InHumans

Wiffle Bash (July 14, 2018) Tournament Recap

By: Paul Cooke

A Giant Statement

The Giants (Ryan & Tim McElrath) went a perfect 6-0 at  Wiffle Bash  to win the tournament title.

The Giants (Ryan & Tim McElrath) went a perfect 6-0 at Wiffle Bash to win the tournament title.

At 3:00 AM early Saturday morning – a time and day when most are either fast asleep or still going strong from the night before – Tim and Ryan McElrath woke up and hit the road on a 250-mile trek from their home in Kingston, New York to York, Pennsylvania. Their destination? Shi Wiffleball Park, the site of Mid Atlantic Wiffle’s Wiffle Bash tournament.

For the brothers, the cost of enduring a long car ride at such an ungodly hour was worth it for the opportunity that lay ahead. Competing almost exclusively in Palisades WBL for much of this decade, Tim and Ryan have established themselves as two of the premiere players in what is currently the country’s premiere league. Despite their significant accomplishments in Palisades, the McElraths have felt overlooked in discussions of the game’s best teams and players. Competing at Wiffle Bash provided an opportunity to prove themselves against high calibre competition in a tournament setting outside of their home base.

We kinda had to make a statement,” Tim wrote on Sunday, addressing his team’s motivation after the fact.

Statement made. Emphatically.

Saddled with one of the more difficult pool play schedules in the field, the Giants went a perfect 4-0 during that portion of the schedule. It was far from a cake walk, however. The Giants were tested early and often throughout pool play. In what is becoming somewhat of a trend in MAW tournaments, the first game of the day – when players on both sides are completely fresh – nearly became a trap game for one of the tournament favorites. In this situation it was the upstart Jersey Lemon Heads who threatened to throw a wrench into the Giants’ tournaments plans. The Lemon Heads picked up a couple of early opposite field hits against Tim McElrath while the Lemon Heads’ ace, Ray Lutick, kept the Giants’ bats in check. The game made it through five innings with no score and a total base deadlock. In the 6th, the Giants broke the total base stalemate to squeak by with a narrow but important early tournament win.

The Giants were still trying to find their groove – or perhaps were still feeling the effects of their early wake up call – when they met G€M on Buffalo field for their second game of the day. Ben Stant sawed through his former Palisades teammates in the early going, striking out nine of the first ten batters he faced with a one out walk to Tim in the third blemishing an otherwise perfect record. In the bottom half of the third Stant hit a solo home run off Tim, who was already on his ninth inning of work before 11:00 AM. Having failed to score a single run all morning and now with a one run deficit to make up, things looked grim for the McElrath brothers. Like many great teams, however, the Giants do some their best work with their backs against the wall. Ryan led off the top of the fourth inning with a single and Tim immediately cashed in with a two-run bomb to left field. Following back-to-back strikeouts that got Stant within one out of escaping with limited damage, the McElrath’s went on one of their patented hitting tears. The brothers used four straight singles and one walk to get across two huge insurance runs. In the bottom of the fourth, G€M threatened when John Magee and Stant reached to start the inning. This forced the Giants to summon Ryan into the game to close things out. The 2017 Palisades MVP and Cy Young award winner quickly shut the door to end the game and propel his team to a 2-0 start.

Tim McElrath GIANTS concept art hue.png

The fourth inning of the G€M game seemed to jumpstart the Giants for the remainder of pool play. They made quick work of Nick Shirey’s Wyld Stallyns team and then jumped over Jarod Bull early and often on their way to a 6-0 victory over the Yaks. The way the Giants made relatively easy work of the Yaks sent a clear message that they were going to be difficult to stop. As the Stompers’ Nick Schaefer mentioned on commentary for the Facebook Live stream of the game, Bull pitched a far better game then his lopsided line would indicate. The McElrath’s bats, however, were just too much to handle. It wouldn’t be the last time in the tournament that the brothers blindsided a top tier pitcher with their relentless offensive attack.

At 4-0, the Giants locked up the top seed in the four-team single elimination round. The Giants were joined by – in order – the Lemon Heads, Stompers, and My Name is ERL, making the fourth seeded ERL their first-round opponent.

In a stark contrast from what we are used to seeing from ERL, Connor Young made it through pool play with an [almost] fresh arm. ERL – one of the few regular teams out there that can boast having two left-handed pitchers – got two games apiece out of their southpaws on Saturday. Joe Schlindwein picked up his first MAW win while Blake Hoffman carried the heavier load against the Yaks and Stompers, winning one and taking a hard luck loss in the other. With his arm rested and ready to go for the semi’s, Young rolled the dice with a two-man, Giants-inspired lineup consisting of Joe and himself. The potential benefit to that configuration – which the McElraths enjoyed all tournament long – is getting to see the pitcher more often and quickly learn his tendencies. The downside was the loss of extra fielders on defense, but Soup felt confident that he could limit the number of balls the Giants put into play to mitigate the absence of a third defender.

For the first few innings, Young’s plan looked genius. Coming up to the plate for the third time in just 1 1/3 innings, Soup deposited a ball over the 105-foot mark in straight away center on Sheff. The solo shot gave ERL an early advantage that looked as if it was going to stand up. Young kept the first ten batters he faced off the bases while recording eight of his first ten outs on strikeouts. Of course, nothing is ever over with the Giants, who are always just one plate appearance away from flipping any game on its head. In the semi-finals that moment came with one out in the 4th inning. Ryan McElrath – seeing Connor for the sixth time in about twenty minutes – returned the favor from earlier with a solo shot of his own. To his credit, Soup did not allow the Giants to go on an immediate charge right after the big hit. Young escaped of the inning with two straight K’s to limit the damage.

Sitting in on commentary for the finals later in the day, Connor spoke to feeling that he  only delayed the inevitable by working out of the fourth inning. It was a feeling that only grew stronger when Joe booted a ground ball with one out in the 5th. Sure enough, that error opened the floodgates and the McElraths belted out four straight singles to end the game and ERL’s tournament.

Awaiting the Giants in the finals were the familiar faces of the Stompers. For the third time in four tournaments, the Stompers found themselves in the tournament title game. They handed the ball to Jordan Robles, who was coming off an all strike out perfect game against the Lemon Heads in the semi-finals. Robles entered the tournament with a rare several-week break from fast pitch competition and the benefit of his rested arm had been evident all tournament long. His stuff was sharp and he maintained his effectiveness late into the day despite being forced into action earlier in the tournament than anticipated. The on-field familiarity between Robles and the McElraths only added to the intrigue of the day’s final game.

The game was scoreless through the first 1 ½ innings, but it was evident that would not last long. The Stompers picked up one double in each of the first two frames courtesy of Sarno and Robles, respectively. For their part, the Giants took strong cuts against Jordan in the first. Based on the early quality at bats from players on both sides, it was only a matter of time before someone broke through. That breakthrough came in the second inning, in a major way.

Ryan McElrath GIANTS concept art hue sideways.png

All day long it seemed that once the Giants picked up one hit, a half dozen more followed. When Ryan opened the second inning with a single and Tim followed up with one of his own, you could already sense that Robles and the Stompers were in trouble. Like clockwork, Ryan homered in his next at bat – a prodigious shot that landed well into the trees overlooking Sheff field – putting the Giants ahead 3-0. The McElraths were not done yet – not by a long shot. Tim got his team started all over again with a single, Ryan added a double, and then Tim clobbered a pitch for the Giants’ second 3-run blast of the inning. In total, the Giants pounded out six straight hits – including a pair of home runs – before a single out was recorded in the second inning. The offensive fireworks seemed to stun all the players still in attendance, who are not used to seeing Robles hit around in such a manner.

Jordan – in a testament to his own abilities and makeup – found a way to keep the Giants off the scoreboard the rest of the tournament, largely by serving the McElraths a healthy dose of change ups. Unfortunately for the Stompers, the damage had already been done. Jordan – who had as much success as anyone against Ryan on the day (3 walks, triple, home run) – broke up the shutout with a one out home run in the fifth. The Stompers picked up another run later in the inning thanks to a Sarno double and a Nick Schaefer RBI single, but Ryan snuffed out the attempted comeback by striking out the next batter to end the game.

The Giants grew stronger and stronger as the day went on and finished with a perfect 6-0 record. For their efforts, they took home the $540 first place cash prize. Even more importantly, the brothers left York having made the statement they set out to make. There is no doubt – not as if there should have been before – that the McElraths are two of the best players in the entire game and a force to be reckon with whenever and wherever they step on the field.

No Shame About Ray

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) worked every inning for his and allowed just two runs at  Wiffle Bash .

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) worked every inning for his and allowed just two runs at Wiffle Bash.

It would have been nearly impossible for any player to outdo the individual performances of Ryan and Tim McElrath at Wiffle Bash, but the Jersey Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick came awfully close. The power right-hander mowed down opposing hitters all-tournament long, starting with six scoreless innings against the Giants in his team’s first game. Lutick allowed just two runs the entire day – solo shots to the Stompers’ Sarno and the Barrel Bruisers’ Tony Manelli – while pitching every inning for this team.

Ray showed plus velocity and was able to maintain it throughout the tournament. His already strong velocity played up a little bit more thanks to a compact overhand delivery. He relied heavily on a hard overhand drop pitch that resembled a power baseball sinker more than a traditional Wiffle Ball dropper. Only occasionally did Lutick break out the side arm riser that he used liberally in his first MAW tournament last summer. If he can find a complimentary pitch and keep his arm in one piece, Lutick has the chance to be a special pitcher.

Behind Ray, the other Lemon Heads fielded well and had strong at bats throughout the tournament. The Lemon Heads’ offense should improve rapidly with additional tournament experience. On the carpet, they already have a bona fide ace in Lutick but the addition of another pitcher might become a necessity at some point. A 3-2 record against the calibre of competition the Lemon Heads faced at Wiffle Bash is incredibly impressive. Perhaps even more indicative of this team’s bright future is that they were in no way satisfied with their fourth-place finish. These guys are hungry for success and have the talent necessary to get where they ultimately want to be.

Pool Play Classic

Jordan Robles (Stompers) entered in relief against My Name is ERL in the 7th inning and finally closed out the marathon game in the 8th.

Jordan Robles (Stompers) entered in relief against My Name is ERL in the 7th inning and finally closed out the marathon game in the 8th.

Mid Atlantic has not lacked for memorable championship games during its limited existence. From Nick Schaefer outdueling Ryan Doeppel in the very first MAW tournament last April to the 10-inning classic between ERL and Cloud9 this June, the final game of the tournament is often also the best of the tournament. At Wiffle Bash, however, the tournament’s best game occurred much earlier in the day.

For the third time this season and the sixth time overall, the Stompers and My Name is ERL met in an MAW tournament. The Stompers entered the day leading the all time series 3-2, but both clubs have undergone drastic changes since their three 2017 meetings. A better gauge of the current rivalry would be the games ERL and the Stompers played in April and May of this year. The former saw the Stompers eek out a 1-0 victory behind their newest addition, Chris Sarno, while the latter game was taken 1-0 by ERL thanks to a dominant pitching effort from the debuting Dan Whitener. The talent gap between the teams is razor thin which almost guarantees a nail-bitter every time out.

The game – as expected – was a scoreless pitching duel through the first three frames. Blake Hoffman – facing the Stompers for the first time – pitched a perfect top half of the fourth while Sarno stumbled some in the bottom half for the Stompers. The Stompers’ hard throwing right-hander walked Young to open the inning and allowed an unlucky one out single on a playable groundball to Tim Cooke. Although Sarno got out of the inning without allowing either runner to score, the base runners were significant because they put ERL ahead on total bases by a count of four to three. The Stompers needed a base runner to stay alive, which they got right off the bat thanks to a Robles’ walk. Cooke then redeemed himself with a double off Jim Linhart’s hands to give his team a two base advantage.

Thus began a four inning stretch where the Stompers got at least one runner on base every single inning only for ERL to answer right back in innings five, six, and seven. After Paul Cooke walked in the 7th to put the Stompers up by one base, Jordan Robles asked for – or perhaps more accurately, took – the ball from Sarno to try to close out the game. He almost did just that, until Young – one of the more clutch hitters in all of Wiffle Ball – delivered with a two out single right back up the middle. In the 8th, Sarno delivered a double off of Hoffman to put the Stompers ahead by two bases. The second time was the charm for Robles, who worked around a two out walk in the bottom of the 8th inning to put the Stompers in the win column.

It is not often that a 0-0 game could be described as exciting or epic, but this one might just fit the bill. The total base lead changed hands six times and was tied four different times. There was no room for error on either side – which first became apparent in the third inning – and that lent even more importance to every hit, ground ball, and taken pitch. Look for a full, edited version of the game to hit the Video on Demand section of the MAW website in the near future.

Here and There

Bent Stant (G€M) delivers a pitch as teammate Marcus Lee looks on.

Bent Stant (G€M) delivers a pitch as teammate Marcus Lee looks on.

The Stompers championship game loss to the Giants was their first loss of the season on Sheff Field. The team’s prior three defeats this year all occurred on Buffalo . . . Where’s the run support? ERL’s Blake Hoffman threw 13 innings over two games, struck out 32 batters, allowed no runs, and served up just three hits but came away with only one total base win to go with one total base loss . . . Last summer, Connor Young became the first MAW pitcher to strikeout 200 batters in a season (including the Championship Tournament) when he set the single season record at 213. After Saturday, Chris Sarno is sitting on 142 strikeouts for the season. Red is not expected to be in action on August 4th, which may hurt his pursuit of both the 200 K mark and Soup’s record . . . The closer role has not taken hold in competitive Wiffle Ball the same way it has in baseball. At Wiffle Bash, however, there were two instances of teams turning to their ace to finish off games. Both the Stompers (Robles against ERL) and the Giants (Ryan McElrath against G€M) switched pitchers late in games to close the door on a victory . . . When asked if he ever remembers throwing that many change ups in a game as he did against the Giants, Robles shook his head 'no'. "I had to try something to get them out," the 2017 MAW post-season MVP conceded . . . Has a new player entered the Mid Atlantic MVP conversation? Bent Stant has played in just two of the four tournaments so far this season but is nonetheless among the leaders in most hitting and pitching categories. Will the voters overlook his relatively minimal playing time to reward him for what have been clear MVP-level performances when he's been on the field? . . . 500 miles away from Wiffle Bash, a pair of leagues with MAW ties fared well at the NWLA Tournament. Ridley Park stumbled going 0-2 in the elimination round but rebounded to win the weekend’s consolation tournament while also representing well in Friday night’s All-Star game and home run derby. Wiff is Life League started the weekend strong with Jordan Castelli winning All-Star game MVP honors and finished even stronger, outlasting the 16-team field on their way to capturing the tournament championship. Congratulations to both leagues on their achievements and we look forward to seeing both groups very soon . . . The Jersey Lemon Heads hope to continue the “trend” of MAW affiliated teams faring well in outside tournaments when they travel to Tennessee to play in an eight-team tournament this weekend. Based on what we saw at Wiffle Bash, it would not surprise anyone to see the Lemon Heads make a deep run . . . MAW officials continued the slow process of integrating an interview area and process into the York tournament experience. Look for some of the pre-tournament interviews recorded at Wiffle Bash on the website . . . Adding to the great tournament experience this past Saturday was the Barrel Bruisers kind generosity in supplying and grilling hot dogs and hamburgers for every player. Thanks Jerry, Chris and Tony!

Championship tournament Update

The York Yaks - currently third in the standings -  have a spot in the Championship Tournament all but locked down (L:R Jared Laird, Adam Milsted).

The York Yaks - currently third in the standings -  have a spot in the Championship Tournament all but locked down (L:R Jared Laird, Adam Milsted).

With just two tournaments left to be played, the Championship Tournament race is heating up. The top three spots are set in stone, although ERL is well within striking distance of the Stompers for the top seed. G€M and the Barrel Bruisers have a strong grip on two of the final three sports, although there are several teams that could still overtake them. The auto qualifier spot for the Canonsburg Classic looms as a complete wild card at this point. There is no guarantee that a team outside the top six will win the tournament - or that the winners will be able to accept the bid - which means that six spots based on total points could still potentialy be up for grabs. For teams like the Lemon Heads or Longballs Red, a Championship Tournament spot could very well be in their sights with one more strong finish, regardless of the outcome in Canonsburg.

MAW officials have passed along the latest payout projections for the Championship Tournament. Based on current projections, the first place grand prize is estimated to be $2,000 with an anticipated purse of $500 to be split among the top three runners up.* If your team is on the bubble, now is the chance to make a move and ensure your chance to play for big money on September 8th!

  1. Stompers (MD)                   56 pts.
  2. My Name is ERL (NJ)        46 pts.
  3. York Yaks (PA)                    32 pts.
  4. G€M (DE)                             20 pts.
  5. Barrel Bruisers (VA)           18 pts.
  6. Giants (NY)                          16 pts.

Teams in Contention: Naturals (14), New School Risers (14), Jersey Lemon Heads (10), Cuban Raft Riders (10), Longballs Red (7), In the Box (7) **

* Assuming a six team Championship Tournament field.

** Cloud9 (16) and Ridley Park Longballs (8) are currently ineligible for the Championship Tournament as members of these played for points on different teams in subsequent tournaments (Giants and Longballs Red, respectively).

Up Next

It is hard to believe, but we are already on the home stretch of the 2018 summer season!

There are just TWO open entry tournaments left to go, beginning with Backyard Brawl on August 4th at Shi Wiffleball Park in York. This tournament is shaping up to be wide open with some MAW regulars either not expected to compete or expected to compete with short-handed rosters. There are a couple of spots still open and with Championship Tournament slots still up for grabs, this is an excellent opportunity for several teams to make a late run at the post-season.

Two weeks later, MAW rolls into Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, home of the NWLA Tournament champions Wiff is Life League! In partnership with WILL, the Canonsburg Classic will be an MAW style tournament complete with a first place cash prize. In addition, participating teams will receive points towards the Championship Tournament and the winning team will receive an automatic bid to the MAW Championship Tournament on September 8th. The Canonsburg Classic is expected to include a mix of MAW regulars, WILL regulars, newcomers, and more! Register today to take advantage of what promises to be a unique and exciting tournament.

Wiffle Bash (July 14, 2018) Tournament Preview

The Yaks' Adam Milsted (left) and Jarod Bull (right) will be on the field together for the first time this season at   Wiffle Bash  .

The Yaks' Adam Milsted (left) and Jarod Bull (right) will be on the field together for the first time this season at Wiffle Bash.

When the York Yaks added veteran Adam Milsted to their roster over the winter, they envisioned a one-two punch of Milsted and Jarod Bull pitching them deep into the day tournament after tournament. And perhaps that is exactly what would have happened, if only the Yaks could get their top two starters out on the field at the same time. In April at Opening Day, Milsted played with his non-MAW team – Way Too Beautiful – while Bull was available to the Yaks for only 1 ½ games due to prior commitments. In May, Milsted made his long awaited Yaks’ debut while Bull sat out to nurse a sore shoulder. Bull was back on the mound for the June tournament but this time it was Milsted who was absent thanks to an outside commitment. Now at long last, both Milsted and Bull are expected to toe the rubber for the Yaks in the same tournament at MAW Wiffle Bash.

Just how significant is it for the Yaks to have their top two pitchers available in the same tournament? MIlsted and Bull have combined for a 1.66 ERA in 29 innings pitched for the Yaks this year while all other Yaks pitchers have pitched to a 9.77 ERA in 17 2/3 IP. If that duo puts up similar numbers on the 14th, the Yaks have an inside track to the final four.

Another team thrilled to be back at (near) full strength is the Barrel Bruisers. Jerry Hill was left to go at it (almost) alone back in June and performed admirably, winning one game and dropping a close one to the WILL Waves by a score of 2-1. Jerry won’t have to shoulder nearly as much of the workload this Saturday as the Bruisers will have team ace Chris Owen back in the fold. Last time we saw Chris, he turned in his best single tournament in Mid Atlantic by holding the Yaks and My Name is ERL to two runs over eight innings at Torneo de Wiffs in May. The Bruisers are on a mission for playoff points as they look to solidify a spot in September’s Championship Tournament.  A .500 pool play record will be a big step in the right direction. To get there, the Bruisers must find a way to pick up a one win in one of their three non-InHumans games.

Like Owen, ERL’s Blake Hoffman is making his return to action after missing Wiffle Wars in June. Blake is itching to get back on the carpet and continue his rookie campaign after taking a month off. The question is, how much will we see of him on the rubber this weekend? For a variety of reasons, the left-hander has been used sparingly thus far. In April, Blake worked one round robin game after ERL had already been eliminated from contention and in May his only start was a loss in the semi-finals. For those two tournaments, ERL captain Connor Young chose to hold his rookie pitcher back for the games later in the day. Soup might not have the same luxury this time around, not with Dan Whitener reportedly done for the rest of the summer due to collegiate baseball commitments. Is this the tournament where we finally see what one of the game’s most promising young hurlers can do over multiple appearances? After using a stripped down three-man lineup in June, ERL will be carrying five on Saturday. Young and Gerard Fitzgerald form a potent combination in the middle of ERL’s lineup.

While Owen and Hoffman are making their returns after a one-tournament layoff, it has been even longer since we last saw Ben Stant and the boys from G€M. On Opening Day back in April, Stant guided his inexperienced but talented squad to a final four appearance. G€M ended their impressive debut tournament with a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to The Naturals in the semi’s. The team was led by their talented captain – Stant - who picked up wins against the Yaks and Cuban Raft Riders in pool play while also hitting three home runs. G€M has drawn arguably the toughest pool play schedule in the field with games versus the Giants, Yaks, Stompers, and Barrel Bruisers. To compound matters, Ben is scheduled to pitch in GSWL Yard League the very next day and may want to control his innings on Saturday. Look for G€M to try and steal a win early in the day against the Giants or Yaks, turn to another pitcher to try to get past the Bruisers (as they did with John Magee back in April) and see if they can’t work themselves into the elimination round without overtaxing their captain’s talented right arm.

G€M’s early day meeting with The Giants promises to be one of the highlights of the morning from a pure competition standpoint. The matchup also comes with a little bit of history. Stant was briefly part of the 2017 Giants squad that won the Palisades WBL championship. In one weekend worth of action for the Giants, Stant fared well. He reached base in 4 out of 11 plate appearances and struck out 14 batters during a 5-inning 1-0 loss. Stant suited up for the Giants again, but did not see any additional game time for the eventual Palisades champs. This winter, the Giants unloaded him in a trade with the Expos. While there are not necessarily any hard feelings, Ben will nonetheless have an opportunity this Saturday to show the Giants what they missed out on.

For their part, Tim and Ryan McElrath are coming to York to further prove what many already know to be true – that the Giants are one of the best teams in the sport and that Ryan is among the best players in the game. Ryan had arguably one of the top regular and post-seasons in Palisades league history last year, the Giants won the MAW Winter Classic back in February (albeit, with Jordan Robles as their third) and we all saw first hand how good of a hitter Tim can be last month when he played with Cloud9 at MAW Wiffle Wars. Despite all of that, the McElraths feel they don’t always garner the level of respect that they certainly deserve. With that ever-present chip on their shoulder, the brothers are looking to make a statement this Saturday at Wiffle Bash. It won’t be easy, as rumor as it they might have to go at it without a third player. The key will be how many innings they can squeeze out of Tim’s banged up right arm in pool play. If the answer is “eight” – and at least four of those come in a win – the Giants are almost certain to be factor late into the day

Left to Right: Ryan and Tim McElrath after winning the 2018 MAW Winter Classic in February.

Left to Right: Ryan and Tim McElrath after winning the 2018 MAW Winter Classic in February.

Among teams looking to play spoiler are a pair of local squads– the Wyld Stallyns and those loveable underdogs, the InHumans. The InHumans are still in search of that allusive first win. Their best chance to do so on Saturday would appear to be against the Stallyns in a late pool play meeting, although even that won’t be easy. The Stallyns are captained by Nick Shirey who – as he is want to do – will temporarily split from the Yaks for a chance to pitch. Shirey will be joined by J.R. from Bacchus and a third player making his MAW debut.

While the realistic best-case scenario for the InHumans and Stallyns is to play the role of spoiler on Saturday, this next team is staring at a higher ceiling. Last August, an unknown team from the Jackson Wiffleball League arrived in York for the fourth tournament of the season. In their first game the newcomers upset an undermanned Stompers squad and then dropped a pair of close games to My Name is ERL on the way to a top four finish. Sporting a new team name – Jersey Lemon Heads – the guys are back and looking to build off of their sold debut of a year ago. These Jersey boys have a manageable schedule and a real chance to be alive late in the day. If you want a player from Lemon Heads to watch, keep an eye on Ray Lutick. The pitcher impressed fellow players last August with a side arm riser that – when he keeps it out of the middle of the plate – rates as an above average offering.

Finally, there's the Stompers. The team’s impressive streak of tournament titles – four straight – came to an end in June at Wiffle Wars. While a semi-final loss to one of the game’s best pitchers hardly qualifies as disappointing, there is a sense that the club is eager to “bounce back” after missing out on the finals in June. The Stompers will have all three of their pitchers – Jordan Robles, Chris Sarno, and Nick Schaefer – available once again, although it will likely be the last time that happens this (regular) season. As usual, that wealth of pitching depth gives team captain Tim Cooke much to ponder. The Stompers’ pool play matchup with My Name is ERL will be another chapter in a classic MAW on-field rivalry. The Stompers lead the all-time series three games to two.

The Mid Atlantic Wiffle Facebook page (www.facebook.com/midatlanticwiffle) will once again stream several games throughout the tournament. All game times are subject to change, so we suggest checking in twenty minutes or so early to make sure you don’t miss any of the action. Live commentary from a rotating cast of players will be provided when possible.

  • 10:00 AM – Giants vs. G€M
  • 2:00 PM – Giants vs. York Yaks
  • 4:00 PM – My Name is ERL vs. York Yaks OR Barrel Bruisers vs. Lemon Heads
  • 5:30 PM – Finals (TBD)

As always, follow MAW on Twitter (@midatlanticwiff) and on Instagram (midatlanticwiffle) for updates throughout the tournament. Check back next week after the tournament for full coverage including the tournament recap, video highlights, and much more.

Wiffle Wars (June 16, 2018) Tournament Recap

Cloud9 defeated My Name is ERL in 10 innings to win MAW Wiffle Wars. (June 16, 2018)

Cloud9 defeated My Name is ERL in 10 innings to win MAW Wiffle Wars. (June 16, 2018)

June 16, 2018 (York, PA) – 2017 Fast Plastic Texas Open champions Cloud9 arrived at MAW Wiffle Wars with a different roster than last October, but the result was exactly the same. For the second time in as many tournaments, the boys in blue and white took home a title in a highly competitive, double digit team, fast pitch tournament.

For Cloud9, the road to a second straight tournament title was not without its challenges. The tournament champions were tested all day long, but overcame the rest of the field thanks in no small part to the excellent pitching and clutch hitting of tournament MVP, Sean Steffy.

Cloud9 arrived in York looking different then the last time we saw them and it wasn’t just the new tank top uniforms. Instead of Ty Wegerzn and Kevin Norris, Steffy and Ed Packer were joined by Tim McElrath and Devin Torres. The two longtime Palisades WBL players not only provided Cloud9 with additional offense, they gave the team an additional pair of arms to throw in pool play games. While Torres and McElrath differ from Norris and Wegerzn stylistically, it would be a stretch to argue that there was any substantial drop off in production.

Cloud9’s day began with a near upset. Facing the Ridley Park Longballs Red team and their ace pitcher, Sean Bingnear, Cloud9 failed to score through their first four trips to the plate. Bingnear – who turned heads with a great playoff run in the Ridley Park Wiffle Ball League last season and continued to do so with a stellar MAW debut back in May – kept the Cloud9 offense off balance all game. Through the first four innings, only McElrath (double and fly out) was able to put the ball in play against the impressive young righty. Packer kept the game scoreless, working out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the fourth. With Longballs Red ahead on total bases and two outs already in the inning, Bingnear needed only to avoid an extra base hit from Steffy to end the game. Instead, he left a screwball up in the zone, which Sean pounced on for a solo blast. Just like that, Cloud9 had the lead. Packer held on to it  with a 1-2-3 bottom half to complete the escape act.

Sean Bingnear (Ridley Park Longballs) goes into his windup. Bingnear continues to impress everywhere he pitches, holding both Cloud9 and In the Box to two runs over nine innings.

Sean Bingnear (Ridley Park Longballs) goes into his windup. Bingnear continues to impress everywhere he pitches, holding both Cloud9 and In the Box to two runs over nine innings.

After making easy work of the InHumans with Tim McElrath on the mound, Cloud9 handed the ball to Devin Torres to face the Stompers. The Stompers came into the game with an identical 2-0 record, thanks to Nick Schaefer and Chris Sarno who picked wins against Longballs Blue and In the Box, respectively. Like their opponents, the 2017 MAW champions chose to hold back their ace (Jordan Robles) for the elimination round and gave the ball to Sarno who was working his second straight game. Cloud9’s Torres worked around a bases loaded threat from the Stompers in the middle innings and the game headed to extras scoreless and tied on total bases. A walk to Sarno in the bottom of the 5th broke the deadlock, however, giving the Stompers the victory on total bases.

For Sarno, the total bases victory was another accolade in an impressive resume he is putting together this season in MAW. Sarno has positioned himself alongside the Yaks’ Dan Potter and ERL’s Connor Young as the early top contenders for regular season MVP.

As it was in Texas when they worked their way through a total base win and a pool play loss on their way to the title, Cloud9’s goal at Wiffle Wars was simply to make it to the elimination round so that they could hand the ball over to Steffy. With the ball in the hand of arguably the best pitcher in the country, none of the hitting struggles and close calls from earlier in the day seemed to matter much.

In an immediate re-match with the Stompers, Steffy went head to head with Robles in a heavyweight pitching matchup. With a spot in the finals on the line, Steffy overpowered the Stompers offense the entire game and did not allow a single hit over five innings of work. Robles was up to the challenge early, but a series of cracked balls wrecked havoc with his rhythm. Usually unflappable on the mound, Robles never seemed completely comfortable, allowing a couple of hits and a walk during the first four innings. In the 5th, he uncharacteristically walked two batters before allowing a backbreaking two run hit to Steffy. The Stompers went quietly in the bottom of the inning and Cloud9 punched its ticket to the title game.

Awaiting Cloud9 was My Name is ERL. ERL came to Wiffle Wars with a streamlined three-man lineup of Connor Young, Dan Whitener, and Gerard Fitzgerald. While both Young and Whitener are perfectly capable of taking the ball at the end of the tournament, the decision to pitch Connor in round robin and Dan in the finals was an obvious one. Few pitchers are as durable as Young and few pitchers in the game have as electric stuff as Whitener. Young more than held up his end of the bargain, winning three pool play games and the semi-final games against the Yaks. In a post-tournament interview on Wifflecast, Whitener remarked that it was the best he has seen his teammate throw.

My Name is ERL (June 16, 2018)

My Name is ERL (June 16, 2018)

One might expect given the pitching matchup that the championship game was a low offense, high strikeout affair but that is not entirely true. While both Whitener and Steffy racked up their fair share of K’s, there were several game-changing defensive plays and run-scoring opportunities for both sides. In the second inning, Fitzgerald pulled a grounder towards McElrath on the left side of the infield. The ball ate up the usually shore-handed defender, bouncing off his hands and into the air. Torres – who never stopped running towards the ball from his starting point on the right side of the infield – caught the ball in the air about three feet behind the singles line, pivoted, and through a perfect riser into the backstop to record the out (HIGHLIGHT). Later in the game, a hard grounder off the bat of Whitener seemed destined for centerfield when the ball bounded off the pitching rubber and high into the air. The ball held up just long enough for Torres to field it and record the out.

The latter play proved particularly important as it was followed by a Connor Young triple. Young’s hit – which off the bat appeared to have a shot at clearing the short left-field perch – would have scored the go-ahead run had Whitener’s grounder not been corralled. ERL had runners on base and runners in scoring position several times throughout the game, but ultimately failed to convert on any of those opportunities.

The game reached the 10th inning without a score and Whitener in control. The hard throwing right-hander scattered several walks throughout the long game, but otherwise had remained in control and kept Cloud9’s offensive opportunities to a minimum. Just as they did in the tournament opener, Cloud9 changed the narrative in an instant. A seemingly innocent one-out walk brought Ed Packer to the plate. Packer did not hit much all tournament but put a big swing on a Whitener pitch that caught a lot of the plate. Nobody – not even the batter himself – was sure the ball had enough carry to clear the left field fence but it kept on going, eventually landing comfortably several feet behind the fence. (HIGHLIGHT)

Sean Seffy (Cloud9) readies to deliver a pitch in the Wiffle Wars title game. Sean threw 15, no run innings and had two game winning hits en route to being named tournament MVP (July 16, 2018)

Sean Seffy (Cloud9) readies to deliver a pitch in the Wiffle Wars title game. Sean threw 15, no run innings and had two game winning hits en route to being named tournament MVP (July 16, 2018)

The homerun held up as Steffy put ERL down in order in the bottom of the 10th to seal the victory for his team. It was a tough loss for ERL who played a great tournament and – as some of the dozens of championship game onlookers noted – outplayed their title game foes in several facets of the game. The tournament marked ERL’s first appearance in a regular season tournament championship game since a loss to the Yaks last August. ERL has not won a MAW tournament since their Mid Atlantic debut last June.

Cloud9 pitchers did not allow a single run all tournament long. Sean Steffy – who certainly looked a lot like one of the best players in the country on both sides of the ball – was named the tournament MVP.

No Relief

Tom LoCascio (In the Box) returned to the mound at Wiffle Wars, winning one game and allowing only two runs over 12+ innings of work. (June 16, 2018)

Tom LoCascio (In the Box) returned to the mound at Wiffle Wars, winning one game and allowing only two runs over 12+ innings of work. (June 16, 2018)

While teams like the Stompers and Cloud9 had plenty of pitching options at their disposal, the same could not be said for two other teams in the tournament field.

The day before Wiffle Wars, the Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill took to Instagram to show off four newly cut Wiffle Balls and to provide an honest assessment – in #hashtag form – of his team’s chances on Saturday.

#betterhit,” Jerry typed,” #causeimpitching”.

Little did Jerry know just how much he would pitch. The Bruisers were already down to a two-man squad thanks to prior commitments and back spasms robbing the team of Chris Owen and Tony Manelli, respectively. With Colin Dimitris a late scratch the morning of the tournament, Jerry was forced to handle the entirety of the pitching duties for his two-man team.  Hill rose to the occasion, picking up one win and suffering a narrow 2-1 defeat to the WILL Waves, in a game that was decided on a couple of close calls. Jerry continues to improve on the rubber every tournament and gave his best pitching performance on Saturday with his back up against the wall.

In his late 90’s heyday, Tom LoCascio of In the Box was known for a left arm that was so durable, it appeared bionic. Playing a tournament nearly every weekend – and often accompanied only by his brother Frank – Tom logged as many miles on his arm as any pitcher in the history of unrestricted pitch speed wiffleball. In May of 1999, Tom became the only known player to finish in the top four of a 16+ team, non-Wiffle Up tournament field by himself.

Now 51-years old and in semi-retirement for the better part of a decade, Tom took to the field on Saturday with only his son Gianni behind him. As mentioned in the tournament preview, anyone that knew Tom knew he was coming to compete and win, which is exactly what he did. Relying on a slider, screwball, and the occasional riser – a drop pitch no longer an option from all the wear and tear put on his arm over the years – LoCascio held the Yaks to two runs and then shutout both Ridley Park Red and the Stompers. Tom pitched 12+ innings for In the Box before letting Gianni get a taste of Wiffle pitching in the 5th inning of the game versus the Stompers. Gianni flipped up an effortless slider to the Stomper batters and with some coaching from his Hall of Fame dad, a new generation of In the Box may not be far away.

Here and There

Ridley Park's Colin Pollag looks in towards the strike zone during an early pool play game. (June 16, 2018)

Ridley Park's Colin Pollag looks in towards the strike zone during an early pool play game. (June 16, 2018)

With a second inning strikeout on Jesse (Barrel Bruisers), Connor Young became the first player in Mid Atlantic history to reach the 100 innings pitched mark . . . Opening Day set a high bar for competitiveness with 13 out of 15 games decided by three runs or less. Wiffle Wars was not far behind. Nine out of ten teams picked up at least one win, no team went undefeated, and the eventual champions were pushed to extra innings in three of their five games . . . With no disrespect to Sean Steffy, the player that the other players in the tournament were most impressed with was Tom LoCascio. The consensus after the tournament is that after getting a few more reps at the plate, the leader of In the Box could still be a well above average hitter capable of giving a team one excellent game on the rubber per tournament . . . Tom became the second player enshrined on Sheff Field’s “Wall of Wifflers” to play on the field, joining fellow wiffle icon Billy Owens . . . While several teams chose to hold their ace back until late in the day, the Yaks took a decidedly different approach to the tournament. Jarod Bull – who was held out of the May tournament with a shoulder ailment – started the first two games for his team (both wins) as the Yaks sought to reach the elimination round. Bull eventually ran out of steam in the semi-final, but his early-tournament success on the rubber propelled the Yaks to 10 important Championship Tournament points . . . Kudos to Jesse (formerly of Bachus is My Bro) for teaming up with Jerry Hill on the Barrel Bruisers at the last minute. Jesse had a solid tournament, picking up a few hits and making a couple of fine defensive plays . . . Both Ridley Park and the Wiff is Life League are competing in the NWLA Tournament in Michigan on July 14th. Both teams certainly have what it takes to make a deep run in that event . . . Always a true ambassador of the game, Tom LoCascio supplied all ten teams at the tournament with a FREE Loco Bat. Thanks Tom!

Standings Update

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We are officially halfway through the 2018 regular season tournament schedule and the Championship Tournament race is heating up!

The Stompers and My Name is ERL continue to hold onto the top two spots in the table, although the gap between them narrowed significantly with ERL’s second place finish. The Yaks’ third place finish at Wiffle Wars places the veteran squad solidly in third place. The Barrel Bruisers moved into the top six and will look to build on that with the return of Chris Owen in July.

The top six is still somewhat jumbled, thanks to the presence of three teams – New School Risers, Naturals, and Cloud9 – who finished second, second, and first, respectively, in their lone 2018 MAW tournaments. Similarly, the Ben Stant captained G€M is well within striking distance after one tournament played. A respectable finish by any of these teams in an upcoming tournament would position them well for a playoff spot. 

* Standings reflect all teams with more than 10 points towards the Championship Tournament through the June 16, 2018 tournament.

Up Next

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MAW is back in action on July 14th in York for Wiffle Bash!

From 1998 – 2000, the Maryland Wiffleball Association hosted their annual summer, Wiffle Bash, in the DC suburbs. Those tournaments saw 49 teams compete over that three-year period with the Georgia Longshotz winning the inaugural event. Baltimore’s Chilly Willy Blasters went back-to-back in 1999 and 2000, beating the Fluffheads and the dynamic duo of Lou Worthington & Mark DeMasi to win their titles. Now Wiffle Bash is back for the first time as a MAW event! Which team will add their name to the list of former champions?

July 14th is a busy day for different forms of Wiffle Ball, with the World Whiffleball Championship (slow pitch) in Illinois and the NWLA tournament (baserunning) in Michigan both taking place on that day. There is only place on the east coast to find no pitch speed, high quality Wiffle Ball that weekend and that’s MAW!

After July, MAW returns to York on August 4th for Backyard Brawl. This is the last final chance for teams to play at Shi Wiffleball Park during the 2018 regular season! Lastly, MAW debuts in Canonsburg, PA on August 18th with the Canonsburg Classic. This will be the last chance for teams to qualify for the Championship Tournament in September.

Spaces are filling up for all three tournaments, so register your team today at www.midatlanticwiffle.com!

Wiffle Wars (June 16, 2018) Tournament Preview

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Worlds will collide on June 16th as Mid Atlantic Wiffle hosts Wiffle Wars at the Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA!

The eclectic ten-team field includes multiple championship caliber teams and highly talented players from all over the northeast, each with their own unique styles of play and experiences. While every team ultimately has their eyes set on a first-place finish and points towards the MAW season standings, there are several other factors at play that make this tournament a can’t-miss event!

Aces Abound

If you are a fan of top tier Wiffle Ball pitching, then this is the tournament for you! There will be no shortage of quality and intriguing arms in York this weekend.

Connor Young and Dan Whitener provide My Name is ERL with an excellent 1-2 punch on the mound. Young has pitched well in multiple places this season – including MAW – and appears to be taking the final steps to becoming the well-rounded, smart, ace level pitcher everyone knows he can be. Few pitchers in the game have as electric stuff as Whitener, who threw a perfect, perfect game against the Stompers in May, striking out all 12 batters he faced.

2017 Fast Plastic Texas Open champions Cloud9 will make their MAW debut on Saturday with Ty Wegerzn and Sean Steffy leading the way on the flat hill. Last October, Cloud9 rode that duo to a tournament victory and will be looking to do the same in York. The Stompers will be at full strength once again, which means the 5-time MAW tournament champions will go three deep on the mound with Chris Sarno, Jordan Robles, and Nick Schaefer all available. The debuting WILL Waves boast at least a pair of high upside arms in Jordan Castelli and Mike Graziani.

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If they were playing as one team, no group would have as much pitching depth as the boys from the Ridley Park Wiffleball League. After making their MAW debut in May, the Longballs are back for a second go around but this time split into two full teams (Longballs Blue and Longballs Red). That Ridley Park can enter two teams that have a very good chance of making it to the single elimination round is a testament to the young talent in that league. There are a handful of quality pitchers spread across the two Longballs squads, but keep a close eye on right-handed pitcher Sean Bingnear. Bingnear was impressive in May, allowing just one run – a walk off solo shot to Dave Capobianco in a play-in game – over 7 1/3 innings of work. He is off to a strong start in the RPWL this year as well and has all the makings of a top-flight pitcher.

The fact that we have gotten this far without mentioning 2017 MAW Rookie of the Year recipient Jarod Bull speaks volumes about the level of pitching expected on Saturday. Bull did not pitch in May and while his status is still up in the air, it is believed he will likely see game action on Saturday. Bull was his usual solid self in April, allowing two runs in his six innings of work. Also, don’t overlook his fellow Yak, Jared Laird, who is quietly putting together a solid season. Laird has eaten up 10 2/3’s innings for the Yaks while pitching to a solid 4.50 ERA.

What to Make of ERL

It has been a strange 2018 thus far for My Name is ERL.

From the Winter Classic in February through the upcoming tournament this Saturday, the New Jersey based squad has been under a constant state of construction. To illustrate that point, Saturday will mark the fourth different roster in four 2018 tournaments ERL will have utilized. The team has played well at times but doesn't have more than a third-place victory to show for it. One pitch here and one hit there and ERL is looking at a totally different situation ending into the midway point of the season, but it just hasn’t come together for them yet. Connor Young is hoping that ERL’s fourth different lineup of the season – Young, Gerard Fitzgerald, and Dan Whitener – will be the charm. Whitener – described by Young as a “depth move” back in May – was virtually unhittable at Torneo de Wiffs and will no doubt be counted on in much more important situations on Saturday. Fitzgerald – known for his clutch bat – will be counted on to give his team the big hits they have been so sorely missing.

Despite the inconsistency, ERL currently sits in second place in the points standings and looks poised to make another deep post-season run. A big tournament on Saturday – one where everything finally clicks into place for them – would certainly be a much-needed confidence booster as we head into the back-end of the season.

Halfway Mark

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Wiffle Wars is the third tournament in the six tournament MAW regular season and the final MAW tournament before July, which puts us at the halfway mark of the 2018 spring/summer calendar. This tournament will no doubt set the stage for the second half of the Mid Atlantic season. 

While it is unlikely that ERL will pass the Stompers in the Championship Tournament standings on Saturday, they can certainly close the gap while also creating some distance between themselves and the rest of the field for the all-important #2 seed. The Yaks will look to keep ERL in their sights while breaking out of a three-way tie for third with the Naturals and New School Risers, both of whom will be inactive on Saturday. A first or second place finish for a debuting team like Cloud9 would place them right in the mix. The Barrel Bruisers – currently on the outside looking in for the Championship Tournament – will look to tread water without their top pitcher, Chris Owen, and pick up some points in the process.

For their part, the Stompers hope to continue their winnings ways that have them on a 19-1 run since last September. It is fair to say that if the Stompers – who have already proven themselves against quality competition during their run – come out on top again on Saturday, that it will place them in rather rarified air.

Return of a Hall of Famer

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You know that modified blue screwball bat with the replacement handle that you swing? He invented that. Remember the 2004 Fast Plastic regular season? His team went 31-1. How about the 1999 Fast Plastic Magazine Team of the Year award? His team won that. And oh yea, earlier that same season, he finished 3rd – by himself – in the stacked Shamokin, PA tournament outlasting 16 other teams in the 19 team field including the Fluffheads, No Johnnies, Stompers, and Shamokin Busers. In 2004, his team came one unfortunate injury away from capturing the Fast Plastic National Champion. Wiffle Up? He and his brother completely dominated that circuit in its early years.

Tom LoCascio – the heart and soul of the legendary In the Box squad– did it all during an illustrious Wiffle Ball career that ostensibly spanned a decade but was actually the culmination of lifelong practice and dedication. Tom is a true first ballot hall of famer and one of the great ambassadors of the game. On June 16th, he returns to the field for the first time in years, flanked by his youngest son, Gianni.

Lest you think that a former all-star caliber player cannot return after years of inactivity and win with only his offspring as his backup, need I remind you of what Dave Capobianco accomplished jut six weeks ago at MAW’s Torneo de Wiffs? Anyone that crossed paths with Tom during his heyday knows the kind of competitor he is. Simply put, Tom is not coming to lose.

It will be an honor to have Tom and In the Box in York on Saturday but don’t think this is just a legend doing a victory lap – Tom, Gianni, and In the Box are in it to win it.

Pool Play Games to Watch

The tournament format calls for each team to play three games in the pool play round with all 2-1 or 3-0 teams advancing to the single elimination round. The matrix style pool play format means that teams can largely control their own destinies – win two games and you are in. Every game matters under this format, but there are a few games in particular that have caught our eye as potential “make or break” contests.

York Yaks vs. Longballs Blue (8:00 AM scheduled start)*: These two squads should be evenly matched and whoever wins this early day game will put themselves in line to pick up two round robin wins. 

Longballs Red vs. WILL Waves (2:00 PM scheduled start): Two up-and-coming Pennsylvania NWLA affiliated all-star teams meet in this pivotal late day pool play matchup. It will be the third game of the day for both teams and with how the schedule plays out, there is a solid chance that the winner of this game will advance onto the elimination round with the loser left on the outside-looking-in. Both teams are young, enthusiastic, and full of upside which should make for an exciting game.

Stompers vs. Cloud9 (2:00 PM scheduled start)*: On paper, the meeting between the red hot 2017 MAW Champions and the 2017 Fast Plastic Texas Open tournament champions is the most anticipated of the pool portion of the schedule. Both teams are as well-rounded as they come with top tier pitching and offenses that can hurt you from any part of the lineup. With several of the games' top players involved, this is one game you won’t want to miss!

York Yaks vs. My Name is ERL (3:00 PM scheduled start time): This game is both a re-match of one of the two 2017 Championship Tournament semi-final series as well as an encore of May’s 3rd place game. ERL came out on top in both and in fact, have won their last two games versus the Yaks 1-0 thanks to a pair of solo shots off the bat of Connor Young. This game is almost certain to have elimination round implications. A first-place seed, a spot in the elimination round, or both could very well be up for grabs.

follow along

Follow along with the action on Saturday with several streaming games throughout the day. In addition to the two asterisked games listed above, the 10:00 AM game between My Name is ERL and the WILL Waves, plus one semi-final game and the tournament finals will be streamed live on Mid Atlantic Wiffle’s Facebook page*. In addition, follow along on our other social media accounts for periodic updates throughout the day.

Twitter: @midatlanticwiff
Facebook: facebook.com/midatlanticwiffle
Periscope: @midatlanticwiff
Instagram: midatlanticwiffle

* @midatlanticwiff on Periscope will air these games in the event there is any issue with Facebook.

Torneo de Wiffs Recap

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MAY 5, 2018 (YORK, PA) - It was a wild sixty hours for Dave Capobianco.

The Thursday before the second Mid Atlantic Wiffle tournament of the 2018 season, the New School Risers’ captain informed MAW officials that he would have to withdraw his team from the event. The erstwhile Old School Riser suffered a grade-2 calf strain a day earlier. As his team’s only pitcher, he believed the injury was severe enough that it would prevent them from competing. It was agreed upon by both parties that the New School Risers debut would be delayed until MAW’s June 16th event.

It was only after contacting the tournament organizers that Dave alerted his teammates of what was going on. Dave’s fellow Risers – who, we should mention, also moonlight as his teenage daughter and son – reacted with enough disappointment that it caused him to reconsider. The elder Capobianco – once a star southpaw on Fast Plastic Maryland region stalwarts, the Old School Risers – iced his calf muscles and decided to give the tournament his best shot. Some sixty hours later, the Risers had four big wins, a walk off homerun, several nail-biting victories, multiple clutch hits, and a second-place finish under their belts.

Good thing he listened to the kids.

The Risers’ run to the championship game was the talk of the tournament. The Salisbury, Maryland team began their day in impressive fashion by mercy ruling the Barrel Bruisers in 1 ½ innings. The Risers were patient and took the free passes offered up by the Bruisers’ Colin Dimitris. Dave made quick work of the Bruisers’ usually solid offense, striking out all six batters he faced.  

The Risers failed to score a run off ERL’s Connor Young in their second game of the tournament and dropped the contest by a score of 1-0. The trio bounced back in their third game, taking it to the Yaks by a final score of 10-2. The Risers ended their pool play schedule with a 2-0 loss to the defending champions, the Stompers. A couple of wins and a .500 record would have made for a solid day, but the Capobiancos were just getting started. The two victories earned them a play-in game against a fellow debuting 2-2 team, the Ridley Park Longballs, with the final spot in the single elimination round at stake.

The play-in game made it through the two innings of regulation without a score. Dave picked up a single and a walk, while his son Matt also added a single, and the Risers took a comfortable total bases lead into extra innings. In the third, the Longballs’ Joey VanHouten narrowed the total base margin to 3-1 with a one-out single. Unfortunately for the Longballs, that was as close as they would get. In the bottom of the third, Dave led off with a walk and two batters later sent his team into the semi-finals on a walk off two-run blast.

The walk off ended what was an impressive showing for the Longballs. The group was as deep on the mound as any team in the field. They threw four different pitchers and all four showed talent and upward projection. The Longballs finished the tournament with a very solid +8 run differential. The team represented the Ridley Park Wiffleball League well and the talent in that league is undeniable. Look for these guys to continue to make some noise in MAW – and elsewhere – later this summer.

“I loved the Ridley Park guys’ energy and enthusiasm,” Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke told The Drop. “And that was before they stepped on the field. A lot of young talent out there. Multiple guys who could pitch and their bats really heated up as the day went along. These are the guys we need to keep coming back. They compete and will step to the next level quickly with a little bit more experience. They were really good on the field and good guys off the field as well.”

Dave Capobianco (Risers) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

Dave Capobianco (Risers) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

The Risers walk-off win set them up for a date with a 4-0 My Name is ERL squad. ERL pitchers suffocated opposing offenses throughout round robin play. Young shutout both the InHumans and Risers, while Dan Whitener – making his ERL debut – shutout both the Stompers and Bruisers. ERL’s bats, however, continued to lag well behind their arms. After putting up seven runs on the InHumans, ERL managed only two runs in their next three games – a pair of 1-0 victories and a 0-0 total bases win against the Bruisers. It was still an improvement over the first tournament, where ERL scored only one run in three games and created far fewer scoring opportunities.

“I’ll never be satisfied, let’s be honest,” ERL manager Young remarked about his team’s offensive output. “But truthfully we took a step forward today offensively. I would have liked for us to put together better at bats in the semis but we surely took a step forward . . . Joe [Schlindwein] has become more aggressive on balls in the zone, which is great.”

Having already scored off Dave Capobianco once and with Blake Hoffman completely fresh, ERL were the heavy favorites against the Risers in their semi-final meeting. The game that followed was the best of the tournament and among the most exciting games played in MAW’s 15 months of existence.

The game entered the third inning scoreless. After retiring the first batter of the inning, Hoffman walked Matt Capobianco but came right back to punch out his dad. A first pitch strike to Kyleigh Capobianco had Hoffman just one pitch away from getting out of the inning and keeping the game notched at zero. Instead, the talented southpaw left a screwball over the plate and Kyleigh got all of it. The ball nearly cleared the right field fence on Horn – an impressive feat given that field’s dimensions and slight upward slope – but instead bounced off the wall for a run scoring triple. The big blow seemed to take all the wind out of ERL’s sails. Hoffman regrouped to keep the margin at one, but ERL’s offense failed to convert on a first and second opportunity in the third and then went quietly in the fourth.

Three outs away from a loss, Soup took matters into his own hands. ERL’s captain led off the 5th inning with a triple to put the tying run ninety feet away. Whitener followed up with a walk but Capobianco got Schlindwein and Hoffman to strike out. Not deterred, Soup shot a single back up the middle to tie the game and give ERL new life.

A rejuvenated Hoffman struck out the side in the 6th. In the 7th inning, however, Dave got a hold of another pitch and pulled it over the right field fence for a tiebreaking homerun. This time around, Dave made the run hold up. He shut down ERL in the bottom half the inning to pitch his team into the finals.

As for ERL, Soup chose not to dwell on the loss and instead offered some perspective on his young left-hander.

“People haven’t grasped how new this kid [Hoffman] is to competitive wiffs. He’s just getting onto the field. He’s thrown what – maybe four games his whole career outside of the backyard? He’s learning every event. He probably learned more losing that game than he would have winning. I’m ecstatic he’s a part of this team. His development from young phenom to wiffs superstar is going to be fun to watch.”

The final was a matchup of the tournament’s two iron men as Capobianco squared off with the Stompers’ Chris Sarnowski. Entering the finals, Capobianco had 23 innings logged on his arm already while Sarno came in with 20 innings pitched. Despite the heavy workload, neither pitcher showed any signs of giving in early. It was not until the 4th inning when Sarno broke through with a solo homerun – his third of the tournament. The homerun seemed to ignite the Stompers’ offense as they followed with four straight baserunners (walk, single, double, single) to plate an additional three runs. The cushion was enough for Sarno and the Stompers held on for their second straight tournament win.

Cooke had plenty of praise for both of the championship game pitchers.

“Sarno was fantastic. Words really cannot describe the job he did. He let up his two runs in the first two games and then was lights out, which is incredible considering he had to face Capobianco twice and Potter once. I think the most impressive thing was he kept us engaged in the first two games. Once we got through those, his arm started to feel good and he went to another level . . . Capobianco was the first lefty we faced this season. You can see why he was so good in 2005/2006. Great drop, plus riser and occasional slider. I think his old style scuffing added something different to his drop. It never dropped the same and kept us off our of game for 7 innings. We were fortunate that he eventually tired out late in the championship game but if he comes back, I’m hoping he’ll be some other team’s problem until the later rounds.”

The tournament win is the Stompers’ fourth in a row dating back to last September and including the October Championship Tournament. The group holds a 19-1 record during that period.

Despite that, it was the Capobianco family that rightfully won the attention and affection of the rest of the tournament field. The trio battled all day, got major contributions from all three team members, and never wavered in their determination.

For Dave – whose experienced Wiffle Ball success in the past – making this run with his family was extra special.

All in the family - the New School Risers battled through a very competitive tournament field to finish in 2nd place. (L:R Kyleigh, Dave, and Matt Capobianco).

All in the family - the New School Risers battled through a very competitive tournament field to finish in 2nd place. (L:R Kyleigh, Dave, and Matt Capobianco).

“When I brought up the idea to them, they were pumped. They had heard about my competitive Wiffle Ball days and wanted to see what it was all about.  Our goal was to simply have fun and enjoy the adventure, which we did! But after our first win, they both started thinking strategy and how we could make it into the playoffs and have a shot at winning it all. We are a pretty competitive family like that.”

While Dave was the driving force behind his team – and in almost any other tournament, the clear-cut tournament MVP – his two teammates contributed big hits throughout and only improved as the day went along.

“My highlight of the day was seeing them fight through the humbling at bats that naturally come facing any good Wiffle Ball pitcher,” The Risers’ patriarch commented after the tournament. “Each came through with big hits on our road to the finals . . . Priceless!”

Here and There

Chris Owen (Bruisers) cracks a smile before going into his wind up as his teammates look on.

Chris Owen (Bruisers) cracks a smile before going into his wind up as his teammates look on.

Did you notice anything different about Chris Owen on the rubber last Saturday? The tall righty ditched scuffed balls in favor of a clean one after figuring out a 12-6 overhand drop with it. The results – two runs over eight innings of work against the Yaks and ERL – were self-evident . . . As speculated upon in our tournament preview, Jarod Bull was indeed unavailable to pitch on Saturday, confirming why he played with the InHumans rather than the Yaks. Bull – who thinks the shoulder soreness may have come from throwing a football – believes the injury to be minor and is hopeful it won’t keep him off the flat hill for very long . . . The question was raised on Saturday as to whether the New School Riser’s 1 ½ inning mercy rule victory over the Barrel Bruisers was the shortest game in MAW history. Our crack team of statisticians went right to work on the answer and can confirm that the game did indeed set the record. Interestingly, the Bruisers were on the good side of the old record (two full innings) with 2017 drubbings of Squad 51 and the Stompers . . . The third-place game between the Yaks and ERL was only the second third place game in MAW history. Way Too Beautiful defeated the Barrel Bruisers last July in the first consolation game . . . On Sunday, several tournament participants made their way Baluvelt, NY for the second week of the Palisades WBL season. Connor Young made his debut with the Brewers, picking up two wins while tossing six scoreless innings. Young’s ERL teammate, Dan Whitener, went 1-1, but did not allow a run over 11 innings while playing for the Yankees. April tournaments participants Jordan Robles (1 run, 5 IP) and TJ Hannon (7 runs, 5 IP) also pitched on Sunday in New York.

Quotable

The Longballs look on as ERL and the InHumans do battle on Sheff in an early round robin game.

The Longballs look on as ERL and the InHumans do battle on Sheff in an early round robin game.

  •  For a guy whose scouting report was that he has control problems at times, he certainly didn’t show it on Saturday. Had his fastball and screwball working. The fastball riser got on you before you could feel comfortable in the box. Wish we had a gun on Saturday because it would have been very interesting to see what his fastball was registering.” – Tim Cooke on ERL’s Dan Whitener
  • Depth. We needed depth. Especially with me deciding to play Palisades as well this year. I won’t be able to take on the kind of innings in a single day like last year.” – Soup on the decision to add Whitener
  • Having my kids push and encourage me definitely gave me extra motivation. Ultimately, I am just pleased we had some success and they got a taste for professional Wiffle Ball and had a blast . . . We will be back!” – Dave Capobianco on his tournament experience
  • Our bats weren’t as good as we had hoped. Potter – I mean – once he gets going it is just scary to face him. I am glad he is on my team. It took him a few games to get going, but once he got going he was just crushing the ball.” – Adam Milsted on the Yaks’ offense

Postseason Race

With two tournaments under our belt, it is time to take a first glance at the overall standings.

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The Stompers put a little distance between themselves and the rest of the field but with four tournaments remaining, the top spot is still up for grabs. ERL sits solidly in the second spot thanks to consecutive 5th and 3rd place finishes. Things get really muddied in the middle with five teams sitting between 12 and 14 points. The runners up at the first two tournaments – Naturals and New School Risers – could be sitting pretty if they can repeat or better their prior finish at an upcoming tournament. The Yaks have yet to fire on all cylinders, yet still are right in the thick of things thanks in large part to their fourth place finish at Torneo de Wiffs. A top two finish in an upcoming tournament would put them in prime shape for a solid playoff seed.

With 15 teams competing over the first two tournaments, the Championship Tournament purse is on pace to top $1,800 dollars.* There is still more than enough time for returning teams and new teams to grab a spot in the six-team Championship Tournament with four tournaments – including the Canonsburg auto qualifier – yet to come!

* The cited Championship Tournament purse is based on 45 teams over six tournaments. The actual amount could be more or less depending on the number of teams that participate in the regular season tournaments.

Up Next

Dan Potter (Yaks) makes the throw home after fielding a grounder in a pivotal game against the Ridley Park Longballs.

Dan Potter (Yaks) makes the throw home after fielding a grounder in a pivotal game against the Ridley Park Longballs.

Can you think of a better way to spend Father’s Day weekend than playing Wiffle Ball? We can’t! Join us on Saturday, June 16th in York, PA for Wiffle Wars – the third tournament of the 2018 MAW regular season!  A handful of teams are already committed for the event and interest in this one is high. This could very well end up being one of the most competitive tournaments of the summer anywhere, so don’t wait to sign up! Contact timcooke1982@gmail.com or visit www.midatlanticwiffle.com for more information!

After June, MAW returns to York twice more in 2018 on July 14th and August 4th. It is not too early to register for either of those events, both of which promise to be ultra-competitive as the season heads down the home stretch.

Last but certainly not least, MAW caps off the regular season with our debut in Canonsburg, PA on August 18th. Located just outside of Pittsburgh and home to our friends and co-tournament sponsors, the Wiff is Life League, Canonsburg is an ideal location for teams in Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia looking to compete. Not to mention, the winner of the tournament receives an automatic bid to the MAW Championship Tournament on Saturday, September 8. This is a tremendous opportunity for teams from anywhere in the country to test themselves against top notch competition, win some cash, and earn a chance at winning even more come the Championship Tournament.

And as always, check out our friends at www.wiffleballtournaments.com for the latest information on tournaments and leagues all around the country. Whether is with MAW or elsewhere, get out there and play ball!

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 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.