Wiff is Life League

Canonsburg Classic (August 18, 2018) Tournament Recap

Gino Joseph (Left) and Austin Berger (Right) shake hands following the 3rd place game.

Gino Joseph (Left) and Austin Berger (Right) shake hands following the 3rd place game.

The hungry and talented 2018 NWLA Tournament Champions on the hunt for another 2018 tournament title. A second-time tournament team seeking marked improvement over their recent debut. One of the most active and best teams in the country over the past thirty-five days. The second-place team in the 2018 MAW point standings joined by – for one day only – a key player on the team they are looking up at in the standings.

This was the eclectic four-team field that assembled in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania for MAW’s final tournament of the 2018 season and the organization’s first regular season tournament away from Shi Wiffleball Park. As different as these four teams are in terms of makeup and motivation, they were nonetheless evenly matched. Of the eight games played on Saturday, all but one was decided by three runs or less and six came down to just a single run. There was little margin of error for any team the entire tournament.

After a disappointing – but not all that atypical – tournament debut on August 4th, the Revolution’s Gino Joseph vowed to one day be among the best in the game. If the improvement Gino showed in the two-weeks between Backyard Brawl and the Canonsburg Classic is indicative of his future learning curve, he will reach his goal sooner than anyone expected.

On the 4th Gino – working mainly with non-scuffed, beat up balls – struggled with his command to the tune of a 58% walk rate. His 3-pitch mix of riser, drop, and screwball was impressive for a rookie, but the strike zone eluded him. On the 18th, Gino showed up in Canonsburg with that same 3-pitch mix, only this time he brought along added velocity and much improved command. The results speak for themselves. Joseph allowed 14 runs while working all 18 innings for the Revolution. His 3.11 ERA (per 4 IP) is a drastic improvement over his 24.00 ERA in five innings two weeks earlier. Aside from an 8-0 loss to the Stompers, Joseph kept opposing hitters in check and gave his offense plenty of chances to pull out a victory. The Revolution once again went winless but if they can find a way to put up a few runs for their ace and perhaps develop another pitcher behind Gino, they will have an opportunity to make some noise in 2019.

Just one month earlier, the Wiff is Life League (“WILL”) sent shockwaves throughout the National Wiffleball League Association (“NWLA”) ranks when their team went 5-0 in the double elimination round of the NWLA Tournament to take home the title. Like many teams over the years, the WILL Waves’ ascension to tournament champions was quick and sudden, prompting some to label them as a Cinderella squad – the beneficiaries of one magical day. For their part, the Waves have brushed off those remarks and plan to prove that what happened in Morenci was no fluke.

Mike Graziani (Waves) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

Mike Graziani (Waves) gets ready to deliver a pitch.

To their immense credit, the Waves have not rested on their laurels, instead taking on the challenge of competing in a tournament with vastly different rules than the NWLA Tournament. Armed with cut balls and big barrel bats, the Waves made relatively quick work of the Revolution behind Mike Graziani’s arm (5 IP, 0 runs, 14 K’s) and Jake Davey’s bat (3-6, 2B, 3B, 2 R).

Steven Keelon – who held a lean and locked in My Name is ERL offense of Connor Young, Gerard Fitzgerald, and Dan Whitener to two runs over three innings back at MAW’s June event – took the ball against the Lemon Heads in game two. Keelon immediately walked the first three batters, which threatened to place his team in an insurmountable hole. That’s when Davey and the Waves’ experience with larger rosters – common at the NWLA tournament – came into play. The Waves went with a 3-man lineup this game to give their better hitters as many reps as possible. With Keelon unable to find the zone, Davey summoned ace Austin Berger off the bench to put the fire out. Berger nearly did that as he struck out the side but not before allowing a pair of runs on two wild pitches. The Waves immediately fought back in the bottom half of the inning, scoring one run and stranding a couple more. Berger kept the Lemon Heads in check the rest of the way, striking out 15 batters and allowing just a single hit. Davey went to his bench once again in the bottom of the 5th – subbing Graziani in for Berger as a pinch hitter with the idea that Mike would stay in as the pitcher should the Waves tie the game – but Graziani went down swinging to finish off a 2-1 defeat.

[WATCH: Lemon Heads vs. Waves Full Game]

Berger got right back at it against the Stompers, racking up an additional nine K’s thanks to a plus screwball that he was able to locate on both sides of the zone. Unfortunately, one pitch told the story of this game for Berger and the Waves and they fell to the Stompers 1-0. The Waves finished strong, defeating the Revolution in the third-place game behind a tag team effort on the carpet from Graziani and Davey. While they certainly hoped to reach the title game, the Waves’ proved that no matter the rules, they can compete with top-level teams. Their +4-run differential was the second best of the tournament. Keep an eye out for the Waves in MAW and elsewhere next year – these guys are gamers no matter the style of play.

The Lemon Heads made the long trek from New Jersey to western Pennsylvania in search of their first tournament title. The Lemon Heads made their first appearance of 2018 back at MAW’s Backyard Brawl on July 14th. Heading into Canonsburg, the team had played in three competitive fast pitch tournaments in just over a month, compiling an impressive record of 13-4 along the way. Over the past month and change, there haven’t been many teams better anywhere in the country than the Lemon Heads.

Despite those quality results, the Lemon Heads arrived in Canonsburg still in search of their first tournament title. For much of the day, it looked like they were going to get what they came for. The group picked up a huge early win when they knocked off the Stompers 1-0 thanks to triples from Tim Beck and Dave Clark. The team’s ace, Ray Lutick, took over from that point, pitching his squad past the Waves and Revolution in a pair of low scoring contests. The Lemon Heads had strong at bats all tournament long and their offense continues to improve every time out. They found ways to score just enough runs to make Lutick’s strong pitching performances stand up.

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) went 3-1 on the carpet and within run of pitching his team to their first tournament championship.

Ray Lutick (Lemon Heads) went 3-1 on the carpet and within run of pitching his team to their first tournament championship.

At 3-0, the team seemed well-positioned to win that elusive championship. For nine innings, Lutick – working his fourth game of the day – went toe-to-toe with his much fresher opponent, the Stompers’ Chris Sarno. Unfortunately, it was heartbreak yet again for the Jersey boys. In the top of the 9th, Sarno hit a solo home run to give his team the lead and then shut the door in the bottom half of the inning on the carpet. Nonetheless, the second-place finish is the Lemon Heads’ highest finish in a tournament this season and it moved them ahead of the Barrel Bruisers for the fourth spot in the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament.

As for the Stompers, the 2017 Mid Atlantic champs came to Canonsburg with a somewhat surprising addition in the person of ERL’s Blake Hoffman. ERL pulled out of the tournament the week of, leaving the Ohio native without a team to play on. Hoffman hooked on with the rival Stompers, who forewent a chance at earning crucial playoff points by making the move. The addition allowed the Stompers to save Chris Sarno for the finals while Hoffman handled all the pool play pitching duties. Hoffman was on his game, allowing only a single run over 14 innings of work as he pitched his temporary team into the finals. For good measure, the 2018 MAW Rookie of the Year candidate hit a homerun versus the Revolution and appears to be peaking at the right time both at the plate and on the carpet.

Not to be outdone, however, was Hoffman’s teammate for the day, Chris Sarno. Chris was the star of the tournament thanks to two game winning home runs and an excellent nine inning title game pitching performance. In earning his second tournament MVP honor of the season, Sarno has placed himself near the top of the shortlist of season MVP candidates. Perhaps more importantly, after a slightly down – by his own lofty standards – pitching display in July and after sitting out the August 4th tournament, Sarno showed he is locked in and ready to go on in three weeks at the Championship Tournament.

Here and There

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When the Waves defeated the Revolution in their first game of the tournament, they joked about finally winning a pool play game this season. While the Waves did have a pool play win already – at MAW Wiffle Wars this June – they went 0-2-1 in pool play at the NWLA tournament before rattling off five straight to win the title . . . In that regard at least, the Lemon Heads are the polar opposite of the Waves. The Jersey quartet is now an unbelievable 16-1 in non-elimination games and 0-4 in elimination games on the year . . . Sarno’s MVP performance was extra special as it came in front of family members, including his new fiancé. Sarno – who is used to traveling upwards of five hours to play in tournaments – lives just miles away from the Canonsburg tourney site . . . MAW debuted new logo target strike zones at the tournament . . . When asked by a teammate if he was aware of the wild pitch rule that allowed two runs to score against the Lemon Heads, Berger said that he was but temporarily forgot. “If I remembered, I wouldn’t have thrown the riser,” Berger added . . . The 9-inning championship game between the Stompers and Lemon Heads marked the fourth time this season that a game has gone beyond six innings. At least one of the Stompers or ERL have competed in each of the four games . . . MAW tournaments have been blessed with great weather during the organization’s two-year existence. Rain was forecasted for Saturday, but the weather largely held up, save for a few sun showers during the 3rd place game and championship game . . . MAW officials would like to thank Jake Davey and WILL for their hospitality all weekend.

Championship Tournament Point Standing Update

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When it comes to post-season positioning, the Lemon Heads were the big winners in Canonsburg, leap frogging over the Barrel Bruisers into fourth place in the playoff point standings. While that outcome does not alter the first round Championship Tournament match ups, the Lemon Heads do pick up home field advantage in the opening round. With the Stompers ineligible to earn points in Canonsburg, the top two spots remained the same even though ERL was inactive. Although they were also inactive, the Longballs secured the sixth and final spot in the Championship Tournament as a result of neither the Waves nor Revolution winning the auto bid.

With that, we now know the identities of the six squads that earned their way to the no entry fee, invitation only Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament. Which one will emerge as the 2018 Mid Atlantic champions?

Up Next

Chris Sarno (Stompers) won his second tournament MVP award of the 2018 season by hitting two game winning home runs and shutting out the Lemon Heads in the championship game.

Chris Sarno (Stompers) won his second tournament MVP award of the 2018 season by hitting two game winning home runs and shutting out the Lemon Heads in the championship game.

To paraphrase the Stompers’ Jordan Robles, it’s championship season! We have reached the end of August, which means several major titles will be decided over the next six weeks.

Chief among those events is the second Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament, which emanates from Shi Wiffleball Park in York, PA on Saturday September 8th.  This unique six-team tournament – comprised of the top six team in the year-end playoff point standings – will kick off with a modified double elimination round with the 3rd – 6th seeds to decide which teams will join ERL and the Stompers in the semi-finals. The semi-finals and finals will both be Best of 3 series. The cash purse for this invitation only tournament is $2,500 and the final four teams will all finish in the money.

Stay tuned to midatlanticwiffle.com and the MAW social media accounts over the next two weeks for MUCH more on this major tournament!

2018 NWLA Tournament Coverage

NWLA Tournament official Carl Coffee shares his takeaways from this year's tournament, several players and observers share their thoughts on the tournament action, and The Drop's Paul Cooke breaks down the strategy and skills behind winning the tournament by examining this year's champions the Wiff is Life League Waves.

YEAR 7

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By: Carl Coffee

Carl is a longtime member of the NWLA Tournament Organizing Committee and one of the founders of the tournament.

The NWLA Tournament has an interesting history.

The first five years Chris Gallaway ran the tournament and outdid himself each year. Year 6 was not a failure, but it sure was not a success. Wifflers care deeply about stats and videos and we got both wrong. Year 7 to me was a do-or-die year for this tournament. If we once again failed to give wifflers basic stats and video, I am not 100% certain there would be enough interest for a Year 8.

Running a tournament takes a lot of work, but there is no tournament without the players. You get thanked a lot from gracious wifflers who appreciate the hard work you put in to make this tournament run. However, wifflers also need to be thanked. Thank you for driving to a town of 2,200 people with one stop light and crappy cell phone coverage. Thank you for cheering on your All-Star teammates on Friday Night when you probably would rather be in your hotel getting ready for the many games you are about to play. Thank you for embracing the ball boys who look up to so many of you and can’t wait to see you next year. This tournament is nothing without the players and I am not sure I have thanked you all before.

As a tournament organizer, this was my favorite year.

The NWLA Tournament has been very predictable. For six years, it was constantly the same teams in the top four. I would not say it had gotten boring, but we needed a shakeup. Wiff is Life League (WILL) came in last year very confident, only to go 0-2 in Double Elimination and sent to the Dangerfield Bracket, which is for the four 0-2 teams. They won that last year and then a year later they win the entire thing. From Dangerfield to NWLA Tournament Champs. That is the definition of a shakeup and it opens a door that has never been opened before.

WILL did it with team play. You can look at the past champions and if you took out their best player, there would be a lot of doubt that they still could have won. WILL is deep with talent, but I truly believe if you took out one of their impact guys, they would still make that run.

WILL did it at the plate. The NWLA tournament has been a pitcher’s tournament, until this year. The scoring this year was up. Are we finally seeing the hitters catch up to the pitching? Is it down because so many big pitchers (Farkas, Loftus, Butrym, Flakne, Harley) were out this year? Was the extreme heat and humidity too much for the pitchers? That is all up for debate, but it is clear WILL won because of their hitting.

What kind of door does this open? Other teams that have had a mediocre tournament history can ask themselves, “why not us?” WILL is a young team, with their oldest player this year only 21 years old. It also opens the door to bring in new, young leagues. There are a lot of young leagues out there who may have been worried about competing in years past. Seeing WILL shock the NWLA world could give them hope and finally be the persuading factor that gets them to the tournament.

I am very gracious that the Cooke brothers reached out to me to put this on “The Drop”. MAW and the NWLA Tournament are complete opposite styles, but we both play wiffleball. Yes, there are some players who only like one style, or one bat. I do believe however, that there are many others who just want to play in a well-run league, organization or tournament. They will adjust to any style of play. They simply want to play in something that is worth their time, money and effort.

The NWLA Tournament works because it is unique. Most competitive wifflers can trace their wiffle history to a league. We have pride in those leagues, and we want to show the country what our league can do. The league vs. league tournament format is something special. So special, that people will pay to come to Morenci, MI, in 92-degree weather, and play for nothing but a Cup and bragging rights.

I think Year 7 was a success.


QUOTABLE

I like the structure and how well organized the tournament is ran. Secondary would be how difficult and grueling the tournament actually is, having to play nine games in two days, my entire body was locking up. Not to mention we would have had to play two more games to win it all if we didn’t lose in the semifinals. Crazy.
— Nate Cruz, AWAA Outfielder & Palisades player-for-rent
This year’s tournament was special for many reasons. I think it cemented a few thigs. First was that we are part of a community that is special. We are spoiled to be able to play this game at a competitive level with so many quality guys. Second is that the tournament committee without Gallaway is continuing to work hard and improve the tournament. It’s awesome to see so much hard work pay off in a successful event. Third and on a personal level, it was special to spend the weekend with a great group of guys. We blew expectations out of the water and we have a lot to be proud of. As long as those three continue to happen, I will continue to attend this tournament.
— Caleb Jonkman, Griffle Ball League P/OF
The NWLA definitely has some talent that could develop into some powerhouse teams in the next couple years. 3 years ago TWBL played no scuff and Louisville slugger bats and we were quite similar in level of competition and style of play. Since we have learned about scuffed balls and gone and traveled to play in tournaments all around the country we have improved significantly. If you gave some of the power arms in NWLA a scuff ball they would pick it up very quickly and could definitely compete with some of the Texas teams.
— Will Marshall, Texas Wiffle Ball League Commissioner
Mike [Graziani] was huge for us all tournament. Last year he was just a pitcher and he worked hard this off season to hit for us and he did . . . Steve [Keelon] pitched well, this was his first time in the NWLA stage so nerves could have gotten to him a little, but when we needed him he locked in and stepped up . . . Jordan [Castelli] was a horse. He came back from last year fired up and ready to show people that he could play. Last year he struggled throwing strikes and was hitless all tourney. This year he is the tournament MVP! What a turnaround, props to him for his hard work and ambition to be the best player he can be . . . Tim [Marra] was a good kid to have on the team. He never gave up on the team and was a great teammate . . . Austin [Berger] was a horse on the mound. He threw 17 innings and went 2-0 in bracket play. He was our guy on the rubber . . . Nate got signed to the team hours before the deadline and we couldn’t be happier to have him on the squad. I’m so proud of Nate [Morris] and all I can say is one word about him - clutch . . . When Rob [Licht] is in there focused on Wiffle Ball and just that he’s one of the best players there. His contributions were huge on Sunday, including a big game vs. Griffleball in the winners bracket final, where he went 3 for 6 with 4 RBIs and a homer.
— Jake Davey, WILL Waves captain, on his team's performance

MAW Invades Canonsburg - Home of the 2018 NWLA Tournament Champion WILL WAVES

August is almost here which means the final two open tournaments of the 2018 MAW season! The last opportunity to play on our signature fields in York is on 8/4 with "Backyard Brawl". The "Canonsburg Classic" on 8/18 outside of Pittsburgh is a unique chance to compete alongside players from the NWLA Tournament winning Wiff is Life League Waves! Don't miss out!


THE ANATOMY OF A NWLA CHAMPION

A combination of strike-throwing, athleticism, and team chemistry led the Wiff is Life League Waves to the title.

A combination of strike-throwing, athleticism, and team chemistry led the Wiff is Life League Waves to the title.

By: Paul Cooke

In any game or sport, the rules dictate the strategy.

An understanding of that axiom is especially important in competitive Wiffle Ball. Rules among different Wiffle Ball organizations are so divergent that success in one variation of the game can require a completely different set of skills, strategy, and roster construction than what is required in another variation.

Regular readers of this site are likely familiar enough with the cut ball, non-base running, big barrel bat version of fast pitch Wiffle Ball to have a sense of the strategies and skills that foster success in that version of the game. But what about the clean ball, base running, yellow bat version of fast pitch Wiffle Ball played at the National Wiffle Ball League Association (“NWLA”) tournament? What does it take to succeed in that environment? Which attributes are unique to the NWLA Tournament rules and which universal winning attributes are necessary for success in Morenci?

As an outside, casual observer of the NWLA Tournament who is partial to the MAW, Fast Plastic or Palisades style of game, I honestly had no idea what it takes. To get a little closer to the answers, I set out to watch as many of the streamed games from the two-day tournament as I could, dive deep into the statistics post-tournament, and seek out the opinions of those that had different – and perhaps more relevant – views of the action in Morenci, Michigan than I did.

The best place to start is with the impact that clean balls have on NWLA Tournament games. By their very nature, clean balls are more difficult to control than a scuffed, bounced, or cut ball. That is why Wiffle Balls are altered or prepared in the first place. Logically then, a clean ball environment would lead to more balls thrown and more walks, unless the tournament pitchers as a group have mastered the art of throwing unscuffed.

Indeed, pitchers generally struggled to throw the ball over the plate at the NWLA Tournament. Over the course of the two-day event, 647 walks were issued in 2,679 plate appearances for a 24.1% tournament-wide walk rate. To provide some context, the walk rate in Palisades WBL – where the 5-3 ball-strike count is the same as the NWLA tournament – through the end of June was 15.8%. In MAW – with a 4-2 count – the organization-wide walk rate was 19.5% through the June tournament. The numbers don’t lie – relative to other fast pitch environments, the NWLA Tournament was heavy on free passes.

Without a more in-depth study – and a broader sample size – it cannot be definitively stated whether there is a significant correlation between clean balls and number of walks in the NWLA Tournament. There is, however, enough anecdotal evidence to suggest that it is at least a significant contributing factor. A single person and single tournament sample are never definitive proof of anything, but what if we were to compare Kyle Von Schleusingen’s walk rate in Palisades to his walk rate in the NWLA tournament where the same 5-3 count is used? Through the weekend of June 22nd, “K-Von” had an 11% walk rate in Palisades. At the NWLA Tournament, he walked 29% of the batters he faced. While still allowing for the possibility of other contributing factors – a random off day, a minor difference in the size of the strike zone between organizations – the main difference between those two organizations that would impact an individual pitcher’s walk rate is legal ball prep. It seems likely that K-Von was impacted by having to throw exclusively clean balls and if he was, it is safe to assume others are as well.

The Texas Wiffle Ball League’s Will Marshall was in attendance in Morenci as a spectator. In reflecting on the tournament at the request of The Drop, Marshall spoke to how clean balls can impact the competition.

“I forgot how hard it was to control the ball when it’s clean,” Marshall– whose league changed to cut balls a few years back – wrote when reached for comment. “I was surprised to see many pitchers who were supposed to be dominant that couldn’t throw strikes or would walk five to six guys in a row before figuring it out.”

Naturally then, team(s) or pitcher(s) that can limit the number of walks allowed hold a strategic advantage in the NWLA Tournament.

“You can't beat yourselves,” Jake Davey, the captain of the tournament winning WILL Waves, told The Drop, when asked how his team dealt with the high volume of walks. “If you pound the zone and make every team earn each run against you, you'll be in a good position to win every game. Austin Berger really showed that in the championship. He did not walk a guy and gave up two homers, but his consistent strikes only let both those be solo shots.”

Those that have seen the Waves in action can attest to the fact that by-and-large their pitchers lack the awesome stuff of a K-Von. The Waves pitchers – with the exception of Jordan Castelli and his power baseball-like curve – come right at hitters with relatively straight fast stuff.

“I think their [the Waves] pitching was decent but it was not lights out,” Marshall told The Drop when asked for an assessment of the tournament champions.

By contrast, Will singled out Kyle as a player that impressed him due to his ability “to make the ball move in all four planes.” Few would disagree that Kyle has better stuff than the Waves’ pitching staff but in that environment – at least on that day – the Waves’ ability to throw strikes regardless of stuff won out. It is true that in any form of Wiffle Ball, a pitcher – no matter how impressive his stuff is – cannot win consistently if he doesn’t throw strikes. In the clean ball, yellow bat, walk-heavy environment of the NWLA Tournament, however, the ability to throw the ball over the plate with decent velocity is perhaps more at a premium than it would be in other environments.

If you followed the scores as they came in over Twitter on Saturday and Sunday, you were probably struck as I was by the sheer volume of runs scored. For example, the 10:00 AM Saturday round yielded the following final scores: 27-0, 13-0, 18-3, and 23-0. While that group of games was on one extreme end of the spectrum, high scoring games were the rule – not the exception – at the NWLA Tournament. 54 games were played over the course of the two-day tournament. 629 runs scored during those 54 games, which averages out to 11.6 runs scored per game. For the sake of comparison, through three Mid Atlantic Wiffle tournament in 2018, 284 runs were scored in 51 games, which averages out to 5.6 runs per game. Through 66 games in the 2018 Palisades season (through the end of June), 292 runs were scored which averages out to 4.4 runs per game. Relative to those organizations, the NWLA tournament was contested in a very high run scoring environment.

The high volume of walks – which as discussed are a possible byproduct of clean balls – certainly contributed to the relatively high number of runs. However, the NWLA Tournament batting average of .282 is significantly higher than the batting averages through the end of June in MAW (.215) and Palisades (.195). By no means does this indicate that the hitters at the NWLA Tournament are more skilled, but simply that the high run environment was not influenced solely by the large number of walks. There was hitting to be found – including a homerun about every four at bats – in Morenci.

Will Marshall took note of the power output that came despite the use of the thin bats.

“I think what impressed me the most was the amount of homeruns hit even though it was yellow stick. Not all of the pitching was great, most pitchers can only rise or slide the ball with no scuff, but nonetheless there was a lot more offense than I had anticipated.”

Certainly, as Will alluded to, factors like the level of pitching talent – whether influenced by the clean balls or not – could and very likely did mitigate some of the offensive suppression expected in a yellow bat-only tournament.

For their part, the tournament champions hit well but did not outhit the rest of the field in any significant manner. Their team batting average of .299 was above tournament average while their home run rate of 7% was well below average.

The Barrel Bruisers' Jerry Hill participated in the NWLA qualifying tournament in Indianapolis and offered up that athleticism is a key difference maker in this particular environment.

"In NWLA, your athleticism can really shine. The ability to run the bases and make fast plays in the field is huge! That same skill set is a plus in MAW - just look at the "Wiffle Ninja", Dan Potter - however the game is a lot faster in the NWLA," Jerry explained. "You've got to make the play and beat the runner . . . Making contact is huge as you always have the ability to out-hustle the play and throw."

As a group, the Waves are both young and athletic which are helpful attributes in a base running tournament. While the Waves trailed behind their competition from a power perspective, they made up for it with their ability to beat out ground balls, take extra bases, and force their opponents into making defensive blunders. The base running element is perhaps the most significant difference between the NWLA Tournament style of play and the style of play found in MAW or elsewhere because of the way it impacts pitching, defense, and offense. When a ball is put into play in an NWLA Tournament game, a scramble – by the fielders and by the hitter – ensues in a way that is foreign to non-base running variations. The ability to field a team of all young, quality athletes undoubtedly plays up in that environment.

With the Waves’ success in the 2018 NWLA Tournament as a template, it seems reasonable to conclude that the ability to throw quality strikes – even if that means sacrificing movement – with a clean ball, the ability to take advantage of the large number of walks, the ability to hit for average with the yellow bat, and the athleticism necessary to gain an edge on the base paths, are keys to success in the NWLA Tournament. 

The tricky aspect of scouting a style of Wiffle Ball that is not your own is that we often filter performances through the lens of what we are most accustomed to. To discredit the Waves’ win – not that anyone is necessarily doing it – because their style may not or would not play in another form of the game is to miss the point. The team was built for this version of the game and executed their plan brilliantly. Likewise, I think it is safe to say that most would have done exactly as Jimmy Cole did and put K-Von on their team had the opportunity presented itself. He is far too talented of a pitcher not to. Yet while K-Von is an excellent pitcher in Palisades, he struggled with his command at the NWLA Tournament likely due to the clean ball rules. There were other players and teams at this year’s NWLA tournament that devotees of MAW and other organizations know perform better in other environments. It goes both ways, even it may lean heavily in one direction or the other. Talent evaluators who are able to watch different styles of Wiffle Ball and make the distinction between a general lack of skills and style-specific skills are ahead of the curve.

However, there are some elements of winning Wiffle Ball that are universal, particularly intangibles like competitive spirit, calmness under pressure, and team chemistry. It is hard to find anyone that didn't attribute at least some of the Waves’ success to their possession of these qualities.

“The key for me was that they [the Waves] always had good energy and were never “out” of a game. Even when they got down they fought back and came up with a clutch hit,” Marshall – who was absent for the Waves’ final games but watch them earlier in the tournament – remarked. “I did not get to know the players individually, but I did meet the whole squad at one point and got to chat with them. Very nice fellas who love Wiffle and I hope to see them continue to excel and grow as a league and as players!!”

In reflecting on his team’s championship run, Jake Davey also singled out the importance of battling and playing as a team.

“I just want to say how proud I am of the team,” Davey told The Drop. “Everyone did their part and had situations where if we didn't have them we couldn't have won. Jordan [Castelli] had a great tournament and nothing to take away from him, but everyone on our team could have earned the MVP award. Each person was valuable in their own way to the team’s success. Everyone was committed to the team, came to practice, and had that one goal in mind of winning it all. We all truly bought in and we did it.”

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.

The Scout #11: Jordan Castelli

Castelli (third from left) at the 2017 Wiffleball Bonanza in Ligonier, PA.

Castelli (third from left) at the 2017 Wiffleball Bonanza in Ligonier, PA.

Jordan Castelli might not have the same breadth of Wiffle Ball experience as others we have profiled, but few have as high of a ceiling. Along with Jake Davey, Mike Graziani, and Rob Licht, he is part of a strong core of high ceiling players in western Pennsylvania’s Wiff is Life League.

Castelli is a quarterback on the Division II California University of Pennsylvania football team.  The strong and accurate arm required for the quarterback position serves him well on the flat hill. Castelli has a smooth and easy motion. He generates plenty of power with his lower half and the plastic ball jumps out of his hand as a result. His go-to offering is a big breaking ball that better resembles a 12-6 baseball curveball than a traditional Wiffle Ball drop pitch. The pitch is a true plus offering with strong velocity and outstanding break. Jordan has demonstrated the ability to draw swings and misses on the non-scuffed pitch whether he challenges batters over the plate with it or buries it below the zone. At the Wiffleball Bonzana last July, Castelli befuddled opposing hitters relying almost exclusively on that one pitch. He is another young pitcher whom ball selection is not a big deal for. At the Bonzana, he was able to pick up any ball and throw it, without any decrease in velocity or break.

Castelli did not quite achieve the results he hoped for at his first NWLA Tournament last July, dropping a 1-0 game to the eventual champions the WSEM Dads and later suffering a second defeat at the hands of MNWA (4-0).  Walks appeared to be his undoing, although that might have been an anomaly. A week earlier at the Wiffleball Bonanza, the 6’1 right-hander pounded the zone with no issues. A third pitch to go along with the curve ball and overhand fastball would help Castelli take that next step on the rubber.

Jordan is one of the best hitters in hitter-friendly WILL. While a learning curve would be expected, there is little reason to believe he can’t turn himself into a strong hitter in an unrestricted speed environment with more reps. If Castelli plays in the MAW Canonsburg tournament this August, it will be interesting to see how he adapts in that environment both on the rubber and at the dish. The sky is the limit.

 

Offseason News & Notes #3

Winter Classic Sold Out!

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The 2018 MAW Winter Classic at Big League Dreams in Medford, New Jersey is officially sold out! Many thanks to the eight teams and all of the players that made it happen. The tournament promises to be a good one and the first step in what should be an excellent 2018 in the Mid Atlantic.

The Drop will preview the tournament in full next week, but in the meantime we can reveal the field and rosters as they currently stand.

  • Backdoor Sliders – Albany, NY – Jimmy Cole, Michael VanNostrand, Kris Morse, Anthony LaValley, TJ Loftus
  • Filthy Cheaters – Medford, NJ – Anthony Sacco, Tony Sacco, Rocco Circillo, Van Wiley, Aldo Morales
  • Fingerballzzzz – Pittsburgh, PA/Wilmington, DE – Chris Sarnowoski, Ben Stant
  • Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies – Morganville, NJ – Evan Rosenthal, Cory Rosenthal, Conor Benas
  • Giants – Kingston, NY – Ryan McElrath, Tim McElrath, Jordan Robles
  • My Name is ERL – Medford, NJ – Connor Young, Joe Schlindwein, Blake Hoffman
  • Re-Union – York, PA – Nick Shirey, Dan Potter, Lou Worthington, Mike Soltesz
  • Sause Squad – Newtown, PA – Christian Kulczytzky, Blake Fink, Jason Fink, Kyle Brockett, Bryan Goldman

Although we cannot accept any new teams at this time, there might be spots available for individual players wishing to play. Please contract Tim Cooke at timcooke1982@gmail.com or 301-661-7980 if interested in playing.

Road Trip! MAW Debuts in Canonsburg in 2018

In partnership with our friends at the Wiff is Life League (“WILL”), MAW is hosting a regular season tournament this summer in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania! The single day tournament is scheduled for Saturday, August 18th and will be played under MAW rules. Canonsburg is approximately 30 minutes south of Pittsburgh, 2 ½ hours east of Columbus, 2 ½ hours south of Cleveland, and 2 ½ hours west of Altoona, making it a centrally located spot for players in eastern Ohio, west and central Pennsylvania, and West Virginia.

We will have all the details on the tournament – including the ability to register a team – available in the very near future. In the meantime, MAW officials can confirm the following details. The Canonsburg tournament will be a normal 2018 MAW regular season tournament, meaning it will be contested under MAW rules and participating teams will have the ability to earn points towards the MAW Championship Tournament.  As always, a significant cash prize (dependent on the size of the field) will be awarded to the winning team.

Not everything will be the same, however. We are pleased to announce that the Canonsburg tournament will be an auto-qualifier for the MAW Championship Tournament in September. That means the winning team will automatically qualify for the Championship Tournament. This is a great opportunity for teams further west to instantly qualify for the Championship Tournament and the Championship cash prize, which totaled $1,400 last season.

Stay tuned to www.midatlanticwiffle.com and Wiff is Life League for full details and registration as they become available.

CFOT Season 2 Kicks off Tonight

In other indoor wiffle news, Cross Fit OldTown kicks off its second league season this Friday with a full slate of games. Last winter, Jerry Hill had the inspired idea to host an evening wiffle league for members of his Cross Fit gym in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. The league spurred the formation of the Barrel Bruisers, who played in both the Potomac Wiffle® Ball League and Mid Atlantic Wiffle in 2017. The Bruisers contended all year in Mid Atlantic and spawned not one but three Rookie of the Year candidates in Hill, Chris Owen, and Ryan Doeppel.

No doubt Jerry will be looking to find the next Owen and Doeppel this winter as the Bruisers look to reload for 2018. The Bruisers reportedly have several roster spots open as only Jerry and Chris are relatively assured to return from the 2017 squad. It’s a solid base – Chris was among the most improved players in MAW last summer – and Hill is reportedly hoping to use the league to find another player or two to round out the Bruisers’ 2018 roster.

MAW’s The DROP will be in Alexandria for the league’s second week of play on January 19th. Look for a report on the site shortly thereafter.