heading into the tournament. While the three players mentioned above are more or less set in stone, the club might add both a rookie and veteran player to their roster prior to Saturday. While the impact of the newcomer is somewhat unknown, both players would likely add a significant amount of skill and youth to the Re-Union roster.

Follow Along

You can follow along with the action as it happens via our social media accounts. Stay tuned to the MAW Twitter account (@midatlanticwiff) for game updates and Periscope (@midatlanticwiff) for live look ins at pool play games. In the mid afternoon (approximately 3:00 PM) we we will go live on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Midatlanticwiffle/) for a recap of the round robin action, followed by a LIVE broadcast of the semi-finals and championship game. In the days after the tournament, we will have comprehensive coverage including a full recap, videos, and more right here on www.midatlanticwiffle.com.

The Scout #2: Connor Young

Throughout the 2017-2018 offseason, The Drop will be profiling and scouting the top players under 25 in the game.

Connor Young (RHP)

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After taking the 2016 season off, Young came back in 2017 and was fantastic on the mound.  His 78 innings pitched lead MAW and he recorded every out for his team in the regular season.  He's got a plus-plus drop and a plus riser.  Connor keeps hitters off balance with an eephus like curveball but doesn't go to that well very often.  I worry a little bit about his violent delivery possibly leading to an injury but with ERL's recent pick up of Blake Hoffman, Young won't have to carry all of the pitching in ’18. The reduced workload should go a long way to keeping his arm healthy. It is a cliche, but when Young is on, he's almost impossible to beat.

At the plate, Young's quick hands provide him with really good power.  I'd like to see a little more patience because he could be an on-base machine but thus far into his career, his aggressive approach has netted him more positives than negatives.  Joe Schlindwein's growth at the plate should also provide Young with more protection.  If Blake Hoffman can hit at all, teams won't be able to pitch around Young as often, allowing him to get more pitches in the strike zone to hit and reduce the pressure to chase pitches off the plate. If he becomes a little more selective, Young could transform from a very good hitter into an excellent one.


Defensively, we haven't seen him anywhere else other than on the mound.  As a pitcher, he fields his position well, thanks to quick reaction times and soft hands. With Hoffman aboard next season, we will get a chance to see how Young takes to other positions on defense. He has plenty of arm strength to go with the range and accuracy necessary to handle any position on the field.

Top Five Homeruns of 2017

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87 Home Runs were hit during the 2017 Mid Atlantic regular and post seasons. Thirty players had at least one round tripper, with the Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill leading the way with 8. Surprisingly, not a single one of those 87 homeruns were of the walk-off variety (who would have thought there would be a walk off sac fly before a walk off homerun?) but that doesn’t mean there weren’t plenty of memorable blasts this past year. We saw tournaments decided by a 6th inning homerun not once, not twice, but THREE times.

There were game changing homers hit during the regular season and a handful of prestigious blasts during the playoff tournament. There were enough memorable homeruns that cutting this down to five was no easy task - a couple of other homeruns easily could have made the fifth spot on our list. Among the plays not mentioned on our list - but deserving of recognition - are Dan Potter’s line drive shot off of Way Too Beautiful that might have been the hardest hit homerun of the season and Jordan Robles’ grandslam against My Name is ERL in the championship series that essentially sealed the title for the Stompers.

Offseason News & Notes #1

ERL Makes an Early Move

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The offseason is not even a month old, but 2017 Mid Atlantic runner up My Name is ERL is already hard at work shoring up their roster for the next season. On Halloween, ERL announced the addition of young lefty Blake Hoffman to their roster. The Ohio native is part of the new breed of “YouTube wifflers”, impressing viewers with his quality stuff in bullpen sessions and one-on-one backyard games. His tournament experience, however, is rather limited. ERL captain Connor Young views Blake’s youth and inexperience as an advantage, not a detriment.

"We’re excited to have Blake on board,” Young commented via a team issued statement on social media. “This kid’s the truth. He’s hungry, too. Blake’s going to grow and excel quickly under my wing. This is the ideal pickup for ERL.”

Although ERL has been quiet so far on their exact plans for Hoffman, there is no doubt the team will look for him to take some of pressure off of Connor who tossed a Mid Atlantic leading 77 2/3 innings pitched in 2017. The Drop spoke with a prominent player who has seen Hoffman in action and believes that once Hoffman gets some regular tournament experience under his belt he will join the elite tier of pitchers in the game.

ERL might not be done yet, either. There are rumors that they have been courting one specific veteran player to round out their roster.

Winter Wiffs

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Can’t wait until April to get back on the field? You don’t have to! MAW will host the Winter Classic on Saturday, February 3rd at Big League Dreams in Medford, New Jersey. Big League Dreams – originally conceived as an indoor facility exclusively designed for Wiffle® Ball – features two permanent indoor fields modeled after Philadelphia’s Citizen’s Bank Park and Boston’s famed Fenway Park. The custom fields will provide a unique backdrop for this rare February tournament.

The tournament will be an 8-team event and registration is first come, first serve. Full details coming soon. In the meantime, contact timcooke1982@gmail.com or cyoung1282@yahoo.com for additional information.

Where Will Shirey Land?

The first transaction of the offseason – actually the first few – involved veteran Nick Shirey. The longtime captain of the Yaks first announced his own departure from the team he founded. Shirey hoped to land with the InHumans due to his desire to pitch more often and to act as a mentor to the kids on the team. We are told that Cameron Long initially balked at adding the veteran Shirey, but eventually relented. Shirey and Cameron – along with Dan Potter – competed as the InHumans at the Arlington Wiffle® Ball Tournament at the end of October. Yet in the immediate aftermath word leaked that Shirey’s move to the InHumans is not set in stone yet. We hear there is a chance that Nick might end up back with the Yaks after all. Stay tuned.

2018 Road Trip in the Works?

Although The Drop is unable to provide any specifics at this time, we can pass along from sources within the MAW offices the organization is exploring plans to hold tournaments outside of York in 2018. While Shi Wiffle® Ball Park would still serve as the home base for MAW and host the majority of the 2018 MAW tournaments, officials hope to add anywhere from one to three tournament stops next season. We hope to have more information on this story in the near future.

2017 Mid Atlantic Championships Recap

The results may not reflect it – three series sweeps and only a single game decided by less than 5 runs – but there was plenty of drama and intrigue to be found just below the surface at the 1st Annual Mid Atlantic Championships.

2017 Tournament #4 Recap - "You and Johnny, Kid"

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.

Five for Friday: The Sub-1.00 ERA Club

Through three tournaments, there are five pitchers in Mid Atlantic who have thrown at least 19 innings and have an ERA under 1.00 – Jarod Bull, Ryan Doeppel, Danny Lanigan, Nick Schaefer, and Connor Young. While they all share the same minuscule earned run average, none of the five pitchers went about it in quite the same way.