Offseason Recap & Team Previews
We are less than two weeks away from the start of the 2020 ORWBL regular season which means it's time to take a closer look into all 14 ORWBL teams. After a longer offseason than usual due to the Covid-19 outbreak, it looks as though we should finally be ready to go on May 31st barring any setbacks. Now lets take a look at what each team has done in the offseason as well as what lies ahead starting with the 3-time defending World Series Champions.
Maple City Magic
Maple City heads into the 2020 regular season with as big of a target on their back as we have seen after winning the last 3 ORWBL World Series titles. Considering the Magic have usually brought in 2 new faces in the offseason, it was a rather quite offseason for the champs who stood pat on the free agent market despite losing Ryan Murphy and Eric Johnson to Emery's Army. Instead of exploring the Free Agent market, Manager Alex Friedman mentioned that they expect to receive a lot more contribution out of Jeremy Ratajczyk who exploded onto the scene with a remarkable performance in the postseason after only getting 10 At Bats in the regular season.
The entire 2019 Magic core returns featuring Caleb Jonkman, Jared Jonkman, Drew Luther, and Shane Anderson which means the Magic are once again well positioned to make another World Series run. Perhaps the biggest reason why Maple City is positioned well to 4-peat is the availability of their 2x Cy Young award winner Wes Ellis. Due to the season being postponed, Ellis will in fact be ready to go for Maple City in Week 2 when the Magic unveil their championship banner against the County Line Kings.
With the American League deeper than ever, Maple City does not have one series on the schedule the looks like a runaway. They get a World Series rematch against the Newts in Rivalry week and will square off against the Twin Branch Billy Goats in Week 7 in an ALCS rematch that could have major implications on seeding.
After yet another remarkable regular season in 2019, the Granger Panthers failed to reach the National League Championship Series after losing to the New Carlisle Newts in the NLDS. After making the World Series in 2018 it was certainly a major let down for Panther fans who had World Series aspirations. There is no doubt that the Panthers will have a major chip on their shoulder in 2020 and anything other than a World Series title will be a let down. Despite their disappointing end to their ORWBL season, the Panthers still were able to have a memorable summer as the Panthers hoisted their 1st Hometown Cup.
Granger will be looking to carry the momentum from their Hometown Cup run into the 2020 ORWBL regular season. Granger also had a quite offseason as they will look to count on another years worth of experience to put them over the hump. They have to feel very confident in their core group of Griffin Smith, Austin Williams, and Seth Campbell but there are some question marks regarding the end of the lineup. Granger will be looking for Alex Zarazee and Daivyn Davis to provide stability at the end of the lineup. While both players certainly have the ability to do great things, it remains to be seen if they are able to do it in the postseason. All in all, the Panthers head into 2020 as the favorites to win the National League and are a popular pick to win the World Series by many. If this team is able to stay healthy, they have just as good of a shot to win it as anyone.
The Panthers have a rather easy first half of the season and could very well go on one of those early season runs that they have become known for. The second half the season will tell the tale for Granger as they close the season with Twin Branch, Elkhart, Hudson Lake, and New Carlisle.
New Carlisle Newts
After a disappointing regular season, the Newts put together a memorable postseason run which ended with a World Series loss to the Maple City Magic. Despite losing the World Series, New Carlisle silenced any critics who said that they were getting too old with playoff series wins against the Granger Panthers and Olive Township Mechanics. The Newts 2019 season is a prime example of why it is silly to ever count this team out.
New Carlisle took a rather relaxed approach to the regular season in 2019 as they knew that their guys would show when it mattered the most. With one of the deepest rosters in the league, it will be interesting to see how Manager Koby Keck approaches the regular season in 2020. The Newts return most of their core with the exception of Danny Hernandez who joined Emery's Army. Looking to fill that hole, New Carlisle signed former Junkballer & Mechanic Garrett Ruiz. Ruiz figures to play a large role in 2020 as he brings some much needed youth as well.
The Newts will take on the Magic in Week 5 in a World Series rematch. Two of the sports best rivalries return as New Carlisle will face their crosstown rival Wildcards as well as Emery's Army after 1 year breaks from each series. New Carlisle will take on Granger in the final week of the season in a series that could decide home field advantage.
Elkhart B FAM
Elkhart heads into the 2020 season with loads of confidence after a fantastic inaugural season in the league. Led by National League Rookie of the Year and MVP Brandon Terry, Elkhart has one of the biggest young stars in the game. This B-Fam lineup also relies heavily on Walter Griffin III who put together a phenomenal rookie season as well. This duo of Terry and Griffin III is one of the best duos in the league as they can both do great things both at the plate and on the mound as well.
While Elkhart broke onto the scene with a 19-5 regular season, they failed to win a playoff game which is something that they will certainly be striving for in 2020. The offseason addition of Austin Traxler could definitely go a long way in helping B-Fam take that next step forward. Traxler blasted 31 HR, 47 RBI to go along with a .552 Batting Average last season for the Landsharks and likely would have been talked about more had his teammate Anthony Rieff not broken the single season record for Batting Average.
Despite having one of the smallest rosters in the league, Elkhart heads into 2020 with confidence sky high as they feel very confident in their group of guys. The one downside to that could be the fact that they have a lack of options off the bench and therefore won't have much to turn to if their stars are not performing. However, there is not much reason to think that this squad will take a step back in 2020 and if they are able to beat up on the bottom feeders on the NL, another 19 win season is not out of the question.
Twin Branch Billy Goats
After falling just 1 win shy from a trip to the World Series, the Billy Goats head into 2020 with their eyes set on making it to the World Series this time around. After switching from the NL to the AL last season, the Goats will look to take home the top record in the AL for the 2nd straight season. It truly was a special year last year for the Goats as Andrew Doran won his 2nd consecutive Cy Young Award while Lucas Oletti won the Home Run Derby.
With the American League deeper than ever, it could be tough for the Billy Goats to win 20 games again but having a game changing pitcher like Andrew Doran certainly helps. While the Goats core of Andrew Doran, Lucas Oletti, Frankie Minerva, and Keigan White returns for 2020, they will have to fill the void left by the departures of both Kadin Abegg and Conor VanOverberghe. Kadin and "VanO" combined for 40 HR & 57 RBI so they will have to look elsewhere to get that production. Some think that Peyton Doran, the younger brother of Andrew will see a larger role this year but that remains to be seen. All in all, Twin Branch figures to be the Magic's biggest threat in the American League as they have full intention of being the team to end Maple City's run after the Magic won 3 straight games at the Goat House to win the AL pennant in 2019.
The Goats will take on their rival Granger Panthers in rivalry week in what has become one of the most intriguing rivalries in the league. Twin Branch will also host Maple City in Week 7 in one of the more highly anticipated series of the season. On July 5th, they will travel to County Line where they will face off against their ex-teammate Kadin Abegg.
County Line Kings
The County Line Kings head into 2020 with high expectations as they were arguably the big winners of the offseason. The Kings added former Mechanics stars Kody Webb and Colton Boren while also adding ex-Billy Goat Kadin Abegg. Insert those three along with 2019 AL Rookie of the Year Mike Forrester and Bryce Bloode and the Kings have a very talented starting 5. The three new additions come to County Line as they look to build off of a solid 11-13 rookie campaign.
Many around the league believe that County Line could be ready to vault past the Billy Goats and give Maple City a run for their money. People certainly have reason to believe that this team is ready to break out as they are all entering their prime and are coming off productive seasons. Both Kody Webb and Colton Boren played big roles in leading Olive Township to the NLCS and will look to do the same over in the American League this year with County Line If Mike Forrester can continue to improve in his sophomore campaign, County Line could make a push at earning a Bye in the Postseason.
Another thing that could play a role in the Kings success this year is the strength of schedule. While there will be no easy weeks in the American League, the Kings do have one of the easier inter-league schedules as they will take on the Goon Squad and Godfathers, both who finished under .500 last season.
Flat Rock Cyclones
Led by American League MVP Mark Richards, the newly named Flat Rock Cyclones will look to build off of a successful inaugural season in which they finished 13-11. After being eliminated in the Wild Card game to the Wildcards, Flat Rock headed into the offseason with a couple of holes to fill. They did just that as they made a big splash on the market by signing Tyler Shupert and Nate Arndt who both had great seasons with the Mechanics. They also added the speedster in Collin Babcock who has always been a productive player wherever he plays.
The Cyclones have been a popular pick by many to take a big step forward this season with their new additions of Shupert and Arndt. Those two figure to fit perfectly into a lineup that expects to also future Mark Richards, Owen Satoski, and Collin Froedge. Those 5 together certainly give them a great shot to win each time that they take the field. The Cyclones also have some excitement around the club as they will be opening up their new ballpark called The Barn Yard. From the pictures alone, the Barn Yard already looks like a premier ORWBL ballpark.
The Cyclones will open up their new ballpark right away as they host the County Line Kings in Week 1 in what should be a very intriguing matchup between two teams who improved themselves drastically in the offseason. They also have a very intriguing matchup during Rivalry Week as they will host the Elkhart B-Fam in a matchup featuring the AL and NL MVP winners.
Rolling Prairie Emery's Army
Things just feel right when Emery's Army is a member of the Old Republic Wiffleball League. After a 1 year hiatus, Rolling Prairie is back and better then ever. Jake Lawrence returns after a fantastic season with the Landsharks. Ryan Murphy and Eric Johnson are back after winning their 1st ORWBL titles with Maple City. The versatile Kevin May is returning and will be taking over the Managerial duties.
While the EA core has always had success together, it is no secret that they were still 1 or 2 pieces away from taking that next step. Emery's Army may have done just that this offseason with the additions of Danny Hernandez and Matt Serge. If these two are able to play a lot this season, Emery's Army will boast one of the more talented and established starting lineups in the league.
With the league continuing to get younger and younger, it seems that there are many people questioning just how good this team can be as they simply have not seen them play much. There is no question that this team has the talent and experience to make a major push this season and will look to show some of the younger teams that they can still play ball. After opening up with the Godfathers in Week 1, these guys will have to go through the gauntlet as they will play Granger, Maple City, and New Carlisle over the next 3 weeks. No matter what happens this year, ORWBL is in a better place when Emery's Army is in it.
The league welcomes the Mishawaka Meanspins to the league for the 2020 season. The Meatspins team is very similar to the Cabo Yabos from a few years ago. With that being said, this is a group of veterans who have had a lot of success in the tournament circuit with various teams most notably Grandmother's Quilt.
Mishawaka will look to turn that tournament success and translate it to ORWBL play. While this is one of the older teams in the league, Mishawaka has a full 15 man roster so depth should not be an issue. Shortly after announcing their return to the league, Mishawaka made a big splash as they signed 2x World Series Champions Anthony and Austin Rieff. Anthony is coming off of a historic season in which he broke the record for single season Batting Average.
From top to bottom, the Meatspins have one of the deeper rosters in the league and if they are able to find the right mix should finish the season over .500. With all of their experience, they are going to be a very tough out in the playoffs. They will open up the season at home in a tough matchup against Elkhart. In Week 5 they will square off against The Godfathers in what figures to be a great Rivalry Week matchup. One downside could be the rumors of a clubhouse confrontation between the front office and their projected leadoff hitter Brayden Biscuits Meyers. It will be interesting to see how that plays out.
Hudson Lake Heat
After a very disappoin