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Emery's Army surrenders after seven years

ROLLING PRAIRIE - One of the flagship franchises of the Old Republic Wiffle Ball League has folded.

Emery's Army manager Eric Johnson has informed the league office that the team will not be returning for an eighth season in the ORWBL in 2016.

Rolling Prairie finished 18-6 last season, good enough for a second place regular season finish in the nine team league. EA was eliminated from the postseason by archrival New Carlisle, 3-1, in a best of five Semifinal series.

EA was the second winningest franchise in league history with 153 wins. All told, the Army went 153-118 over seven seasons of play. They were 10-19 in the postseason, with the ORWBL World Series always eluding them.

The franchise quickly gained a reputation as the league's renegade squad and were among the favorites to play against, especially at the Grassy Knoll. The ballpark on Robin Court featured a rowdy crowd and party atmosphere for every home game.

Originating in 2008 at Hometown Days, the Army joined the league looking for revenge on the Newts after an Elite Eight loss to the eventual champions.

In 2009, Emery's Army went 30-12 to tie the Newts for first place in the ORWBL Central. While they lost the one-game tiebreaker for the division crown, they cemented themselves as a contender from their inaugural season on.

The rivalry with New Carlisle became legendary, finishing tied at 25 wins a piece.

The franchise broke through with a division title in 2011, and possibly fielded their best squad last season.

Some of the ORWBL's all-time greats have played for the Army. In addition to manager Eric Johnson, who took over for Zach Blackwood in 2010, six-time ORWBL All-Star Jeff Vervynckt was a mainstay on the roster after the Lil' Saints folded.

2015 Cy Young winner Jake Lawrence was the field general for the past few seasons. He left for New Carlisle this past season, which ultimately foreshadowed the demise of the franchise.

Four-time ORWBL champion Matt Serge spent the 2015 season with the squad as well. Kevin May, long-time ORWBL journeyman, had an on-again, off-again relationship with the team for several seasons.

Sundays on the Grassy Knoll will certainly be missed by not only the rest of the ORWBL, but also the neighbors at Robin Court.

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