7th time's a charm perhaps? The #1 seeded NY Enemy have won 6 consecutive Regional Titles entering 2015. However, this season has had a different feel for the fearsome-faction from Stratford, Connecticut. The Enemy only took down 3 of 5 NY events (LOL), but did not even make the Championship game in the two events they were eliminated. The region has pushed the Enemy into uncharted waters this year. With zero blow-outs in the Championship games (6-2, 3-2, 7-6, respectively), it really shows the overall improvement of the region. Even if they do end up taking down the region for a 7th straight year, there's no doubt this has been their most difficult season to date. Luckily for the Enemy, the veteran State of Mind Squad has chosen to forego the playoffs and put all their chips into the Yard OPEN basket. This is huge for the Enemy, as most predictions state that Lanigan's SOM team has the best chance of dethroning the perennial champs.
FIRST ROUND MATCHUPS
#4 Freaky Franchise vs. #5 Hammerheads
Sitting in the 'not-so-cherished' 4/5 matchup we have #4 Freaky Franchise v #5 Hammerheads, winner of which will face the 6 time Regional Champion NY Enemy. The Tri-Regional All-Stars in Freaky Franchise will square off against the NY Regional Darlings, the Hammerheads, for only the 2nd time all season. Many predictions have stated these two teams both have a chance to give the Enemy a run for their money in the semi-final round. The problem is, someone will go down without ever seeing that opportunity. The key for the Franchise club is simple---win when Phil is on the mound. If his knuckle is working, and he can use his secondary pitches effectively, the Hammerheads will have a tough time putting this team away. Out of any of the first round series, winning game one is the most important for the Freaky team, who lack reliable pitching behind Phil. The fact that Ryan Bush is in the lineup makes this team much more dangerous. For the Hammerheads; they have to get on base more, instead of relying on the big swing. This series will probably be low scoring, if it's not---give the advantage to the Hammerheads.
Prediction: Hammerheads in 3
#3 Swingmen vs. #6 Playaz
This is easily the most exciting matchup of the first round for more reasons than one. James Stein played with the Playaz from 2013-14 before mutually parting ways, only to be picked up by the Swingmen last off season. In his absence, Anthony D’Auria signed Carlo DeGiovine, who has put up one of the top hitting performances in the league this year. These two teams went the entire first half of season without playing each other, only to be matched up four times in the final two weeks. Across those games, Stein has kept the Playaz hot bats in check, posting a 2.00 .era and allowing just 1 hit in his last four innings. Combine that with two walk off wins and one would think that the Swingmen could sweep this matchup. However, the final meeting between these two teams featured a 9-3 thrashing in which D’Auria homered twice off Craig Caras. For the Playaz, the name of the game will be getting past Stein and attacking the rest of the rotation. For the Swingmen, they’ll need to forget game four and remember that they lead the regular season series 3-1 and have otherwise kept the Playaz in check.
Prediction: Swingmen in 3 games
#2 Bandits vs. #7 Screwballs
Wow. Okay, maybe THIS is the most exciting matchup. Why? Because nobody plays elite teams tougher than the Screwballs. And, yes, the newly formed Bandits are elite this year. Behind MVP nominee Chris “Red” Sarno, and Cy Young Candidate Sean “Redwood” McRae, the Bandits have made their case as one of the best teams in the country. That said, they are 0-2 against John Ceccio and the Screwballs. Will crunch time allow for the Bandits to get the monkey off their chest? The Screwballs play an odd style of wiffs; they are slap hitters, work long counts, and make teams go out their and earn it. They’re the type of guys to swing and miss at a ball that missed the backstop, only to hit a homerun the very next pitch. There’s no “tell” with these guys, they’re all hands on deck. Red and his crew better had the same mentality if they’re going to edge their way past this team of remarkably handsome older gentlemen.
Prediction: Bandits in a game 3 extra inning walk off