Maple City, Hudson Lake, Granger, and Twin Branch advance to the League Championships.
It is crazy how time flies, as we are now just days away from Games 1 and 2 of the AL & NLCS. Just a few months ago, 14 teams began their quest at winning an ORWBL World Series and after the opening week of the playoffs, 10 teams so their season come to an end. Just a few days prior to the playoffs, we unfortunately had to notify Cabo that they would not be eligible for the postseason due to numerous missed series.
And so the 2018 postseason moved on with 13 teams as the American League play-in game did not take place due to the Cabo news. Over in the National League, it was the crafty veterans from Rolling Prairie who took down the Silver Sluggers despite getting swept by them in the regular season.
All in all, the Silver Sluggers have to be proud of how they made an impact in their first year in the league as they went a respectable 8-16 in the regular season. This young team will surely be back next season as they will look to continue to build as a franchise in year two.
Unfortunately for Emery's Army, they ran into a red hot Billy Goats team that seems to really be hitting their stride at the perfect time of the season. While the season ended with a Wild Card loss for EA, they can look back at their 2018 season with pride. Despite battling major issues fielding a team, Manager Jake Lawrence was able to make it happen and get all of their games in.
Due to the issues that Lawrence had fielding a team every week, Emery's Army's future is now in question but one can only hope that a return is in store someday if they do end up folding.
In the other NL Wild Card game, the New Carlisle Newts did what the majority of the fans figured would happen and that was to be full on ready to go come playoff time despite their disappointing 11-13 regular season record. After dropping 2 out of 3 to the Leprechauns in the final week of the season, the Newts came ready to play as they exploded for 26 runs, as they beat the Leprechauns by 20.
It was quite the performance from the Newts who were gearing up for the potential NLDS matchup with the Granger Panthers. While the season ended in the Wild Card Round for the Leprechauns, they can certainly hold their heads up high as this team saw a remarkable improvement from their first 2 seasons in the league.
The Leprechauns combined to win 7 games in their first 2 seasons in the league so this 10-14 season is truly something that this team can build on heading into 2019. Manager Nick Brassell continues to encourage his guys to trust the process and we certainly saw the process make some headway this season.
With this team getting better and better, Lynn St. will be one of the more exciting teams to follow this offseason as Brassell continues to try and build this Leprechauns franchise. All in all, with the major improvements in 2018, Lynn St. has to be one of the feel good stories of 2018.
Switching over to one of the American League Wild Card Games, fans were treated with a thrilling game between the #5 Bourissa Hills Wildcards and the #4 seeded Great Lakes Godfathers at Magic Park. With the game going back and forth throughout, former All Star Cody Carlisle belted a 2 run home run to put the Wildcards up, breaking the 4-4 tie.
Despite such a promising start to the season, the Godfathers were not able to rally in the bottom of the inning as the Wildcards won the AL Wild Card Game which seems somewhat fitting. Great Lakes started the season 9-3 but struggled in the 2nd half of the season. However, this franchise showed major improvements this season as their 12-12 regular season record was their best regular season in what was their 3rd season as a member of the league.
While the season ended earlier than they would have liked, Great Lakes made a statement this season that they are ready to contend. Manager Mark Haase had a great offseason last year so it will be interesting to see if Haase rolls with what he has or if he will continue to try and find the perfect pieces to the puzzle.
In the final Wild Card game over in the American League, we saw a determined Hudson Lake team take down the Gardena Golden Showers to advance to the NLDS. This put an end to Gardena's inaugural season in the league and it surely was a tough one as their only wins came on 3 forfeit wins against the Yabos.
Manager Caleb Martin mentioned on twitter that he was struggling to get guys to come so it will be interesting to see if Martin decides to bring back Gardena in 2019 which would definitely be nice to see.
Many times we have seen first year teams have a rude awakening in their inaugural season and hang it up, but there is hope that Martin will be able to have a good offseason as the Golden Showers have no where to go but up.
With all of the Wild Card games being played at the home fields of the top 2 seeds in each league, the Wild Card winners were able to extend their stay in hopes of advancing to a league championship series.
Now it is time to break down what was a thrilling, and surprising round to many.
NLDS (Best of 3): #4 New Carlisle Newts @ #1 Granger Panthers
The New Carlisle Newts and Granger Panthers kicked off their 3 game series with a trip to the NLCS on the line. These teams met up last year in the National League Championship Series and the veterans over in New Carlisle welcomed the first year Panthers to the playoffs by eliminating them 3 games to 1. Most people would have guessed that this would have been the NLCS 5 game series for the 2nd straight season but New Carlisle's tough regular season left them on the same side of the bracket as the Panthers.
With both teams bringing out their top players, we got to see a developing rivalry at its finest. The Newts put up a fight against the top-seeded Granger Panthers, but ultimately fell in a three-game National League Division Series, 6-7, 6-1, 9-11. In the NLDS against the host Panthers, things started off well for the Newts in Game 1.
New Carlisle jumped out to an early 6-1 lead, and held off a couple Granger rallies throughout the game. But in the bottom of the fifth, the Panthers capitalized on a couple fielding miscues to score four runs with two outs to take a 7-6 lead.
With the season on the line, the Newts rebounded in the second game, winning 6-1 to set up a decisive Game 3. In the rubber match, the teams traded runs in the first, and Granger grabbed a 3-2 lead after two innings.
In the fourth, Austin Williams gave the Panthers some breathing room with a three-run homer, and it was 7-2 heading to the fifth. Granger poured on more runs in the bottom of the fifth, taking an 11-3 lead to the sixth. New Carlisle made a game of it, storming back to cut the deficit to just two, but the Newts ran out of gas and the comeback fell short. This will be the first time in 5 years that the New Carlisle Newts will not be playing in the ORWBL World Series. All streaks must come to an end, and that streak is certainly going to be one tough streak to beat.
It's an early exit for New Carlisle, who had played in five consecutive World Series (winning three of them). The Newts front office will undoubtedly need to regroup to find more consistency in their lineup for 2019.
As for Granger, the Panthers are headed back to the NLCS for the 2nd straight season after taking down the team that ended their season last year. It was a very impressive series win for Granger who seems poised to reach the World Series after being oh so close in their inaugural season.
NLDS (Best of 3): #3 Twin Branch Billy Goats @ #2 Saugany Lake Landsharks
The only thing stopping Granger from winning the National League will end up being the first year franchise Twin Branch Billy Goats who also hail from Granger. The 3rd seeded Goats split the first 2 games with the #2 seeded Saugany Lake Landsharks. In another win or go home matchup, Twin Branch came to play as they knocked off the higher seeded Landsharks.
For Twin Branch, this was a monumental series win as they will be playing for the NL Pennant in their 1st season in the league against the Panthers in what should be a hyped series between two Granger teams who have taken the league by storm since entering.
Although the run ends for Saugany Lake, this Landsharks squad made so many people proud this year as they too were one of the real feel good stories in the league this season. After losing their teammate Cody Strauch in a car accident over the winter, Levi Miller did a remarkable job rallying his boys together, finishing their inaugural regular season with a 15-9 record while also earning that first round bye.
This was an easy team to root for as it is filled with competitors who wanted nothing more than to make Cody proud and win ball games and they did just that.
National League frontrunner for Manager of the Year Levi Miller left Hudson Lake over the offseason to form his own team and it paid off as some former Heat players decided to take their own journey with a new franchise. With young talent such as Miller, Smith, Boren, and Austin Traxler, this team is going to be a major threat heading into 2019. Let's see if Miller has some more tricks up his sleeve over the winter during the offseason.
ALDS (Best of 3): #5 Bourissa Hills Wildcards @ #1 Maple City Magic
After picking up a win in the Wild Card game, the Wildcards were dealt a tough hand as they had to go up against the defending ORWBL Champions. Over the past few seasons, these two teams have always played close games as all 6 matchups last year were decided by 2 runs or less. This was not the case this time around however as Maple City took care of business, sweeping the Wildcard 2 games to 0.
This is now the 2nd time in the last 3 years that Bourissa Hills have been eliminated by the Magic at Magic Park. For Maple City, American League contender Wes Ellis picked up both wins on the mound as he continues to transform into the next Jay Ryans with that knuckleball. All in all, this Maple City team was too deep for the Wildcards to handle but there is no shame in being knocked off by the defending ORWBL Champions. Maple City is now heading back to the ALCS for the 3rd straight season after going through a bit of a rough patch for a couple years.
The Wildcards will now look forward to the offseason where Zach Rehlander will certainly be active on the free agent market as this team truly is not too far off from being a contender. If Rehlander can land a nice free agent or two, the Wildcards will be feeling great heading into 2019.
ALDS (Best of 3): #3 Hudson Lake Heat @ #2 South Bend Muffs
In a very highly anticipated matchup between two very good teams, we saw the #3 seed take down the #2 seed just like things went down in the National League. While the South Bend Muffs were the more consistent team throughout the season, things came to a crashing fault as the Hudson Lake Heat took both games from the Muffs at the Clarence Carter Coliseum.
Most people expected this to be a very tight series that would likely go the distance but this Hudson Lake team continued to play well as they sent the Muffs home packing early. In what is now their 5th season in the league, the Hudson Lake Heat will be playing for their first ever trip to the ORWBL World Series. It is only fitting that they will have to get past Maple City as the Magic have had their number over the past few years. While taking down the defending champs will not be an easy task, this Hudson Lake team brings a combination of speed, athleticism, and power as these guys can beat any team in any game. The question is, will they be able to take 3 games from the Magic in a 5 game series? Maple City sent the Heat home last season by taking them down in the ALDS so Hudson Lake is certainly out for blood.
As for South Bend, it was a rather sudden end to what had been such a great regular season. They started off the year taking 2 out of 3 from the Magic on the road and won 7 out of their 8 series this season. However, the Muffs were not able to put it all together in the playoffs which is certainly a disappointment to South Bend fans.
This tight knit group will almost surely be back next year and ready to compete once again as the Muffs continue to develop into an ORWBL brand after being a tournament team for many years. It will be interesting to see what the offseason has in store for South Bend as Manager Anthony Rieff will surely be looking to bolster his squad over the winter.
And just like that, we are now down to just 4 teams left with the ORWBL World Series Championship just 7 wins away for all 4 teams. In the National League, there will be a guaranteed 1st time World Series appearance as the Panthers and Goats have taken the league by storm as one of them will be playing for an ORWBL Championship.
In the American League, the rivalry between the Heat and Magic will be renewed as these teams have squared off against each other 4 times in the postseason if you include this ALCS which will begin on Sunday. The League Championship series are all set as 3 teams will look to be crowned as ORWBL Champions for the first time while Maple City hopes to become the 3rd team in ORWBL history to repeat as champions.