York Yaks

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament: Timeline

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The 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship began at 9:10 AM ET with the Longballs’ Tyler Nachbar taking a called strike from the Yaks’ Jarod Laird and ended nine hours later with a walk off single in extra innings of Game 3 of the championship series. Here are some of the moments - one from each of the day’s thirteen games - that defined the tournament.

9:20 AM – Sheff - Longballs vs. yaks
Harshaw’s Home Run

After Sean Bingnear reached on a walk and Colin Pollag struck out to start the bottom of the 2nd inning, Longballs’ captain Dylan Harshaw stepped in the box against the Yaks’ Jared Laird. Behind in the count 0-2, Harshaw deposited a hanging drop pitch over the Wall of Wifflers to put the Longballs up 2-0. The Ridley Park crew would hold on to take game one.

10:12 AM – Buffalo - Bruisers vs. Lemon Heads
“Yea Baby!” - Hill Escapes jam & Celebrates

With two outs in the bottom of the 5th and the winning run in scoring position, the Barrel Bruiser’s Jerry Hill got the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick to ground back towards the carpet. Jerry pounced on the ball, partook in a rare mid-play celebration, and competed the throw to escape the jam. Although the Bruisers would eventually lose in six innings on total bases, the Bruisers gave the eventual runners up all they could handle.

10:40 AM – Buffalo - Longballs vs. Lemon Heads
Pollag’s HR Sends the Longballs to the Semi’s

In a battle to see who would face the Stompers in the semi-finals, the Jersey Lemon Heads and Ridley Park Longballs entered the 3rd inning locked at zero. After taking a riser right over the plate, Colin Pollag unloaded on a Ray Lutick dropper and deposited the ball over the left field fence. The solo shot held up and the Longballs punched their ticket to the semi-finals

11:10 AM – Sheff – Barrel Bruisers vs. York Yaks
That was brutal” – Milsted & the Yaks stay alive

Adam Milsted paints the outside corner of the strike zone to get Jerry Hill looking. The strikeout keeps the Yaks’ championship hopes alive while eliminating the Barrel Bruisers from the tournament.

11:50 AM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. York Yaks
Clark’s Clutch 2b Puts the Lemon Heads in Front

Things changed in a hurry in the Lemon Heads and Yaks elimination game. With two outs in the third and no score, Ray Lutick draws a walk and Dave Clark immediately cashes in with an RBI double. The Lemon Heads hold on and secure the last spot in the semi-finals, eliminating the Yaks in the process.

12:29 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G1)
Clark’s Triple Knocks out Hoffman

Dave Clark brings Blake Hoffman’s day on the mound to a premature end with a 2-run triple in the top of the first inning. Connor Young would stem the tide, but the damage was already done and the Lemon Heads take game one.

12:35 PM – Buffalo – Longballs vs. Stompers (G1)
Robles Goes Deep in First At Bat

In his first at bat of the Championship Tournament, 2017 Championship Tournament MVP Jordan Robles went deep off the Longballs’ Sean Bingnear. The run stood up and the Stompers took game one of the semi-finals by a score of 1-0.

1:35 PM – Buffalo – Stompers vs. Longballs (g2)
Sarno Strikes Out Bingnear; Stompers advance

With a steady rain falling, two runners on, and two outs, Sarno trikes out Sean Bingnear to wrap up a win for the Stompers and send the Longballs home.

2:22 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G2)
“I’ve got plenty left!” – Soup Forces a Game 3

Mere minutes after breaking a 7th inning tie with a solo home run, Connor Young finishes off the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick to force a game 3.

3:19 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. ERL (G3 - post-game)
“We’re really excited. We don’t get here often.” – Lemon Heads Advance to the Finals

Moments after punching their ticket to the finals, the Lemon Heads chat with MAW’s Nick Schaefer about their improbable run to the finals 

4:11 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (g1)
Tim Beck & the Lemon Heads Strike First

Tim Beck stays hot by taking Jordan Robles deep to straight away center for a second inning solo home run. Ray Lutick would see to it that the run held up and the Lemon Heads take the first game of the Championship Series 1-0.

4:45 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (G2)
Robles Strikes Backs

Robles extracts a small measure of revenge with a home run of his own in Game 2. The Stompers tack on several runs from there to even the series at one game apiece.

6:09 PM – Sheff – Lemon Heads vs. Stompers (G3)
There It is!” - Tim Cooke Walks It Off

The marathon final game of the day comes to an end in the 7th inning when Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke singles back up the middle to drive in the game’s only run, giving the Stompers both the game and the 2018 Championship

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament Recap

The Stompers’ Jordan Robes delivers a pitch to the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick during the championship series with ERL’s Connor Young providing commentary in the background.

The Stompers’ Jordan Robes delivers a pitch to the Lemon Heads’ Ray Lutick during the championship series with ERL’s Connor Young providing commentary in the background.

Six months ago, Mid Atlantic’s sophomore season commenced with the 8-team Opening Day tournament. In The Drop’s recap of that event, we highlighted the well-balanced nature of the field by noting that thirteen of the tournament’s fifteen games were decided by three runs or less. As it turned out, that level of balance and competitiveness would be a staple of the 2018 MAW season.

It is only fitting, therefore, that the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament – the culmination of the MAW summer season – was yet another tournament decided by the thinnest of margins. Of the thirteen games played on Saturday, eleven were decided by three runs or less. Two of the three 3-game series went the distance, a trio of games required extra innings, and the eventual runners up were one out away from losing their very first game of the day to the one team that went winless in the tournament. From the very first pitch of the day to the very last, there was little margin of error for any team or any player.


The Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill delivers a pitch while teammate Tony Manelli gets set in the infield.

The Barrel Bruisers’ Jerry Hill delivers a pitch while teammate Tony Manelli gets set in the infield.

The tournament format ensured that one team – and only one team – would leave York without a win. While the smart money was on that team being the Barrel Bruisers – which ultimately would be the case – no team better exemplified the nail-biting nature of this tournament. Bucking conventional wisdom, captain Jerry Hill took the ball in his team’s first game against the Lemon Heads. When the Lemon Heads’ Tim Beck allowed a pair of runs in the first – and was quickly removed in favor of Ray Lutick – Hill recognized a big opening to pull off an upset. At a stage where most wifflers are putting their plastic balls away for good, Hill has quietly and steadily grown into a solid pitcher. Working out of the stretch and relying heavily on a three-quarters drop, Hill pitched the game of his Wiffle Ball life against the Lemon Heads, holding them scoreless through three innings while the Bruisers clung to their two-run lead. 

A familiar refrain for the Barrel Bruisers this year has been their inability to close out games late. Unfortunately for them, that refrain would play out one more time this season. In the 4th inning, the Lemon Heads put together a string of patient at bats, which led to their first run of the game. With the bases loaded, Hill only needed a single out to pull off the shocker but issued a game tying walk instead. Jerry rebounded immediately by getting the final out of the inning and escaping another jam in the 5th, but the damage had already been done. The Barrel Bruisers dropped their opener on total bases and couldn’t muster up any magic against the Yaks, exiting the tournament in two games.

One out removed from pulling off a major upset to two-and-done, the Bruisers will carry that sudden turn-of-events with them all winter long. However, their tournament – as brief as it was – is also a testament to the their tenacity and competitive nature.  


Dylan Harshaw of the Longballs digs in during a semi-final series game.

Dylan Harshaw of the Longballs digs in during a semi-final series game.

In the Championship Tournament preview, we pointed to the Ridley Park Longballs’ depth as their greatest strength and the major reason why they had a chance at winning it all. The Longballs didn’t disappoint in that regard, steamrolling through the double elimination portion of the day thanks to contributions from all four team members. In going 2-0 and grabbing the #3 seed, the Longballs took down both the York Yaks and Lemon Heads. Although the games were anything but, the Longballs made those early games look easy through a combination of shutdown pitching and timely hitting.

Sean Bingnear – the 2018 MAW Rookie of the Year runner up – handled a tough Yaks’ squad with the command and poise of a veteran. The Yaks took quality swings against Bingnear from the first pitch to the last, but the hard throwing righty continually found ways to get them out. The fact that the Longballs were so willing and able to use their best arm in the first game was, if nothing else, a testament to their ballyhooed depth. Southpaw Tyler Nachbar picked right up where Bingnear left off when facing the Lemon Heads in game two. Nachbar – with one win against the Lemon Heads already on the season – allowed his opponents very few scoring opportunities and pitched his team to a narrow 1-0 win. Although Nachbar and Bingnear are considered rookies for MAW award purposes, the poise they showed in pressure situations on Saturday is a direct result of their years of experience in the Ridley Park Wiffleball League and their national experience at the NWLA Tournament.

All the shutout innings in the world from Bingnear and Nachbar may have been for not if it wasn’t for the clutch hitting of their teammates, Dylan Harshaw and Colin Pollag. Harshaw got the scoring going with a two-run opposite field blast off a game Jared Laird in the Longballs’ opener. Against the Lemon Heads, it was the Colin Pollag show. Pollag hit Ray Lutick as well as any player all tournament long, picking up three hits including a solo shot. The solo home run – a no doubter that Colin pulled over the left field fence on Buffalo – held up as the game winner. So good was Pollag against the Lutick that late in the game Ray decided to intentionally walk Colin rather than risk any further damage.

Although the Longballs’ bats could not solve Chris Sarnowski in the semi-finals – leading to a quiet exit in the semi-finals – the Ridley Park crew were the most impressive of any team in the opening round thanks to their vaunted depth. If the Longballs add Tommy Loftus to their MAW roster next season – which they are rumored to do – that depth is only going to get deeper and scarier.


First year Yak Adam Milsted delivers a pitch to the Bruisers’ Jerry Hill in the day’s first elimination game.

First year Yak Adam Milsted delivers a pitch to the Bruisers’ Jerry Hill in the day’s first elimination game.

In the finals of the repechage bracket, the York Yaks’ Adam Milsted was cruising right along through the first 2 2/3’s innings. Sure, the Yaks’ offense still had that pesky task of trying to figure out how to score off Ray Lutick but it looked as if Milsted was going to give the offense ample time to figure Ray out. Games could – and did – change in an instance all day long, however, and Milsted was about to experience that firsthand.

With two outs in the third, Milsted temporarily struggled with his mechanics and issued what looked to be a harmless walk to Lutick. One minute and one Dave Clark double later, that walk no longer looked so harmless. Just like that, the Yaks were staring down the barrel of elimination and were indeed knocked out not too long after.

It was that kind of day for the hometown team. Jared Laird appeared to have a little extra giddy up on his pitches against the Longballs, but a walk and well-timed home run did him in. The Yaks left the tournament with a +5 run differential, but that matters little when two games are lost by a combined margin of 3 runs. Milsted and Laird pitched reasonably well, but runs were hard to come by for the Yaks on this day. A key hit here or there from the Yaks’ hitters and the 2018 Championship Tournament may have played out in significantly different fashion.


With a steady rain falling around him, Connor Young (My Name is ERL) goes into his patented windup.

With a steady rain falling around him, Connor Young (My Name is ERL) goes into his patented windup.

Nobody can win on will alone. I know this to be true. But I would be lying if I didn’t admit to momentarily questioning that fact while watching Connor Young play in game two of the semi-final series.

The Championship Tournament did not go as the top seeded My Name is ERL planned. Pitching in a steady rain, Rookie of the Year winner Blake Hoffman struggled early in the first semi-final game against the Lemon Heads and got the hook before he ever got a chance to redeem himself. ERL’s offense struggled all game and a straight two-game sweep did not seem out of the question at the time.

Young, however, would not allow that to happen. He returned for game two – after a lengthy pause in the action – with even more steadfast resolve than he brings to a “normal” game. Soup pitched a brilliant game, exploiting whatever little holes could be found in the Lemon Heads’ lineup while waiting for his pitch at the plate.  

That pitch finally came in the top of the 7th inning with only one frame left to be played before the total bases tiebreaker kicked in. Young got a hold of a Lutick drop pitch and hit it out over the season awards wall in right-center – Young’s go-to home run spot on Sheff. Screaming out “I told you I’d get mine!” he returned to his bench and focused on finishing off the game. In the bottom half of the inning, Young made quick work of his opponents, punctuating the final strike out with a fist bump while loudly letting everyone know that he still had plenty left in the tank.

In the moment, it certainly seemed like Young would push his team into the finals any way possible. If winning was as simple as willing it into existence, Young and ERL almost certainly would have taken the third game of the series. It never is, however, and despite Young’s heroics and positive energy, ERL was bounced from the tournament before the championship series.


Ray Lutick of the Lemon Heads - shown here pitching to Colin Pollag - was named tournament MVP.

Ray Lutick of the Lemon Heads - shown here pitching to Colin Pollag - was named tournament MVP.

When MAW organizers put together the format for the six-team Championship Tournament prior to the start of the season, there was some concern about a team potentially playing nine games in a single day and the impact that might have on their pitchers. In the end, MAW concluded that it would take a perfect storm for that to happen. That team would have to start in the double elimination bracket and go two-for-three every single round, which from a pure odds standpoint was a long shot. In the unlikely event that storm occurred, surely that team would have to be at least three pitchers deep to get that far and thus there would not be too much strain placed on the arm of any one pitcher.

The problem with that logic was nobody took the Lemon Heads and Ray Lutick into account.

After a near loss to the Bruisers, the Lemon Heads weren’t as lucky against the Longballs and dropped to the loser’s bracket, thus ensuring they would play the maximum three games during the opening round. In getting by the Yaks, the Lemon Heads officially reached the semi-finals, but it would have been a stretch at that time to state that they had any significant momentum on their side. After all, they had scored just one run in three games entering the series with ERL. That didn’t matter one bit to this New Jersey-based club as they knew that with Ray on the mound, one timely hit per game was all that was required – momentum be damned.

The Lemon Heads, of course, are by no means a one-man team and that showed as the day progressed. Dave Clark had the game-defining hits against the Yaks and in game one of the ERL series. Tim Beck had the game winning hit in the third game against ERL and then he took Jordan Robles deep early in the first game of the finals. Ray’s pitching and the Lemon Head’s timely hitting helped create the aforementioned perfect storm whereby the Lemon Heads won when they got a timely hit and lost when they didn’t, resulting in the team playing the maximum number of games in the day.

Somehow Lutick’s right arm stayed in one piece through it all. Throwing the bulk of all nine games his team played, Ray racked up an unbelievable number of innings and strikeouts on his way to the tournament MVP award. The Lemon Heads long day is – in one respect – a once in a lifetime run. It is almost certainly not, however, the last time the Lemon Heads will be in the finals of a major tournament. And the scary thing is, this team is only going to get better. 


The Stompers’ Jordan Robles awaits a pitch during the Championship Series. Robles had a big home run and threw 18 quality innings in the series to pick up a second straight title for his team.

The Stompers’ Jordan Robles awaits a pitch during the Championship Series. Robles had a big home run and threw 18 quality innings in the series to pick up a second straight title for his team.

The Stompers franchise celebrated its 20th anniversary this season. After a rare crooked number win, the longest tenured members of the team will often joke that winning in that fashion is not “the Stompers’ way”. No matter the roster – which has obviously changed over the years – the Stompers have long made a habit out of making things hard on themselves. For a team that made its name on winning ugly, the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship turned out to be an appropriately themed anniversary gift.

The defending Mid Atlantic champions slogged through the rain to take two straight games from the Ridley Longballs thanks to two more shutout performances from Chris Sarno in a season full of them. The mere presence of rain was itself a reminder of the team’s past, as the franchise’s memorable 2003 postseason run took place almost entirely in wet conditions in both New Jersey and Texas.

With a fresh Jordan Robles on the carpet to start the finals, the Stompers felt good about their chances, but those good feelings went away in an instant courtesy of Tim Beck’s second inning home run. Just like that, the Stompers had their backs against the wall. The outlook improved slightly with a win game two, but even that was a drawn out contest marred by a disputed tag play. Speaking of long and drawn out, the deciding game of the series felt – at times – as if it would never end. The ever dangerous Chris Sarno was issued intentional walk after intentional walk, but the other Stompers’ failed to get him in. From the second inning through the seventh, the team had bases loaded each inning but failed to score. To the Stompers’ credit, Robles kept the Lemon Heads at bay and was never in serious danger of being scored upon in the third game. At long last – and appropriately enough – Stomper founder and captain Tim Cooke poked a Lutick dropper into centerfield for the game-ending single.

The path to a second straight Mid Atlantic title certainly wasn’t pretty, but then again with the Stompers, it rarely ever is.


Although the champion remained the same, there is no doubt that the 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship was a significant step up from the 2017 iteration. From the cash purse - up $1,200 to $2,500 - to the robust live streaming schedule and the previously mentioned high level of competition, everything was a little bit bigger and better this September. Even the rain couldn’t dampen what was a an excellent day of wiffs and a fitting end to a quality season in the Mid Atlantic. MAW officials would like to thank all of the Championship Tournament teams as well as every single team and player that competed in a Mid Atlantic tournament this season.

Planning is already under way for the 2019 season, which will be here sooner than you think . . .

2018 Championship Tournament Preview: York Yaks

Roster: Jared Laird, Adam Milsted, Dan Potter

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Playing Out Of: York, Pennsylvania

Seed: 3rd

2018 MAW Record: 8-15

Signature Wins: vs. Longballs 6-3 (5/5); vs. Lemon Heads 1-0 (8/4)

Versus Championship Tournament Teams: 4-9

First Game: vs. Longballs

Why They Will Win It All:  No trio on any other playoff team hit as many regular season home runs (16) as Laird (4), Milsted (4), and Potter (8). If those three are clicking on all cylinders offensively, they can make up for any pitching deficiencies the Yaks may have in the Championship Tournament. Any lineup that affords Potter an opportunity to hit at least once per inning is a potentially dangerous one. He is one of a few hitters in this tournament who can single-handedly take over with his bat. The Yaks’ 3-man offense has the potential to score runs in droves if everyone is locked in. That production could allow them to shorten a game or two by mercy rule and/or give Milsted a breather after getting out to a big lead.

Jared Laird had a sneakily solid season on the carpet, posting a 4.46 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. It is conceivable that the Yaks could squeeze a win out of Laird, which would take some pressure off Milsted. On August 4th, Milsted threw 15 shutout innings against a pair of playoff teams – Barrel Bruisers and Lemon Heads – and a quality Shortballs squad. Based off that single tournament performance, it is fair to assume that – on a really good day – Adam might have 20-ish quality innings in his arm, which might be just enough to help his team to the finish line if he gets an assist from Laird.

Perhaps most importantly, the veteran Yaks have become quite adept at finding ways to sneak into the later rounds of tournaments while still leaving bullets in the chamber for later. The Yaks don’t care how they survive, as long as they do. While other teams in the Championship Tournament might be tempted to shift into high gear in their very first game, the Yaks have demonstrated a willingness and ability to hold back early so that they can still put their best foot forward in elimination games. That experience could prove especially useful under this tournament format.

Why They Won’t:  The absence of Jarod Bull might be too big for the Yaks to overcome. If the Yaks had Bull, it would be relatively easy to chart a path to the finals for the hometown team. Without two top tier pitchers, it is far more difficult to see how Yaks will reach the championship series. Even if Laird gives the Yaks two quality games – which might be asking a lot – the team would still need at least four big performances form Milsted. In addition, the Yaks will be without team captain Nick Shirey, who is currently recovering from surgery to repair a torn labrum. The absence of Shirey deprives the team of one of their biggest on base threats. All told, there is a good chance the Yaks will run out of pitching at some point during the day and finish short of the finals.

Highlights:

2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament Overview

A memorable and competitive summer of Wiffleball in the Mid Atlantic area comes to a head on Saturday, September 8th at the second annual Mid Atlantic Championship tournament!

The six teams that have earned their way to this point will compete for $2,500 in cash prizes and the title of 2018 Mid Atlantic Champions. The teams competing on September 8th participated in multiple Mid Atlantic regular season tournaments, accrued points based on their finishes in those tournaments, and placed in the top six in the final point standings. The Championship field is a mix of veteran teams and players, several of the best players in the sport, and a plethora of up-and-coming players that – if they aren’t already – will very soon be on radar of every serious wiffler.

For ongoing team-by-team previews, see below and continue reading beyond the jump for a full run down of what you can expect to see on the 8th in York.

Ridley Park Longballs Preview
Barrel Bruisers Preview
Jersey Lemon Heads Preview
York Yaks Preview
Stompers Preview
My Name is ERL Preview

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The 2018 Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament is the culmination of a six-tournament regular season that began on April 14th in York, PA and wrapped up on August 18th in Canonsburg, PA. This is the second year in a row that MAW will host a championship tournament. The Stompers outlasted My Name is ERL, York Yaks, and Barrel Bruisers to win the 2017 Mid Atlantic Championship last October. The Championship Tournament field expanded from four teams to six teams prior to the 2018 season to account for the increased participation in Mid Atlantic tournaments.

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The top six teams in the point standings – as listed in the graphic above – all accepted their bids to the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament and will be in action on the 8th.

As announced prior to the start of the 2018 season, the six-team Championship Tournament format provides byes to the top two teams in the point standings – the Stompers and My Name is ERL. The remaining four teams will compete in a modified double elimination bracket to determine the 3rd and 4th seeds for the Best of 3 semi-finals. This is a double elimination bracket with one exception – the winner of the champion’s bracket and repechage bracket will not face each other. Instead, the team that goes 2-0 will become the #3 seed in the semi-finals and the team that goes 2-1 will become the #4 seed in the semi-finals. The other two teams will be eliminated from the Championship Tournament. The games in this opening round will be four inning regulation games. Home field advantage and the right to choose which field to play on during this round will belong to the highest seed. The Yaks, therefore, will hold home field advantage throughout this round.

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The semi-final round will kick off around noon with the Stompers (#2 seed) facing the team that comes out of the winner’s bracket and My Name is ERL (#1 seed) facing the team that comes out of the repechage bracket. The winners of these two Best of 3 series will meet in a Best of 3 championship series. All semi-final and championship series games will be five inning regulation games. Seeds will re-reset for the semi-finals and finals, with the team that comes out of the winner’s bracket assuming the #3 seed. The higher seeded team in the semi-finals and finals will have home field advantage in games one and three (if necessary), with the lower seeded team being home in the second game of each three game series.

The top four teams will finish in the money, meaning the two teams that survive the double elimination portion of the day will go home with a little cash for their accomplishment. The payout is as follows:

  • 3rd & 4th Place - $150 each
  • 2nd Place - $400
  • 1st Place - $1,800
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Games will start at approximately 9:00 AM ET. For those who want to follow along, MAW will go live on Facebook (www.facebook.com/midatlanticwiffle) at approximately 9:00 AM with the Longballs vs. Yaks game. The broadcast will continue straight on through to the winner’s bracket game, which will decide who will face the Stompers in the semi-finals. The morning broadcast will include commentary. In the afternoon, at least one semi-final game and one game in the finals will be streamed live. Follow the MAW Facebook page and MAW Twitter (@midatlanticwiff) to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the live action.

In addition, the 2018 Mid Atlantic regular season award winners will be announced in between the double elimination round and the semi-finals. Who is this year's Mike Palinczar Most Valuable Player award winner and this year's Joe Nord Rookie of the Year winner? Find out on the 8th!

Backyard Brawl (August 4, 2018) Tournament Recap

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ridley Park Talent On Display

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here and There

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

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

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

Championship Tournament Update

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

Up Next

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

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

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

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

Quick Championship Tournament Update

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The final tournament of the season is just two weeks away and the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament picture is coming in to focus. However, there are still plenty of moving pieces and potential spots up for grabs in Canonsburg, not to mention the Auto Bid that goes to the winning team of that tournament.

To recap, the top two teams in the point standings after the 18th will receive a bye to the semi-finals of the Championship Tournament. Seeds #3 through #6 will compete in a modified double elimination tournament (i.e. no final game between the winner’s bracket champion and the loser’s bracket champion) for the other two semi-final spots. The semi-finals and finals will then be best two-out-of-three series. Click here for an example of the Championship Tournament format.

After Backyard Brawl, there is a new name atop the leader board. For the first time this season, a team other than the Stompers occupies the top position. My Name is ERL made up a 10-point difference in one tournament by finishing first while the Stompers sat inactive. Both the Stompers and ERL have clinched a spot in the Championship tournament but both teams will be on action on August 18th. The Stompers have a lot of work to do – and will need some help – to regain the top position.

Mathematically, the Yaks could still overtake the Stompers for the coveted second spot but as of this date are not expected in Canonsburg. The Yaks have clinched the third seed in the Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament. None of the other teams currently in the top six – the Barrel Bruisers, Longballs, G€M or the Lemon Heads – have clinched a spot.

The biggest shake up to the Championship Tournament could occur if the winning team in Canonsburg is a team other than one of the seven listed above and that team accepts their auto bid. Under that scenario, the Lemon Heads and/or G€M would find themselves on the outside looking in if they are inactive on the 18th. Similarly, there could be some movement among the final four seeds depending on what happens on the 18th.

The season is going to go right down to the wire. Which teams will be tempt fate and which ones will try to take matters into their own hands in Canonsburg? We will find out in two weeks!

Backyard Brawl (August 4, 2018) Tournament Preview

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

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

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

Like our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/midatlanticwiffle) to be alerted the moment we go live.


Barrel Bruisers

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

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

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

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

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

Jersey Lemon Heads

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

Projected Roster: Matt Crispe, Ray Lutick, Tim Beck

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

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

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

Longballs

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

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

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

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

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

My Name is ERL

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

Projected Roster: Connor Young, Joe Schlindwein

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

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

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

The Revolution

2018 MAW Record: N/A

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

Pitchers: Unknown

2018 vs. Rest of the field: N/A

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

Shortballs

2018 MAW Record: N/A

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

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

2018 vs. Rest of the field: N/A

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

York Yaks

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

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

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

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

Keys to Success:

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

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

What’s at stake:

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

Prediction:

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

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.

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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!

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!

2018 Opening Day Tournament Recap

The Naturals (Top Left - Bottom Right): Jason Lombardozzi, Matt Herbek, David Herbek, Brian Herbek

The Naturals (Top Left - Bottom Right): Jason Lombardozzi, Matt Herbek, David Herbek, Brian Herbek

APRIL 14, 2018 (YORK, PA) – The first game of the day was a re-match of last year’s Championship Tournament finals. The last game of the day pitted the 2017 champions against one of the more impressive squads to debut in quite a while. In between those two games at Mid Atlantic Wiffle’s 2018 Opening Day tournament, we saw veteran teams struggle, new clubs make their mark, returning teams re-tool, and newcomers impress with their play. If the chaotic and competitive tournament is a harbinger of what’s in store for the rest of the season, we are in for one wild summer in the Mid Atlantic!

One of the joys of tournament Wiffle Ball is the discovery of new and talented teams. For most teams, it takes time – a couple of tournaments, maybe a couple of seasons – to transform into regular contenders. It is rare for a team to show up at a highly competitive tournament for the first time and fire on all cylinders. After Saturday, there is another team to add to the list.

The Naturals – a very appropriately named foursome from Virginia – made their major competitive Wiffle Ball tournament debut this Saturday in York. The team is comprised of the Herbek brothers – Brian, Dave, and Matt – along with Jason Lombardozzi. There are players with major collegiate baseball experience on the team, with Dave having starred at James Madison University and Lombardozzi at the University of Florida. The player’s baseball backgrounds were evident all day long in their business like and polished approach to every at bat.

Baseball accomplishments aside, the Naturals entered Saturday with little competitive Wiffle Ball experience, save for a single tournament a decade earlier. Undaunted, the team cerebrally took down one experienced pitcher after another. Adam Milsted (Way Too Beautiful), Connor Young (My Name is ERL), and Ben Stant (GCM), all fell victim to the newcomers on their march to the title game. Even the one veteran pitcher that managed to defeat The Naturals before the championship – the Stompers’ Nick Schaefer – was not entirely immune to the team’s impressive power. The Naturals hit six homeruns during the tournament – all no-doubters and all coming in big moments. Their approach at the plate and bigtime power was the talk of the tournament.

“We didn’t play in the pool with the Naturals but man can they hit!” Barrel Bruisers captain Jerry Hill told The Drop when asked which players or teams he hadn’t previously seen made an impression on him. “What impressed me most is how they adjusted even when fooled. They know how to drop their lower half and battle. These guys have obviously taken a lot of hacks in their lifetime and as they see more Wiffle pitches and get their timing they will be deadly.”

The Naturals proved they were far from a one trick pony on Saturday. Three out of the four team members took to the rubber and all three pitched reasonably well. Leading the way for the Naturals pitchers was tournament MVP Matt Herbek. Matt pitched three complete games for The Naturals and part of a fourth, covering 14 1/3 innings in total. On the day, Matt allowed just run one on three hits. Prior to the title game, he had allowed just two hits and no runs. Throwing a variety of pitches with very good velocity and solid break, Matt went right at opposing hitters all day long. He allowed just ten walks the entire tournament and only six before the championship game. Both Lombardozzi and Dave Herbek showed serious potential on the rubber, although both struggled to limit the free passes. The team fielded well. They made the routine plays and turned at least one double play like seasoned Wiffle Ball pros.

If the Natural’s hitting abilities were the talk of the tournament, their well-roundedness was a close second. When asked for a team – past or present – that The Naturals reminded him of, Stompers’ captain Tim Cooke was unable to provide a direct answer.

“They really don't remind me of a specific team from the past or present.  Not too many teams have their pitching quality and line up where everyone can contribute.”

Cooke received an up-close look at The Naturals, as they matched up with the Stompers in both pool play and again in the tournament championship. In the first meeting, the Stompers handed the ball to veteran Nick Schaefer. The 38-year old – criminally underrated his entire Wiffle career – found his pitching duties reduced to a one or two game matchup role this season with the return of Jordan Robles and the addition of Chris Sarnowski. Schaefer has as much big game pitching experience as any pitcher in the region and was up to the task against an opponent who to that point in the tournament hadn’t lost and hadn’t been scored upon. Schaefer came at The Naturals with a great game plan and even better execution, keeping them off balance for most of the four-inning game. Three walks and a two-run homerun off the bat of Dave Herbek were the only blemishes on Nick’s record that game. Schaefer also shined at the plate, hitting a two-run shot in the second inning that put the Stompers ahead for good.

“The biggest game of the day for us was game three against The Naturals,” Cooke recounted after the tournament.  “Lose to them, we play Ben Stant in the semi-finals instead of the Cuban Raft Riders.  Also wanted to put Nick in a situation where he could test where he is at physically.  Had no doubt he would deliver and that was a really good hitting team . . . He [Schaefer] is very crafty and understands how to pitch.  He doesn't have the velocity that he once had, but he has the pitching knowledge to know what he needs to do to compensate.”

In the finals, the Stompers went with their relatively fresh ace, Robles, against Matt Herbek, who had already worked more than ten innings on the day. That heavy workload may have taken its toll on Matt, as he was uncharacteristically wild in the first inning. He loaded the bases on walks with one out, before walking the number five hitter, Paul Cooke, to plate an early run. Matt recovered and allowed only one hit – a third inning triple by Paul – but the damage had already been done.

Jordan Robles was nearly untouchable in the tournament finals.

Jordan Robles was nearly untouchable in the tournament finals.

Robles – who threw just four stress-free innings prior to the title game – pitched a brilliant game. Relying heavily on a low sidearm drop, Robles kept a dangerous lineup off balance for all five innings. Jordan did not allow a hit or a walk the entire game and came one 5th inning groundball out short of an all strikeouts perfect game.

The victory gave the Stompers their third straight tournament victory (including October’s Championship Tournament) and an early lead in what promises to be a long and winding playoff race. The team received contributions up and down the lineup and were the only unit to have three different pitchers win a game. As impressive as his team was in victory, Cooke was equally as impressed with the Stompers’ championship game opponents.

“The finals against Jordan wasn't representative of what they [The Naturals] were doing all day.  That's also a statement about how good Jordan was in the finals.  Fourteen strikeouts with only one ball put into play against a team that had homered in all four prior games . . . I hope they [The Naturals] come back.  Those games were a ton of fun and they have the chance to be a very special team.”

Veteran Teams Struggle

It was a difficult opening tournament for several veteran and returning teams.

Soup delivers a pitch in round robin versus the Naturals.

Soup delivers a pitch in round robin versus the Naturals.

My Name is ERL dropped a pair of 1-0 heartbreakers to The Naturals and Stompers in the loaded A-Block, before salvaging their tournament with a win against Way Too Beautiful. The story in both losses was one pitch from Connor “Soup” Young – a riser in both cases – that brought in the games’ only runs.

“I wouldn't have thrown that riser that's for sure,” Soup stated when asked what – if anything – he might have done differently in the tournament. “Both games we lost were on the riser. I felt really good, I just missed a couple spots. Both were good pieces of hitting . . . I just know I could have avoided it. I'll learn from it and be back tougher at the next event.”

Things also did not go quite as planned for another New Jersey squad, Way Too Beautiful. The veteran club was stuck in the difficult A Block and were swept out of the tournament in three straight. Adam Milsted was the first victim of The Naturals’ bats, Ian Crosby fell 5-2 to the Stompers, and Brett Poulton lost 1-0 to ERL in the Battle for New Jersey. The tournament was likely the only appearance for W2B in Mid Atlantic this year, as Adam Milsted will be playing the remainder of the season on the York Yaks (the move was announced prior to the tournament and W2B were therefore not eligible to earn playoff points this tournament).

Speaking of the Yaks, Opening Day was a tournament they would like to quickly move on from. The 2017 MAW regular season champions went 0-3, losing a six-inning extra inning game to GCM in the opener, dropping a wild back-and-forth contest against the Bruisers 14-11, and falling just short of a fourth inning comeback against the Cuban Raft Riders.

Despite the outcome, Yaks’ captain Nick Shirey saw positives in the Yaks’ first tournament of the year, while still recognizing the need for improvement.

“Overall, I am happy with our performance. We outhit every team we played without question. The walks did us in. [Jarod] Bull was rusty but it was a good warmup . . . We were short on arms due to availability and some injuries but we battled all day. Pottsy [Dan Potter] was Pottsy. I only remember him getting out 3-4 times all day.”

Dan Potter waits for a pitch. Potter reached base in 21 out of 26 plate appearances on Saturday and led all players in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging.

Dan Potter waits for a pitch. Potter reached base in 21 out of 26 plate appearances on Saturday and led all players in batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging.

Indeed, Potter’s hitting provided a major bright spot to a disappointing tournament for the Yaks. The 2017 Jerome “The Legend” Coyle hitting award winner put up an almost unbelievable slash line of .625/.714/1.438. As Shirey alluded to, Potter only made five outs all day, otherwise reaching base in 21 of his 26 plate appearances.

First Timers Thrive

Except for the Stompers, the final four consisted entirely of teams playing in their first MAW tournament.

The Ben Stant led GCM went undefeated in pool play, taking down the Yaks, Raft Riders, and Bruisers along the way. Stant handled most of the pitching for his team, with newcomer John Magee handling the pitching duties in a mercy rule shortened game against the Bruisers. Magee flashed a solid rising fastball in his debut. There is clearly room for growth and if he sticks it out, he has the upside to form a formidable one-two punch with Stant. Markus Lee showed off some impressive power late in the tournament. A high leg kick that he uses as a timing device makes him susceptible to off speed offerings, but he does some real damage when he makes contact. Stant hit all day long and logged a tournament leading fifteen innings on the mound. If GCM can find another reliable pitcher – either McGee or someone from the outside – they will become an immediate title contender (if they are not already).

The motley crew that is the Cuban Raft Riders gritted their way into the final four with a 2-1 record before running out of steam against the Stompers in the semi-finals. Led by the arm and bat of Jimmy Cole, the Raft Riders picked up a pair of close victories against the Barrel Bruisers (1-0) and Yaks (4-3).

Other players, including the Yaks’ Shirey, took notice of Cole’s ability on and off the field.

“Kid [Cole] has got a bat to be reckoned with. Great guy and Wiffle ambassador, too. I hope to see him again for a rematch.”

Jimmy Cole goes into his wind up as teammate Brett Rooney gets set.

Jimmy Cole goes into his wind up as teammate Brett Rooney gets set.

The team lacked the pitching depth to make a deep run but Cole kept them in the running for as long as he could. J.J. Neely managed only a third of an inning on the mound against GCM, which pushed T.J. Hannon into emergency relief duty (a task he handled very well). Three of the four Raft Riders play in leagues in and around the Wiffle heavy Wilkes Barre area. If they can find another pitcher – or two if Cole’s appearance with the team is a one-time deal – they have the nucleus needed to be a team that consistently contends for a playoff round spot.

Talent Influx

Perhaps the biggest takeaway of Opening Day was just how many talented players made their Mid Atlantic debuts. In addition to those already discussed, three other debuting players turned some heads on Saturday.

It was more than five years ago that Collin Dimitris played alongside Connor Young in the Golden Stick fast pitch league. Following a lengthy absence from the sport, Dimitris got in touch with Young this winter. Young referred his old teammate to Hill and the Barrel Bruisers, who were in the market for another pitcher to pair with Chris Owen. Dimitris had a solid debut as a Bruiser and it is evident that once he shakes some of the dust off, he will be a vital member of the Bruiser’s lineup.

Hill was most impressed with Dimitris’ composure on the mound under tough circumstances.

Colin Dimitris hung in there under pressure in his first tournament game in over 5 years.

Colin Dimitris hung in there under pressure in his first tournament game in over 5 years.

“Collin showed his grit game two versus the Yaks. We were down 0-8, he gave up two dingers to Shirey and another to Potter in the first two innings. That could weigh on a pitcher but he kept his head in the game and we battled back at the plate. In the bottom of the 4th he was struggling a bit, bases loaded, one out in a three-run game and he had already given up two runs. I made a trip to the mound to see how he was feeling. I looked him in the eyes and asked if was ready to win this game. Without hesitation he said I’ve got this. BOOM, he did it!”

The Stompers spent much of this past winter debating whether to add another player to an already crowded roster. The team finally made its move in March, bringing on second generation wiffler Chris Sarnowski. “Red” made an immediate impact in his Stomper’s debut, shutting out My Name is ERL in the opener and then defeating Way Too Beautiful for an encore. The flame throwing right-hander also carries a big stick, adding another bat to a Stompers’ lineup that can often run hot and cold.

Tim Cooke was impressed with his new acquisition’s all-around game.

"I knew Chris had a good bat.  Also knew he had a good arm, plus velocity, with the control being an issue at times.  He scattered the walks and his raw fastball riser has enough on it that he was able to balance the walks by getting swings and misses instead of contact. He had a lot of good at bats.  My biggest take away was that he also had a plan at the plate.  Execution is a little easier with a plan.  Took his walks and passed the baton.”

The most anticipated newcomer was ERL’s Blake Hoffman. While February’s Winter Classic tournament marked Hoffman’s official MAW/east coast debut, Saturday was his first action in a hotly contested, regular season tournament. The Ohio native came into the tournament with a big reputation and big expectations. While ERL’s early exit limited the southpaw to just one game, he nonetheless turned a lot of heads with the bigtime stuff he showed in a 1-0, 12 strike out win over Way Too Beautiful.

When asked what he believes Hoffman’s ceiling is as a pitcher, ERL captain Connor Young replied that he didn’t “want to gas up Blake too much” before doing just that and heaping a considerable amount of praise on the youngster.

Blake Hoffman waits on a pitch.

Blake Hoffman waits on a pitch.

“This kid is the future. I refuse to put a ceiling on his potential because I really don't think there's anything he won't be able to do on the mound as he gets better with each outing. You can’t compare him to anyone. He's six-foot-four, lefthanded, and throws every pitch fast. Mix that with his phenomenal work ethic and you've got a once in a generation type player. He's gonna get a lot of game experience this summer. I know he'll be giving people fits in Texas. Everybody will see a little more what I'm talking about next time he toes the rubber.”

Here and There

The Wiffle weather gods were exceedingly kind on Saturday, fitting in a perfectly sunny, 80-degree day in the middle of what has been an unseasonably cold April in the Mid-Atlantic region . . . Just how competitive was this tournament? An amazing 13 out of 15 games were decided by 3 runs or less . . . Between the Winter Classic and Saturday’s Opening Day Tournament, Dan Potter has faced Jimmy Cole eight times. Potter has four hits and three homeruns – including a pair in one inning on Saturday – off Cole during that span . . . If we told you that the Stompers would bat .284/.479/.657 as a team, score 20 runs, and run the table on Saturday with Jordan Robles batting .125/.364/.312, how many of you would have believed us? . . . The Yaks’ slow start is nothing new to them. Last year the team’s record stood at 2-8 midway through the third tournament. From there they went on a 7-game winning streak, won two straight tournaments, and finished the year as the top seeded team heading into the playoffs . . . Relief appearances don’t  receive much attention in this sport, but T.J. Hannon’s 2 1/3 shutout innings in relief of J.J. Neely against GCM was as big as they come. His innings gave his team a shot at a comeback and more importantly, allowed Cole to rest before a crucial game three against the Yaks.

Quotable

“I was looking for something I could see.  In my first at bat, I got a drop on the inside half of the zone and then a ephus curve.  I didn't really see anything well the next couple of at bats.  When I finally got the riser, I was able to see it and put it in play.” – Tim Cooke on what he was looking for before his game winning triple off Connor Young

“We’ve gotten as far as we possibly could with one pitcher.” – A resigned Jimmy Cole (paraphrased) as he pulled himself from the semi-finals against the Stompers after surrendering a 3-run homerun to Sarno.

“As for our hitting, I want to say we were just shaking off the rust, but we didn't put together one good inning with the bats all day. We need to start swinging at better pitches. The bats won't stay quiet for long, especially with Gerard [Fitzgerald] back in the lineup.” – Soup on his team’s struggles at the plate (1 run scored in 3 games)

The Naturals' Jason Lombardozzi digs in against Ben Stant.

The Naturals' Jason Lombardozzi digs in against Ben Stant.

“These guys appear to be the real deal. From what I watched, it looked like they can rake and I am sure that will only improve with more tourneys. Their ace was throwing cheese and with control. If their arms hold up, I predict this team will win MAW in 2018.” – Shirey with a bold prediction about The Naturals

“It would be nice to have that first game back, of course all 0-1 losers say that! Chris pitched a no-hitter but had 4 walks the first inning, that was the game. We caught Jimmy Cole fresh and he kept our timing off and shut us out. Knowing we were in that game gives me the confidence that we can occasionally compete. I know the top tier teams will be tough to beat, especially if we face their ace. However, since we are a mid-tier team we might face more #2 and #3’s and give us a chance to sneak to a 2-1 bracket record. We don’t have the traditional shutdown ace and will need to put up more runs to compete.” – Jerry Hill on his team’s first game and how it impacts his outlook for the Bruisers’ season.

Up Next

There is no rest for the weary, as we’ve got a quick turnaround to the next tournament on May 5th. MAW celebrates Cinco de Mayo with the second tournament of the 2018 regular season, Torneo de Wiffs. Many of the area’s regular teams will be back in action on the 5th and we hear it will be the season debut of everyone’s favorite underdogs, the InHumans, as they continue their quest for an elusive first win. There are rumors that at least one experienced trio might be heading to York on the 5th as well. There are only a few spots remaining for the tournament, so don’t miss this early season opportunity to pick up crucial playoff points!

Outside of MAW, be sure to check out the 14th Annual BWBL Charity Classic May 12th in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The tournament will take place a the beautiful Diamond City Park wiffleball field. All proceeds go to charity and the cost is just $10 per player. The format is two player teams with a double elimination round following an opening pool play round. Check out their Facebook page for more information and to register.

Opening Day 2018 Tournament Preview

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A new season begins on Saturday, April 14th at the Shi Wiffleball Complex in York, PA. Eight teams are expected to compete on “Opening Day” for $500 in cash prizes and an opportunity to earn playoff points towards September’s Mid Atlantic Championship Tournament.

It is April in the northeast, which means there is at least coin flip chance that players will have to dodge some rain showers during the day. While Mother Nature presents an unknown challenge to every team, each team also has their own specific challenges and questions to face. The eclectic field includes teams representing five states and players from seven states. Among the participating teams are some MAW mainstays, new teams and players, and veteran teams making their Mid Atlantic debuts.

This is what we know – and what we don’t know – about the all eight teams in the field.

Barrel Bruisers (VA)

2017 Rewind: The Barrel Bruisers were the most consistent team in Mid Atlantic last season, finishing in the top four in every tournament and third or better in four of the five tournaments. Ryan Doeppel was the early season pitching sensation and the team’s potent bats – led by home run champ Jerry Hill – put up runs all season long. Unfortunately, Bruiser players dropped like flies as the season wore on and by the end, the team was left with a two-man roster of Hill and Chris Owen. The undermanned duo gave a valiant effort in the Championship Tournament before being eliminated by the Stompers.

What We Know: Owen and Hill are back and will once again be the cornerstones for the Bruisers. Both showed steady improvement on the mound last season and in the CFOT Winter Wiffle league. Owen particularly should provide the Bruisers with a dependable arm capable of beating quality teams. You can be certain that Jerry and Chris will continue to hammer mistake pitches as they did all last season.

What We Don’t Know: The Bruisers roster beyond Hill and Owen is anyone’s guess at this point. There were several players in Hill’s CFOT Winter Wiffle league that impressed but no word if any of them will be joining the Bruisers.

Tournament Outlook: Owen will be asked to carry a heavier pitching load for the Bruisers from the get-go this season. Command of his big bending slider and the further development of his screwball could be key on Opening Day. If he gets the slider over with regularity and mixes in enough other pitches to keep hitters off balance, he can hang with any team in the field. He’s also started working with knifed balls and it’ll be interesting to see if that helps him in any tangible way on Saturday.

The Bruisers landed in Block B, away from Connor Young (ERL), Nick Schaefer (Stompers), and Jordan Robles (Stompers) – a trio that went a combined 7-1 against the hard-hitting Bruisers last season. The team's round robin clash with the Yaks could determine their fate. The Yaks and Bruisers split their season series last year at two wins apiece. A Bruisers’ victory over the 2018 Regular Season champs could go a long way in getting them to the elimination round.

Cuban Raft Riders (PA)

2017 Rewind: N/A as a team. TJ Hannon got in one Sunday’s worth of games for the eventual Palisades WBL champions, The Giants, and another three games for the PWBL minor league Knights. Hannon played for the BWBL team in the NWLA east regionals last season, winning one game for his squad. BWBL lost in the title game of that tournament to Jimmy Cole’s AWAA. Cole showed up all over the place last season, competing in Palisades, Fast Plastic Texas Open, and the NWLA tournament, among other organizations. JJ Neely bounced around a  couple of NWLA affiliated leagues in the Wilkes-Barre area last season.

What We Know: All three players have prior pitching experience, so the pitching duties can be spread around. Hannon is a lefty, so CRR will be able to throw a few different looks at opposing hitters. Cole can rake against any level of pitcher, Neely is said to be a good hitter, and Hannon crushed the ball in his three games with the Knights last year. The trio should be able to do some damage against mid-tier pitchers.

What We Don’t Know: After allowing a homerun to the Yaks’ Dan Potter at the MAW Winter Classic February, Cole pulled himself from the game citing shoulder soreness. Is Cole healthy enough to pitch on Saturday? His ability to give his team a start (or two) could go a long way in determining CRR’s fate. The team could add still add another player before the tournament.

Tournament Outlook:  Keep an eye out for Neely when he takes the ball. The tall righty has a nice rising fastball in his arsenal but has struggled to command it at times in the past. If on, he could be the team’s best pitcher. Cole likes to jump on pitches early in the count and could cause trouble for pitchers that aren’t careful in those situations. The Raft Riders have little to no history with any other players/teams in their pool. Dan Potter (Yaks) led off the MAW Winter Classic with a solo shot off of Jimmy Cole. Ben Stant (G€M) and Hannon were briefly teammates on the Palisades Giants last season. That unfamiliarity could work to the Rafters advantage, however, as their opponents have equally little information with which to game plan from.

The naturals (VA)

2017 Rewind: N/A. The Naturals are making their competitive tournament debut.

What We Know: Not much. The Virginia squad has done their homework and will likely come in as prepared as any first-time team can be. There is a rumor floating around – although unconfirmed – that there is some serious high-level baseball talent on their roster.

What We Don’t Know: Everything else!

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Tournament Outlook:  Last year we saw a couple of first time players with good arms and solid baseball backgrounds make a relatively easily transition to Wiffle Ball pitching. There are reasons to believe The Naturals could have some players do the same. If that happens – and if they put some runs up on the board – The Naturals could make a splash in their MAW debut. On paper the newcomers appear to have a rough draw, but that’s only because we don’t know what to expect from them. The Naturals' first game of the day – versus Way Too Beautiful – could set the tone for the rest of their tournament. A win in that game sets them up well to potentially advance to the elimination round.

G€M (DE) 

2017 Rewind: N/A as a team. Team captain Ben Stant made the rounds in 2017. He picked up a pair of third place finishes in Mid Atlantic action (one with Way Too Beautiful and one with the Barrel Bruisers), won the New York GSWL playoffs with 10-Run Rule, made his Palisades WBL debut with 2017 champion Giants, and competed in the Fast Plastic Texas Open with the ragtag Jim’s Pub team.

What We Know: G€M is comprised of Stant and three newcomers from Dover, Delaware. The entire team is believed to have a baseball background. We know for sure that Stant can go toe-to-toe with every other pitcher the field.

What We Don’t Know: What sort of Wiffle Ball background – if any – the non-Stant members of the team posses. Will Stant be the team’s lone pitcher or will we see a pitching debut or two on the 14th? The status of the team going forward – whether this is a one-off or the potential start of a regular grouping – is also unknown.

Tournament Outlook: What makes the unknown members of G€M so intriguing is that they have a team captain who is an accomplished player and knows what to expect. Stant will likely have his group well prepared which could be a difference maker. If there is another pitcher among Stant’s teammates and solid bats up and down the lineup, G€M could make a run. Stant and the Yaks’ Jarrod Bull are arguably the two best pitchers in Block B. If Stant is able to pitch the majority of the games for his team – or if G€M does indeed have a quality second pitcher – they look like a strong bet to advance to the elimination round.

My Name is ERL (NJ)

2017 Rewind: The New Jersey trio made their MAW debut last June and wasted no time establishing themselves as one of the top teams in the organization. Thanks to a rubber-armed pitching performance by Connor “Soup” Young, ERL captured the June tournament title in impressive fashion. While a second 2017 tournament title eluded them, ERL played well the remainder of the year, finishing second in August, fourth in September, and second at October’s Championship Tournament.

What We Know: Recognizing the need for a quality pitcher other than himself, Soup moved quickly this offseason to address the issue by adding Wiffle wunderkind Blake Hoffman. Based out of Ohio, Hoffman is expected to be at Opening Day and a couple of other tournaments throughout the season. As we saw at the Winter Classic, Hoffman – a southpaw – gives ERL a double-headed pitching monster that could wreak havoc on opponents. ERL also added Gerard Fitzgerald to their team, beginning with the Winter Classic. However, Gerard will not be in the lineup on Opening Day.

What We Don’t Know: Less and less as the days go by. Originally, both Soup and Hoffman’s status for Opening Day were up in the air but the team has since confirmed that they will have both aces available on the 14th. ERL has been hard at work to add a sixth player to their roster, but it is not known whether they have been successful to that end and whether that player will be part of their Opening Day roster.

Tournament Outlook: With both Hoffman and Young, ERL will be tough to beat. It will be interesting to see how the two pitchers are utilized, however. Will ERL try to keep either Soup or Hoffman fresh for the elimination round or will they share the workload throughout the tournament? We’ve seen teams ride the hot hand and others that stick to a pre-planned rotation. ERL’s offense is also something to keep an eye on. If the team can get consistent quality at bats from Jim and Joe to take some of the pressure off the pitchers, then watch out!

ERL’s 2017 season ended last October with back-to-back losses to the Stompers in the Championship Tournament finals. ERL won’t have to wait long for their shot at revenge as those two teams will meet on Sheff in the very first game of the tournament! On paper at least, the winner of that game should have a leg up in Block A.

Stompers (MD) 

2017 Rewind: The Stompers bookended the 2017 MAW regular season with tournament championships and then pulled off a clean sweep of the Yaks and ERL in the playoffs. When healthy, Nick Schaefer shut down opposing hitters as he has done for more than 15 years but he also battled a shoulder ailment much of the season. The late season acquisition of Jordan Robles gave the Stompers an excellent one-two pitching punch and proved to be the difference maker in the 2017 championship scene.

What We Know: Robles is back with the Stompers for the 2018 Mid Atlantic season and is expected at Opening Day. Schaefer worked diligently all offseason on strengthening his shoulder and reports back that he expects to be much improved this season. After a lot of discussion about whether to stand still or add to the roster this winter, the Stompers officially brought Chris Sarnowoski on board in late March. Sarno will makes his Stompers debut on Opening Day. Lifelong Stomper Dan Isenberg is not expected for Opening Day but will make his season debut in the coming months as the team celebrates its 20th anniversary.

What We Don’t Know: While Schaefer anticipates that his shoulder will be a non-issue, there is no way to be sure until he gets a game or two under his belt.

Tournament Outlook: How Cooke manages the innings between his pitchers will be interesting. He certainly has a lot of options, which can be a luxury or a burden. Likewise, the Stompers expect to carry and bat five players on Opening Day. Some teams view batting five as a detriment and the Stompers will have look for ways to maximize their lineup. If the Stompers can make it through round robin with either Robles or Schaefer completely rested, they will have a leg up on the competition. As mentioned, the Stompers/ERL 2017 championship re-match that kicks off round robin looms large for both teams. The defending champs will have no time for a victory lap, not with ERL, W2B, and promising newcomers The Naturals awaiting them in their first three games of 2018.

Way Too Beautiful (NJ)

2017 Rewind: “New Jersey’s Premier Wiffleball team” became “The World’s Best #2 Wiffleball team” this past season following a string of second place finishes outside of Mid Atlantic. After a strong showing in the first GSWL New York tournament of the season, W2B went on its run of bridesmaid finishes that included the runner up spot in The Darren Daulton Foundation’s Wiff or Wiffout Classic. In July, W2B’s Adam Milsted was joined by Ben Stant for MAW’s third tournament. Milsted and Stant went undefeated in round robin only to lose 2-1 in the semi-finals to the York Yaks, in what was one of the best games played in MAW last year.

What We Know: Milsted and Ian Crosby are both quality, veteran pitchers. The tandem has the talent to pitch W2B deep into the tournament. All four W2B players can handle the bat, with Milsted being a particularly under-appreciated top-level hitter. The York Yaks announced that following this tournament, Milsted will join their roster for the remainder of the MAW season (W2B will remain a team outside of MAW). As such, W2B will not be eligible to earn playoff points on April 14th.

What We Don’t Know: As far as we are aware, W2B has not played in many unrestricted pitch speed tournaments in recent years. How their bats will play against some of the harder throwers remains to be seen.

Tournament Outlook: If W2B can make it through round robin without Milsted pitching – or at least with limited innings – the odds of them breaking their runner-up streak will greatly improve. A battle between My Name is ERL and Way Too Beautiful for New Jersey wiffle supremacy highlights W2B’s round robin schedule.

York Yaks (PA)

2017 Rewind: The Yaks were sluggish out of the gate, finishing in the bottom half of the field in the first two Mid Atlantic tournaments of the season and then limping out to a 1-2 start in the July tournament. Led by 2017 Joe Nord Rookie of the Year recipient Jarod Bull, the Yaks rattled off seven straight victories from that point on and captured two straight tournament titles in the process. The late season turnaround was enough to earn the Yaks the top overall seed in the Championship Tournament. Their season saw an abrupt end at the hands of My Name is ERL, who swept the Yaks in their semi-final series.

What We Know: The Yaks’ big offseason move was the Milsted acquisition. Since he is not joining the Yaks until after this tournament, that leaves the hometown team slightly shorthanded for Opening Day. Dan Potter suffered a shoulder injury at February’s Winter Classic while making one of his usual brilliant catches. The word going around is that he still not at 100%.

What We Don’t Know: The extent to which Potter’s injury will impact the Yaks is a major question mark. In addition to providing much needed innings on the mound, he was the team’s (and the organization’s) leading hitter in 2017 and a spectacular defender. It goes without saying that the Yaks are a better team with a healthy Potter than without.

Tournament Outlook: Last season – including at the Championship Tournament – captain Nick Shirey made it clear that he would not overextend Bull even if that meant rolling the dice in early round games. For Opening Day, the Yaks might be down a pitcher with Milsted and possibly Potter unavailable. If that is the case, the Yaks will likely either need a couple of quality games from Jared Laird or will have to consider extending Bull. The latter seems unlikely, which means that the innings the Yaks get from Laird, Shirey, or possibly Potter could determine their fate on the 14th.

The Scout #10: Jarod Bull

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As the lone rookie on an otherwise veteran team, Jarod Bull led the York Yaks to a regular season title in Mid Atlantic Wiffle in 2017.  The towering right-hander gained steam during the summer, including one three-tournament stretch where he allowed zero runs over four games (17 innings) with forty punch-outs. Bull is MAW’s best-kept secret and is more-than-ready to test himself against some of the game’s better hitters.

Bull brings a calm, business-like demeanor to the pitching rubber. His straightforward and smooth delivery belies the explosiveness of his pitches. His best and most consistent offering is a screwball that breaks down and in on right-handed batters. The pitch has enough movement – and is mixed in with his other offerings well enough – that he has been able to get away with throwing it down the heart of the plate. The Yaks’ ace also utilizes a hard slider and will drop down with sidearm action on occasion for a riser or drop. The side arm delivery is a particularly great weapon against right-handers and his ability to throw multiple pitches from the arm angle keeps batters guessing. The Yaks were judicious in their use of Bull last season, limiting him to 38 innings in MAW competition and another dozen innings outside of the organization. Their plan paid dividends as Bull stayed strong throughout the entire year and spearheaded a midsummer charge for his team that moved them from near the bottom of the standings to the top.

Similar to his pitching style, Bull uses a simplified approach at the plate. His no-stride swing is helpful in allowing him to stay back on high-movement pitches. Given his size, his lack of power last season in MAW – just one double, triple, and home run each – was somewhat surprising and might be related to the no-stride hitting approach. He still managed a respectable batting average and sprinkled in a few timely hits. Defensively, Bull fields his position very well, a by-product of finishing his motion in a solid fielding position.

Top Five Homeruns of 2017

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

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

Offseason News & Notes #1

ERL Makes an Early Move

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

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

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

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

Winter Wiffs

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

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

Where Will Shirey Land?

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

2018 Road Trip in the Works?

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