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2017 Playoff Preview: National League

NEW CARLISLE- The 2017 ORWBL regular season has come and gone and we are now looking ahead to the start of the playoffs. Can the Newts surge forward to yet another championship, or will someone finally end their reign of terror on the league? Today we take a look back at the season that was for the NL and offer our best predictions for how things will play out.

6. Lynn St. Leprechauns (3-27)

There isn't a lot to say about ORWBL’s most lovable team. Despite the poor record, things have been better than last season. The Lep’s are starting to look like a real team and have remained competitive in a majority of the games this season, cutting down on the unforced errors tremendously. ROY candidate Dylan Kegley has been a big bright spot for the Leps as he received an All-star bid in his first season and has appeared in nearly every game.

Manager Nick Brassell has also quietly become a very solid all-around hitter and himself and assistant G.M Brock Coursey are visibly trying to make moves to better the team. At the deadline they shipped fan favorite Matt “Mookie” Smith to Maple City for a case of water and a signed photo of Wes Ellis. Maybe the extra hydration and getting to look at Ellis will help improve their game… maybe.

The good news is they play the Mechanics in the 1 game wildcard and seeing that Olive Township was one of their two wins on the season, a first round upset isn’t totally out of the question. Look for Lynn St. to keep on “trusting the process” in hopes they can pull off the first round stunner.

5. Galena Marsh Taco Punchers (9-18)

This was one many didn’t see coming. In 2016 the Jared Emmons led squad was first in the National League and despite an early playoff exit, it was expected this veteran group would be contenders once again this season. That hasn’t happened as the Taco Punchers have had a terribly disappointing season. Fortunately for Taco Puncher fans, there is hope. Despite the poor record, the Taco Punchers have not had their A team for a single series this season except Week 1 in which they took one game from the defending world champs in a trio of tight games.

With Denis Jedrysek and Jordan Smoroske returning for the playoffs the Taco Punchers suddenly look like a dark horse as they will join All-stars Jared Emmons and Sam Zucker. If they can get passed Emery’s Army in the wildcard game they’ll look to give Granger all they can handle in the NLCS in Granger. With a well-known group of savvy veterans, this Emmons led squad will look to make one last run and try to cement themselves in ORWBL history.

4. Rolling Prairie Emery’s Army (11-19)

Emery’s Army is one of the most historic franchises in ORWBL history and returned in 2017 after a one year hiatus. Led by future ORWBL hall of famers Eric Johnson and Jake Lawrence, the Army had a very slow start to 2017 but that can likely be attributed to the time off from wiffleball.

They have been playing some of their best ball as of late with notable sweeps over Great Lakes and Olive Township, the latter of which swept them in Week 1. Ryan Murphy has quietly had one of the best seasons in the entire NL, as his home run swing has been a key factor in their recent run of success. Despite that slow start, Emery’s is still in prime position to make a run as they were able to secure the 4 seed in the NL. When you factor in the fact that the NL East has been the best division in all of ORWBL this year their record becomes even more impressive.

This is a team that cannot be slept on as every one of these players has an abundance of playoff experience that will surely come into play. If Emery’s can get by their veteran counterparts from Galena Marsh in the wild card game, they will have a very interesting match-up against Granger. A key advantage Emery’s has on most teams in the league is the depth when it comes to their starting pitching. Former Cy Young winner Jake Lawrence and current ace Jared Swain combine to form one of the most potent duos the league has on the mound, and Emery’s Army fans are hoping they can ride those arms to the World Series.

3. Olive Township Mechanics (16-14)

The Mechanics took a big step forward this season and were one of the most improved team in the league. They have a number of factors to thank for that. First and foremost, the addition of Jasen Webb, Luke Ketterer, and Bailey Rhed were monster adds by the front office.

Ketterer has been near the league leaders in average in the games he has played, and the elder Webb has joined forces with his younger brother Kody to form one of the best defensive outfields in the league. That combined with the huge leap in production from first time all-stars Colton Boren and Aidan Cotter have played huge roles in the team’s success. In the 2016 offseason the Mechanics had their eyes set on being a much better defensive and pitching team, and that shows in starting pitcher Cotter’s 9.15 ERA, a significant improvement from last year’s 18.75 ERA. The Mechanics started the season as hot as anyone at 10-2, but have cooled off considerably since then finishing 6-12.

Olive Township has a core four of Cotter, Ketterer, and the Webbs that can rival any other team’s four, but they will need consistent playoff production from whoever they play as their fifth. Everyday catcher Bailey Rhed will be out for the playoffs so look for last man in Colton Boren to assume the catching responsibilities the rest of the way.

Baring they survive a wildcard series against the Leps, Olive Township will have a intriguing three game series against the defending champs at Migley. The two NL East foes split the season series with three wins a piece so all eyes will be on a potential Mechanics-Newts rubber match.

2. New Carlisle Newts (22-8)

Consistent greatness. That’s the only way to describe the Newts the last few years, and this year has been more of the same. Despite an inconsistent assortment of players being able to play, future HOF manager Koby Keck has somehow managed to assemble an elite squad of players each and every week. Leading the team on the field has been none other than reigning NL MVP Garrett Curless who has had another great season and looks to claim back to back MVPs with his work on the mound as well as at the plate.

His biggest competitor for that award, however, may in fact be his own team Scott Soos. Regarded by many as the greatest player in ORWBL history, Soos has been back it in 2017 as he has appeared in nearly every Newts series. His powerful homerun swing has been better than ever as he has slugged over 50 home runs once again.

It’s hard to establish a “best player” on such a talented and historic team, but former MVP Noah Shail has as much of a say of being that as anyone. Shail’s all-around skill has returned in every series he has played in this year and one would assume that Keck will be playing him every game come the playoffs in pursuit of another World Series title. We could fill the entire website writing about all the great players from New Carlisle, so will just sum it up. The Newts are still the team to beat and are better than ever.

1. Granger Panthers (25-5)

Granger came into ORWBL with high hopes and perhaps even higher expectations after finishing first in the 2016 final Grand Slam rankings, with the highlight being winning the HD classic. It’s safe to say they have surpassed expectations immensely as thus far they have not only finished with the best record in ORWBL, they also have a Wifflehawks championship and an HD classic final four appearance to show.

Granger suffered an absolutely tragic loss in the off-season with the passing of Cam Snead and they set out to dedicate this entire season to him, tokening the phrase “4Cam.” It’s safe to say Cam would be very proud of his team and the way they played. Granger has sported one of the best defenses the league has seen which has been their calling card thus far. Don’t be mistaken, though, this team can hit with the best of them as well. Led by MVP and Cy Young candidate Griffin Smith, this young but experienced team received 3 all-star starting nods, demonstrating their impressive hitting abilities.

Despite not being in ORWBL before, Smith has developed a nice name for himself around the wiffle community, but the player that really opened some eyes this season has been left fielder Seth Campbell. Campbell hit an impressive 0.510 but where he really shined was in the power categories as he led the Panthers with 59 home runs and 102 RBIs. Those stellar power numbers combined with his sure hands out in left have given Campbell as good of a case as anyone in the NL for the MVP award.

This is not just a two man show however, as the Panthers core of those two as well as Tiki Seroczynski and Austin Williams give the Panthers a stellar main four that shine just as bright as any other team’s top four. Their only main concern had been an inconsistent right fielder but manager Brett Shepard addressed that need as well, executing a trade with the Godfathers for rookie Jeremy Ross. Granger is hopeful Ross can be the player to help push them to a World Series title.

With the best record in ORWBL, they certainly have as good of a shot as anyone. They will face the winner of Emery’s Army and Galena Marsh and assuming they can survive a NLCS scare, they should be confident in their title hopes going forward.

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