National League Playoff Preview
It seems like it was just yesterday that we were trying to figure out plans on how we were going to get this ORWBL season in. After delaying the start of the season by 1 month, we were able to kick things off on May 30th.
Luckily, we did not have any scheduling issues as we were able to close the door on another ORWBL regular season. With Hometown Days now in the rear view mirror it is time to look ahead to the ORWBL Postseason as all 14 teams enter with 1 common goal in mind.
Now, let's take a look at the Postseason bracket as we will break down all 7 National League teams, starting with the Granger Panthers region.
Granger Panthers Region- Snead Field
#1 Granger Panthers (18-6)
After winning the final game of the regular season in dramatic fashion against the New Carlisle Newts, the Granger Panthers locked up the number 1 overall seed in the National League for the 4th consecutive season.
Granger has now earned the top seed in the National League in all 4 seasons since joining the league back in 2017. That is incredibly impressive considering all of the talent that ORWBL has to offer nowadays.
The Panthers took the league by storm at the start of the season as they started 15-0 while also winning the 1st tournament of the year, the HD Classic.
Since then, the Panthers have struggled a bit as they finished the season 3-6 over their final 9 games. Luckily for the Panthers, they were still able to grab the top seed in the NL with just 1 victory over the Newts in Week 8.
Although it wasn't pretty, Granger was able to get the job done thanks to a 5 run bottom of the 6th that was capped off with an Alex Zarazee walk off Homer.
While this team has dominated most of the season, critics would note that the Panthers went 17-1 against teams below .500 while going 1-5 against teams over .500.
While that is a stat worth noting, Granger has certainly shown their ability to beat the best of the best with consistency as they won the 2019 Hometown Cup among many other tournament championships.
All in all, the Panthers have to be pretty happy about how things turned out in the regular season despite sputtering towards the end.
Granger knows that it is what they accomplish in the playoffs that will leave the lasting mark as they have gotten used to dominating the regular season.
The Panthers head into the playoffs with a bit of a chip on their shoulder as they look to seek revenge from last season on the New Carlisle Newts who took them out in the NLDS Best of 3.
Despite finishing atop the National League standings in each of the past 3 seasons, the Panthers only have a 2018 World Series appearance to show for it as they have been eliminated by the Newts twice.
This Granger team seems ready to prove that they are not just a tournament team as it is World Series or bust for the 2019 Hometown Cup Champions.
The Panthers have one of the premier lineups in all of ORWBL that features Griffin Smith, Alex Zarazee, Seth Campbell, Austin Williams, & Daivyn Davis. Granger arguably has 3 MVP candidates in Zarazee, Smith, and Campbell.
The rise of Alex Zarazee has certainly been one of the top storylines around the league this year. The former East Granger Outlaw has turned into one of the brightest stars in the league this year as the Granger farm system continues to provide the Panthers with elite level talent.
Zarazee is not the only Panther who is really turning heads this year as their rising star Daivyn Davis continues to make a name for himself across the league.
Meanwhile Seth Campbell and Austin Williams continue to provide the Panthers with stability. Although Williams batting numbers took a little bit of a dip this year, he continues to be one of the more sure handed players in the field.
As for Seth Campbell, he has quietly put together another MVP caliber season as the 2019 Kaylor Trophy winner does it all on both sides of the plate.
Last but not least they have former and potential Cy Young winner Griffin Smith at the top of the lineup and on the mound. Since entering the league, Griffin has been nothing short of an ace and a workhorse year in and year out.
Smith once again handled the bulk share of the pitching duties as he recorded 107.1 Innings Pitched. Smith finished with a sub 5 ERA and finished 3rd in the league behind Walter Griffin III and Aidan Cotter. The Granger skipper also makes a great case for NL Manager of the Year.
With Smith manning the rubber, Campbell, Williams, and Davis in the Outfield, this lineup stacks up with any lineup no matter how you look at it.
Having said all of that, the Granger Panthers head into the postseason as a popular World Series pick by many. With arguably one of the best lineups in the league, the Panthers are going to be an extremely tough out.
When asked about how he felt about where his team was at, Manager Griffin Smith had the following things to say: "Whole team is excited and ready to go. With early Hometown Cup exits from both squads everyone is itching to make a run in the playoffs. We just gotta hope our bats are hot when we play BFAM or the Newts because who ever is hot that series will head to the World Series."
Having earned the top seed, the Panthers will first host a Wild Card game between Lynn Street and Rolling Prairie to decide their NLDS opponent. The Panthers have to be feeling very confident heading in as they went a combined 6-0 against both teams.
Long story short, the Granger Panthers are very good at wiffleball. With the National League having a down year the Panthers were able to beat up on plenty of teams as they had their fare share of blowout wins during that 15 game stretch.
They finished with the top run differential in all of ORWBL at +139. We know that these guys can dominate on any given day. The stage is set, let's see if the Granger Panthers are ready to win their first ORWBL World Series title in only their 4th season.
#4 Lynn Street Leprechauns (9-15)
The Lynn Street Leprechauns made some improvements in 2020 as the 5th year franchise has turned into one of the more well known franchises in ORWBL.
The Leps saw their win total from last year jump from 6 to 9 as this team definitely showed signs of improvement.
Brassell has slowly but surely put together a very respectable roster with Levi Miller, Nate Hansen, Nick Wilson, and Zach Brassell being the featured group.
Brassell put together a real solid regular season as their skipper led the team with 23 HR, 31 Runs and 31 RBI. Meanwhile, Levi Miller played in all 24 games as he provided the Leprechauns with some much needed experience.
The addition of Miller helped this Lynn Street team make some major improvements in the fielding department which they were certainly lacking. Miller has set the tone for the Leps defense as Miller makes a very strong case to win his first Gold Glove award.
Nick Wilson also put together a breakout campaign as he blasted 21 HR go go along with a .405 Average. It seems as though every time the Leps needed a big hit this season, it was Wilson coming through for them.
The Leps also received some nice contribution and veteran leadership from World Wiffleball Hall of Famer Nate Hansen. Hansen hit 15 HR in only 9 games played as this was a different Leps team when he was in the lineup.
Leps pitcher Evan King made his mark on 2020 as finished tied for the league lead in strikeouts with 10.
Heading into the postseason, the Leps are certainly positioned better to succeed than they ever have been. If they are able to get Hansen to come out and play in the playoffs, it could be a difference maker.
Lynn Street will be taking on Rolling Prairie in the Wild Card game in a rematch from Sunday at Hometown Days in which Lynn Street came out on top.
The Leprechauns also took 2 of 3 from EA just a couple of weeks ago so they head into this one as the favorite, There is no doubt that EA has more playoff experience but the Leps have won 3 of 4 recently if you include their Hometown Days matchup.
If the Leps are able to take down EA, it will be their 1st postseason win in franchise history. If they are able to take care of business against Rolling Prairie, you never know what these guys could do against Granger.
All in all, it was a very respectable regular season for this squad who continues to trust the process.
#5 Rolling Prairie Emery's Army (6-18)
The return of Emery's Army was a welcome sight for anyone a part of ORWBL. When you think about the classic Old Republic Wiffleball League, you often think about this Emery's Army ball club.
After a 1 year hiatus, EA returned to their place in the National League. Despite a successful offseason, EA struggled to get things going as they were not able to recover from a 1-8 start.
Rolling Prairie was the only team in the league to have to face the Panthers, Newts, and Magic as they wound up going 1-8 against the gauntlet.
That portion of their schedule was very early in the season as this team was not able to get in a groove all season long. Despite the grueling schedule, EA was able to pick up 1 win in that stretch as they won the Opener of the night series at Migley Field.
That will certainly go down as the highlight of their regular season as they actually handed New Carlisle their first loss of the season.
It took Rolling Prairie a few weeks to build off of that win as they suffered a tough losing streak after that series. However, EA was able to pick up some momentum to end the season as they took 2 out of 3 against the Goon Squad.
They were able to jump from 7th to 5th in the NL after that series win as it actually catapulted them out of the play in game.
Moving up to 5th has them in the Granger region where they will once again travel to Granger just as they did in 2018. This group will look to seek some revenge on Lynn Street who took 2 out of 3 in the regular season before eliminating EA at Hometown Days last Sunday.
As we arrive in the playoffs it is safe to toss out all of those regular season numbers aside when dealing with EA. This is a group that when healthy and in attendance can hang with the best of them on any given day.
Their core group of Jake Lawrence, Matt Serge, Danny Hernandez, Ryan Murphy, and Eric Johnson have all won ORWBL titles else where as they boast plenty of ORWBL playoff experience. That group alone has 10 World Series titles between them all so the numbers speak for itself.
EA youngster Brady Burnett has also made some major improvements this year after becoming a full time starter.
If they can get their regular lineup to show up in the playoffs, they will boast the most playoff experience of any team on their side of the bracket. Not to mention they have the workhorse Jake Lawrence on their side as he pitched more innings than any other pitcher in 2020.
New Carlisle Newts Region- Migley Field
#2 New Carlisle Newts (17-7)
After finishing the 2019 regular season with a 12-12 record, New Carlisle made one of the biggest improvements as they finished with a 17-7 record on the year.
Despite going 12-12 last season, the Newts still showed that they were the team to beat in the National League as they eliminated the top seeded Panthers in the NLDS.
After making another trip to the World Series, Manager Koby Keck decided it was time to stock up on talent. Keck had one of if not the best offseason as the Newts were able to land a trio of young stars in Aidan Cotter, Conor VanOverberghe, and Garrett Ruiz.
The addition of those three has already paid off as New Carlisle had one of the top regular seasons in all of ORWBL. Before those additions, New Carlisle already had a top notch lineup featuring Garrett Curless, Scott Soos, Noah Shail, Jay Ryans, and Matt Soos.
Add Cotter, Ruiz, and VanO to the mix and New Carlisle has really been able to create some separation from the majority of the National League.
After getting off to a superb 9-0 start, excitement began to grow in Migleyville as they have some of the most loyal fans in our sport. New Carlisle's team continued to raise the W flag 9 straight times to start the season.
Crowds continued to grow all season long as New Carlisle boasted the highest attendance numbers of any team in the league. The fans were also treated to the highly anticipated return of Newts vs. EA as both teams squared off in the night series in Week 4.
The Newts also hosted the 2020 ORWBL All Star Game at Migley Field as the leagues top players gathered on one stage. There was no shortage of Newts in the All Star Game as a league high 6 Newts played in the mid summer classic.
The hometown star Garrett Curless made headlines that night as he won his 3rd ORWBL Home Run Derby title.
6x Manager of the Year Award winner Koby Keck put together one of his finer seasons at the helm. Keck could have taught a class on how to get 12 players 2 games worth of At Bats in a series as he made sure to get every Newt in attendance some quality playing time.
Nine New Carlisle Newts played in at least 11 games while seven different Newts recorded wins on the mound. Both of those were more than any other team in ORWBL.
All in all, Manager Koby Keck made sure that his entire lineup received consistent playing time no matter what, silencing any critics that said that they had too much depth.
You can never have too much depth in ORWBL as it is often the teams with the deepest bench that makes the best runs in the postseason. With that being the case, this Newts team is positioned as well as anyone to make a World Series run.
After taking 2 out of 3 against the Granger Panthers on the final week of the season, this Newts group has already had a taste of taking down the Panthers in 2020.
Ever since the season began on May 31st, it seemed as though the Newts and Panthers were on a crash course to meet in the playoffs for the 4th consecutive season.
With both teams finishing in the top 2, the stage has been set for a possible NLCS matchup with Granger.
New Carlisle of course must first focus on their NLDS matchup which is still To Be Determined. If the higher seeds take care of business in the Play in and Wild Card game, they will be set for a battle with BFAM.
The Newts went a combined 9-0 against the teams in their region of the bracket so they will certainly head into the series as the favorites no matter who they are facing.
The down side of earning the #2 seed in the NL as opposed to the #1 seed has to be the fact that a NLDS matchup against BFAM looms. Elkhart is the hottest team in the National League as they won 9 straight games to close out the season.
New Carlisle is likely preparing to see Elkhart tomorrow afternoon as it could end up being a fantastic playoff series. If Elkhart can take care of business in the Wild Card game that will set the stage for a 3 game series between the two teams.
These two teams put together very similar regular seasons as the Newts had 1 more win than Elkhart while also finishing with a +76 run differential (Elkhart finished at +70.)
All in all, New Carlisle heads into the 2020 postseason with a major chip on their shoulder as this group is hungry to bring a 4th World Series title to New Carlisle.
After making the World Series in 2019, this roster is as lethal as ever as they gear up to make a run.
#3 Elkhart BFAM (16-8)
After winning 19 regular season games in their inaugural season, Elkhart put together another fantastic regular season, finishing with a 16-8 record.
This team struggled out of the gates this year as they hovered around .500 for the early half of the season. Elkhart actually carried a 7-8 record heading into their series vs. the Granger Panthers which would end up being the turning point.
Elkhart's sweep over the Panthers was certainly the turning point and the highlight of the regular season as they have won 6 more games since that sweep.
It happened at the perfect time for Elkhart as many around the league were wondering what was going on with BFAM. The Panthers took a 15-0 record heading into the series which makes it even sweeter for BFAM.
After starting the season with the smallest roster in the league, Manager Brandon Terry made a couple of Free agent acquisitions, signing former Scottsdale Sluggers Adam Cseh and Connor Mowers.
Cseh would end up recording a walk off hit during their 3 game sweep of the Panthers as it did not take him long to make his mark. Despite having one of the smaller rosters in the league, Elkhart still found a way to put together a great regular season as their core group of players always show up.
As they stumbled out of the gates, Elkhart needed a reliable presence that they could turn to at any point. Last year it was National League Rookie of the Year and MVP Brandon Terry. This year, Elkhart turned to Walter Griffin III to lead the charge.
Griffin III finished atop every category for BFAM as he put together an MVP caliber season as the BFAM top player. To add to that, Walt ended up with the lowest ERA in all of ORWBL which had to be a surprise to some.
Heading into the season, Manager Brandon Terry said that Walt was not their top option on the mound. As the season progressed, Walter played his way into becoming the ace of this team.
Walter has done a fantastic job assuming that role as he continues to develop both as a player and as a leader. Griffin III and Austin Traxler would end up forming one of the top pitching duos in the league as both pitchers won 8 games.
Despite their tough start to the season, Griffin III was able to steer the ship in the right direction as the rest of BFAM began to play like we thought they would.
Brandon Terry put together a very productive 2nd half of the season as he and Griffin III looked just like the lethal 1-2 that we saw last season.
Meanwhile, Chaz Boyd seemed like he was making highlight plays in the field week in and week out as Chaz provided the defense with a Gold Glove caliber player. Chaz figures to be the key fielder for this team heading into the playoffs.
Elkhart received plenty of production from the top 4 guys in their lineup over the latter half of the season while they often cycled through different players in the 5 spot.
It remains unclear who will be joining Griffin III, Terry, and Traxler in their starting lineup in the playoffs and if they are able to get Adam Cseh to show up it would be huge for them.
All in all this Elkhart team has now put together back to back regular seasons with 16 or more wins as they have already established themselves as one of the tougher teams in ORWBL. Now they will look to take that next step and have some playoff success.
They will await the winner of the Godfathers/Goon Squad game in the Wild Card with a date with the New Carlisle Newts on the line. If they can win the Wild Card game it will be their 2nd postseason win in franchise history in as many years.
It is going to be a tough journey for this group if they want to make it out of the National League but they have the skillset to do it.
You can be assured that this group will come both physically and mentally prepared tomorrow as anything short of a trip to the NLCS would be disappointing for these guys
#6 Great Lakes Godfathers (6-18)
After 4 years in the American League, the Great Lakes Godfathers were moved over to the National League. Searching for their first season above .500 in franchise history, Great Lakes had a productive offseason as they signed former Panther Andy Sieradzki along with a couple of Warsaw Whitecats.
While the Godfathers received lots of contribution from their newer members, it did not necessarily translate to the amount of wins they had hoped for.