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MA Yard 2015 OPEN Preview

 

Piranhas  -  Some team had to step in and dominate in 2015 with the absence of the Throwbacks and DTR on the shelf for a year because of a Brian Dinapoli leg injury, and that team was the Piranhas. Practically flawless all year, they finished the regular season 31-6 and the Dave Fisher owned franchise earned their 3rd regional championship since 2009 with a 2-0 series sweep of the Knights in the final.

The teams that got the best of the Piranhas this year were a NY Skittles squad, the infamous Lou's Diamonds, Hooligans, and also two losses against a one day Doom team that won't be in Staten Island on 8/29 and 8/30.

Whisner and Foley throw two of the best knuckleballs in the nation and when on are very hard to hit. The aforementioned Foley rakes everything at the dish and is as tough an out as it gets. He is the primary run producer on the team, as evidenced by his .303/18HR/54 RBI numbers this year. Dave Fisher leads the team in batting average with a .322/10/41 slash line and is a scrappy hitter that will singles hit you all day and then before you know it he'll hit a pitch 145 feet. Dan Whisner has progressed as a hitter this year and carries into the open a .268/12/36 stat line to go along with an impressive 9-3 record on the mound with a miniscule 1.24 ERA.

This team also won 4 out of 5 MA events this year, basically running through every team they played. Look for them to be in the Final 4 come Sunday in Staten Island and be a legitimate threat to take down the whole thing.

Knights - The Knights put together a solid season this year in the MA region, finishing the year 20-11 and in second place in the MA region and 6th overall in the National standings. They made it to two event finals, and ended up losing in the regional championship to the Piranhas. Led by Evan Reardon, Jimmy Flynn, and Scott Thomas, this team hit the ball well all year and there is simply no easy out in this lineup.

Reardon finished the year hitting .381/10/27 and ended up 5-5 with a 1.93 ERA on the flat mound. Flynn ended the season hitting .363/9/21 with a pitching record of 8-4 and an ERA of 2.14. Thomas has been a major contributor at the dish this year, coming up with timely hit after timely hit on his way to a team leading .405/13/40 stat line. He simply hits anything and everything. Reardon and Flynn split the pitching duties and they can be a lethal 1-2 punch when both are on.

The Knights head into the Open with the expectation of making it to the Elite 8 and the mentality that they can beat any team in the nation when they're on their game. The Knights have the advantage (and disadvantage) of not having faced any teams from outside the MA region this year. That can work both ways and they hope it works in their favor come August 29th.

Krusty's Kids - There's not one thing bad to say about these guys. They  have fun and play the game the right way, and win games while they're at it. After taking 2014 off, Amato is back and rejoined his old teammate Erik Anderson while also bringing in longtime "Krusty" member Scott Martell.

This team finished the season at 23-18, with a few out of region appearances as well. Their record is not a good barometer of how good and experience this team is. They're better than their record shows and if you sleep on them at the Open they will beat you. Erik Anderson and Nick Amato handle most of the pitching duties, with Anderson posting an 8-11 record and a 2.42 ERA, while Amato finished the season with a 10-3 record with a 2.41 ERA. Amato leads the team in batting average with a .355 average to go along with 9 HR's and 35 RBI's. Scotty Martell will bring to the open a .232/5/30 line and also a clutch bat that often shows up in big situations. EA brings a ton of experience with him (much like Amato) and he'll hope to get back to the Elite 8 like last year with DTR.

High Rollers - We all knew these kids had talent last year, but this year they really stepped up and proved that they are a force to be reckoned with and will only get better as time goes on and my crystal ball says this team will eventually be a national champion. But not this year. This team is still the sleeper team to watch in the Open that could very well sneak it's way to Sunday if the chips fall the right way for this team.

Led by Danny Haverty and Augie Martini, both of these youngsters can pitch with the best of them and Haverty is quickly becoming one of the best hitters in the nation. Kid rakes anything and everything, but is still prone to swing and misses, which doesn't happen too often with the game's best hitters. Augie is also turning into a solid contributor at the dish, but like Haverty, and maybe even more so than Haverty, he also tends to be a free swinger at times and getting behind in counts at the Open will put them in a tough spot as games tighten up and every pitch matters. That is something they'll need to work on as time goes on. The 3rd player on this team is Elias Sachs, but he seems to miss events fairly often,  while  another fill in named Ron has showed up a few times.

Whoever the 3rd is for this team this weekend will play a major role in how far they go. You can bet the house that Haverty and Augie won't be able to carry this team alone, it takes a team effort to win unless your name is Dallas Mall, so whoever the 3rd is will need to step up and prove they can succeed on the big stage.

Founders – Lou Levesque’s team is certainly a team that leaves you scratching your head after you play them. At times, they can be downright dirty and shock teams with their pitching and offense prowess. Other times you wonder how this team isn’t in the loser’s bracket every tournament. Tom Deveau is the leader of the team offensively and on the mound, posting a 9-6 record with a 2.39 ERA, to go along with 2 saves and an impressively miniscule 2 walks allowed all season. At the plate he will bring an imposing .432/19/61 slash line to the Open and look to dominate like he has all year.

Levesque is like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in the box. At times he appears completely focused and tuned in to the at bat and will beat you no matter what pitch you throw. Other times he is so distracted by the people from two fields over who had a question about whether a hit was a home run or a triple…or a double or a single. Fortunately for him and his team, he won’t be running the Open this year, and will instead get to divert his attention 100% towards the games at hand. Dom Disanto rounds out the Founders roster, and he is probably one of the sneakiest hitters in the league. Similar to Levesque in a way, Dom will totally swing out of his ta ta’s on one pitch and then the next pitch you’ll throw him a riser and he’ll blast a missile to deep center. At the plate this year he boasts a .252/4/21 slash line and a 5-4 record with a 3.78 ERA on the flat mound.

This is for sure a dark horse team heading into the Open and a team that could certainly surprise if they play their game, but odds are they'll be in the Player's Cup come Sunday.

Lou’s Diamonds – The Diamonds finished the season at a respectable 13-13 record and have battled their way into the Open this year and it comes at no surprise to me that they made it. They’ve truly earned every win and had an impressive showing in the 5th MA tournament, nearly beating a powerhouse Piranhas team in the semi finals of that event.

Led by team captain and all around wiffleball jokester, Dave “The Animal” Morse will look to lead his team to a Sweet 16 birth this weekend and turn heads while doing so. The Animal brings with him a striking .391 batting average and 6 HR’s/22 RBI’s. Whatever you do, do not underestimate his ability to crush the ball. Despite his not so conventional swing, he will flat out make you pay if you leave a pitch over the middle. Rounding out the roster is longtime GSWL veteran Lou “Terminator” Langlois, Drew “Test” Morse, rookie Scott Winfield, and the Pac-man himself Andy Rapacki. Test can be downright dirty on the mound when he’s on, and rookie Scott has shown promise on the mound early in his wiffle career.  Time will tell if they can sneak into the Sweet 16 come Saturday night.

Boston Raiders - This is also a young team that is entering its 2nd season and is improving weekly. Even though these guys are the same age as the High Rollers team, they are still a step behind them. The anchor's of the team are Danvers' own John Lebrun and Colin Prentiss. Since day 1 their passion and commitment has been superb, and I applaud them for that, as well as doing the field crew for the MA region this year. We all know that is no easy task.

As for the team itself, I've seen them take big strides this year in beating some of the region's best in the Knights and Hooligans. That does not go unnoticed and wins like that is what it takes to get to that next level. I want to say I think this team will make it to the Sweet 16, but they are in what looks like the toughest bracket on paper and will face teams like CCX, The Enemy, and Krusty's. Side note - what was CCX thinking picking Krusty's so early? I was almost positive they would be one of the last teams picked. Odd pick at that spot in the draft IMO.

But anyway...getting out of bracket play will be tough, but there is still plenty of time left for these kids and they are here for the long haul. Also on the squad is Adam Bridgeo, a promising young player who could turn into an Ace on the mound some day if he continues to sharpen his saw, and also Jeff Lopes, who sports an Ace-like drop curve. If he can add a few pitches to his repertoire, he will also be an ace in the future.

Highlanders – This is a team that had high expectations coming into the season, only for things to not fall their way throughout the summer. After winning the comeback cup and earning a spot in the big dance, this Highlanders team likely has a chip on their shoulder and wants to prove that they belong can advance to Sunday. Led by Jon “Big Mac” Marsh and Jason “Doss” Doucette…this team added lefty Chris Dinapoli in the offseason and he is one of the more underrated players in the game today. Chris, although a bit of a free swinger, can hit with the best of them and finished the year hitting .341 with 4 HRs and 20 RBI’s in the regular season, and also contributed in a big way in the comeback cup, hitting bomb after bomb to punch the team’s ticket to the Open. He is also a crafty pitcher on the mound and their ace, well known for his looping curve ball. Marsh is the other pitcher on the team and is no slouch either,

New York Regional Playoffs Preview

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

 

PA #2: Inside the Numbers

Heading into Week 2 there were a number of interesting statistical questions that were posed. Most of these questions were about the ability of batters to actually get the ball to fly over the wall. Those questions were answered in part this past Sunday, as 37 players went yard – compared to the 27 players in New York and Philly COMBINED on opening day. Of all the players who took the ball deep, the homerun king of the day was none other than regional director Rob Longiaru, who mashed 12 homeruns all together and 5 in one game (against he NY Bandits).

This might lead one to assume that it was a monster hitting day – you would be mistaken. In fact, only three players hit to the tune of .400 or better on Sunday, while 14 different gentlemen batted under the Mendoza line of .200. Interestingly, the only three guys to hit .400 (Jerry Ceccio of the NY Screwballs, Anthony D’Auria of the NY Playaz, and Ryan of the team HV), none of their teams even made it as far as a 5th place exit game.

The numbers become even more confusing when you bring pitching into the equation. Indeed, there were only two guys on the field who did not give up a run on Sunday, yet only 10 posted an .ERA above 5.00. So what is going on here?! Are runs being scored or not? Are guys hitting the ball or not? Despite 12 pitches being responsible for 10 or more runs on the day, on 14 guys were able to drive in 10 or more runs. Even more odd is that only two guys were able to get 15 or more hits on the day – and they both played for the NY Hammerheads.

Here’s one final mind-numbing stat for you to wrap your head around. There were 726 total bases collected on the day. Those total bases resulted in 282 runs scored. Why is that weird? It’s weird because this means that for every run scored 2.6 basses were collected. This means that there are 1.4 bases not accounted for in each run that was scored. Well, where did those bases go?

 

The answer: WALKS!! There were 265 walks this past Sunday! That means that for every run that was scored, a walk was responsible for 35% of that run. And which team had the most collective walks on the day? You guessed it, the Minutemen.

 

So, when you wonder how on earth the minutemen are the best ranked team in the country with a sub .300 batting average and only 10 total team homeruns after two events, you should keep in mind that they know how to maximize their ratio of runs scored to runs allowed. This week, they did it with walks.

Get to Know Your NY Enemy

 

Well here they are again.  The defending New York Regional Champion Enemy are back for some more in 2015.  It’s tough to have realistic expectations for a team that has won so many titles, but the 2015 Enemy do have a chip on their shoulder.  They made it to the National Championship game at the OPEN last year against the PA Minutemen.  They lost, and have been looking forward to a rematch ever since.  Unfortunately, the teams in NY will feel the wrath of an angry Enemy squad for much of the regular season until they reach their goal of another New York Regional Championship.

 

 

The 2014 Enemy started the season out slowly but that certainly didn’t last long.  After skipping the first event of the season, the Enemy went on a homerun hitting tear never before seen in Golden Stick history.  As a 3-man team, the Enemy amassed 137 homeruns in 2014 with Kevin Norris leading the way with 66 dingers himself.  Norris also drove in a ridiculous 156 runs and walked an absurd 96 times.  Both Norris and Sean Handahl slugged well over 1.000 and were the main culprits in the homerun barrage during the 2015 season.

 

 

Coming up the rear is Tyler Wegrzyn.  Ty only played in 25 games last season but was able to slash .414/.523/.920 while hitting 24 homeruns and collecting 67 RBIs.  Ty was equally nasty on the mound going 12-1 with a 3.86 ERA in 56 innings.  He also struck out 92 batters while walking 49.  Norris led the team in Ks with 126 in 77 innings of work, which works out to be a 6.5 K/9 ratio.

 

The Enemy were without Sean Handahl at Week 1 in NY but still performed well as a squad.  However, the Enemy were denied a chance to win their first title of 2015 when they were defeated by State Of Mind.  Is this the beginning of possibly the most difficult and testing year for the Enemy?  Will they struggle to win in the new format??  Will they be dethroned as NY Regional Champs???

 

 

Until they can be beaten on the biggest of stages, the Enemy are the class of New York.  Week 1 will most likely be an admiration for the Enemy.  However, with all kinds of shakeups occurring all over the league perhaps this will be the year that a select 3-man squad is able to dethrone the champs.  But until that day, expect the Enemy to win the Regional Championship and be New York’s, and Connecticut’s, representatives at the 2015 OPEN in Staten Island, NY.

 

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