2017 Team Recap: Granger Panthers
The Granger Panthers inaugural season in the Old Republic Wiffleball League was one for the ages. After losing teammate Cam Snead in a car accident in December, the Panthers players would honor their fallen friend by wearing Snead #4 jerseys all season.
Snead had an incredible love for the game of wiffleball so it was not easy for Granger to continue on without their friend and teammate. However, the Granger Panthers players honored Cam Snead with a memorable first season in the league in which they finished with a league best 25-5 regular season record.
Not too often do we see a new team come into ORWBL and have the immediate success like this Panthers team did. Their 25-5 season was easily one of the best inaugural seasons for a team in league history.
The Panthers honored Snead on Opening Day with a ceremony in front of a nice crowd as they treated their fans with a 3 game sweep. The success continued as the Panthers ran away with the NL West Division by an eye opening 15 games.
Granger's regular season was highlighted by series wins over Maple City and New Carlisle as those series wins proved that they needed to be taken seriously as a legitimate championship threat. Granger's only regular season series that they lost came late in the season against the Hudson Lake Heat.
Workhorse Griffin Smith won 25 games en route to a Cy Young Award while Seth Campbell took home NL Rookie of the Year honors. Campbell also made his mark in the field as he was named the inaugural NL Golden Glove Award winner.
The young squad headed into the playoffs with all of the confidence in the world as the #1 seed in the National League. After sweeping Emery's Army in the NLDS 2-0, the Panthers geared up for the series that they had waited for all season long.
Looking to dethrone the champions, the Granger Panthers headed into Migley Field for Games 1 and 2 of the NLCS. The Panthers came out of the gates hot as they surged to a 9-0 lead in Game 1. With Griffin Smith no hitting the Newts through 3 innings, it looked as though the Panthers would be taking a 1-0 series lead.
That is when the Panthers players learned what all ORWBL players know: Never count out the New Carlisle Newts. The Newts loaded lineup finally woke up as they battled back from 9 down to steal Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
That loss proved to be deflating for the Panthers as they were never able to find their rhythm in Game 2 as they dropped another one to the Newts.
With their backs up against the wall, the Panthers pulled out all their tricks as the series would shift to Granger. Granger decided to move back their field about 20 feet in hopes of potentially beating the Newts through small ball.
Their strategy worked like a charm in Game 3 as the Panthers shut out the Newts to force a Game 4. After holding a lead for half of the game, the Newts tied things up and it would stay tied up for another 5 innings.
It was a Scott Soos RBI triple that proved to be the difference maker in Game 4 as the Newts would pull out an extra innings win to clinch the National League Pennant.
While Granger fell short of their ultimate goal, the Panthers solidified themselves as a legitimate championship threat. Their memorable season will not be forgotten and there is no doubt that they made Cam Snead proud.
With the addition of Tony Koch, Granger figures to be right back in the mix in 2018.