American 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 American League teams, starting with the Maple City Magic region.
Maple City Magic Region- Magic Park
Maple City Magic (20-4)
Fresh off of their 1st Hometown Cup title, the 3x defending ORWBL World Series Champions head into the postseason with as big of a target on their back as we have ever seen.
Despite every team coming for them each and every week, Maple City put together one of its better regular seasons as they finished with a 20-4 record.
After dropping 2 out of 3 to the Kings on ring day, the Magic went 16-2 over the next 18 games en route to a league high 20 wins.
Throughout the course of the regular season, Maple City's trio of Caleb Jonkman, Wes Ellis, and Jared Jonkman shined as they have formed arguably the league's most lethal big three.
Caleb Jonkman did his thing atop the lineup while also providing sure handed defense. Wes Ellis returned from Texas in dominating form, re establishing himself as one of the league's top players after missing most of 2019.
Ellis put together a very phenomenal stat line both at the plate and on the mound as he led the Magic in multiple categories. Just last weekend, Ellis put together a legendary championship game performance at The Hometown Cup.
He finished the game 8-9 with 6 HR, 8 runs, and 9 RBI. He also pitched a complete game only allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 3 and earning the win.
It was arguably the greatest Hometown Cup championship game ever played by a player as he was nearly perfect.
Perhaps the biggest key to Maple City making improvements in 2020 has been the MVP caliber season put together by Jared Jonkman.
Jonkman has already proven to be one of the top Home Run hitters in the game as he has won a record 4 consecutive Golden Bats at Hometown Days.
However, Jonkman made some major strides across the board as he improved his Batting Average, hitting at a .437 clip. Jared has also turned into a reliable weapon off of the mound after pitching the entire Cam Snead Tournament in his first full go on the mound. He led the Magic all the way to glory that day as he was a man possessed.
Jonkman sensed an opportunity and he seized it as he also recorded some big time outs at Hometown Days. With Jonkman developing his pitching, Maple City now has 3 premier arms to go to.
Shane Anderson figures to play an important role on the mound for this team in the postseason as well. Anderson finished the regular season with a 6-0 record, leading the American League with the lowest ERA.
Maple City has also received production from the bottom of their lineup from many different players throughout the season. Drew Luther suffered a back injury around mid season which forced him to miss a couple of weeks but finished strong. The man that was able to capitalize on the opportunity in playing time was original member of the Magic, Bronson Severs.
Severs played a huge role in the creation and development of the Magic but had not lived in the area for the past few years.
Now back in the area, Severs got his chance to show that he can still play! Severs finished with a .426 Batting Average in 61 At Bats as he hit 10 Home Runs while also scoring 21 runs.
Bronson showed that he could be a valuable asset at the bottom of the order as his ability to get on in front of Caleb Jonkman proved to be valuable.
With all of these weapons at his dispel it will be interesting to see who 2019 AL Manager of the Year Alex Friedman will be rolling with.
All in all, the Magic have put together another incredible summer of wiffleball as they have already been crowned as the 2020 Cam Snead Tourney and Hometown Days Champions.
It is no secret that these guys are after their 4th straight title as their quest for 4 in a row kicks off on Sunday. Will anyone be able to knock these guys off or these guys destined for their 5th straight World Series appearance?
The Magic will take on the winner of the Wildcards & Meatspins in the American League Division Series.
#4 Bourissa Hills Wildcards (13-11)
It was a memorable regular season for the Wildcards as the Bourissa Hills franchise finished with a record above .500 for the first time since 2010.
This team has suffered much defeat over the past decade so it is really great to see a long time ORWBL team turn things around.
Despite an incredibly rough stretch, this entire group remained patient as they finally picked up their big star that they were looking for.
Rookie phenom DJ Hill was brought into the franchise last season but only played in 2 series which left him Rookie eligible for 2020.
Hill has shined in his first full season as he put together MVP caliber numbers while also finishing as the favorite to win AL Rookie of the Year. The addition of Hill has helped take this team to new heights as this squad has won 11 of their last 12 ballgames.
The fact that the Wildcards did all of that on the road makes it even more impressive. All in all this team has received contribution throughout their lineup.
Cody Carlisle and Alan Ament once again put together great seasons, providing that stability in the lineup week in and week out.
Wildcards skipper Zach Rehlander made huge improvements in 2020 as he finished with the most non HR hits of any player in ORWBL. Rehlander was an on base machine as he fit perfectly in front of the Wildcards long ball hitters. He has as good of a shot as anyone to take home his first American League Manager of the Year award turning this ship around.
Rehlander also made a fantastic managerial move after 9 games as he reinserted Evan Layman as their ace. After becoming their regular starter, Layman thrived as finished the season with a 12-4 record.
Those 12 wins was good for 2nd in the American League as Layman makes a legitimate case to in the American League Cy Young award.
The Wildcards head into the playoffs with loads of momentum as they will look to turn their regular season success into postseason success.
The Wildcards will look to stay hot away from the Palace as they will take on the Meatspins in the Wild Card game. If the Wildcards can get past the Wild Card game, they would get an opportunity to dethrone the 3x defending World Series Champs.
#5 Mishawaka Meatspins (11-13)
After a solid start to the regular season, Mishawaka slowed down a bit dropping 7 of their last 9 games. Despite the 2nd half struggles, this team heads into the playoffs as dangerous as any team out there on any given day.
This team has shown their ability to be the best team on any given day as their championships in various tournaments speaks for itself. Mishawaka had five of their players make a deep run to the Hometown Cup championship game at Migley Field.
With that being said, if this team is able to bring a lineup similar to the ones that continue to make deep runs in tournaments along with Anthony Rieff, they are incredibly dangerous.
These guys will certainly wake up for these ones as this entire group seems hungry to get revenge from their Hometown Cup championship loss.
After falling to the 5th seed, the Meatspins will play as the away team against the Wildcards at Magic Park. This should be a very intriguing matchup as both of these teams have the ability to give Maple City a run for their money.
The Meatspins took 2 out of 3 from the Wildcards in the regular season in what was a higher scoring series. If the wind is blowing in it will be interesting to see how these two teams fair against each other in different conditions.
Meatspins Manager Ryan Warmoth is expected to be the catalyst to their playoff run as the captain has been the heart and soul of the team.
Anthony Rieff has put together a remarkable season not just at the plate but on the mound as well. Rieff has taken that next step this season as he has turned into a reliable arm off the mound.
Nick Thoman has also put together a solid season as he joined Rieff and Warmoth in the All Star Game after winning the last man in twitter vote. The rest of the Meatspins lineup has loads of big game experience as they will look to outsmart the Wildcards in this one.
The time is finally here for this group of veterans as they have undoubtedly been waiting for postseason ORWBL action since Week 1.
County Line Kings Region- The Garage
After winning 11 games in their inaugural campaign, County Line put themselves on the map, becoming one of the top teams in ORWBL.
After getting swept by the Cyclones on Opening Day, County Line went 18-3 the rest of the way as it earned them a Bye straight into the ALDS Best of 3.
County Line Manager Michael Forrester knew that he struck gold when he landed former Mechanic Kody Webb for the 2020 season.
Playing at The Garage once again, Kody Webb was one of the brighter stars in all of ORWBL as his name was up near the top of every hitting category. Webb mashed opposing pitching all season long while also being the go to guy in the field once again.
Webb was not the only Kings player to rake all season long as JP Kehoe put together one of the more impressive ORWBL regular seasons that we have seen in quite some time.
Kehoe won the American League Triple Crown award as he led the AL in Average, Homers, and RBI's. Kehoe finished tops in all of ORWBL in HR (57) and Average (.620) while finishing just 2 RBI's shy of Granger's Alex Zarazee for the ORWBL lead.
Webb and Kehoe were not the only Kings to put together great seasons at the plate. Kings Manager Michael Forrester blasted 37 HR while finishing with a .467 average.
Forrester provided the Kings with a powerful bat to go along with Kehoe and Webb. Forrester also made key contributions off of the mound as he finished tied for the team lead in wins with 7.
Kings newcomer Kadin Abegg was the other County Line player to win 7 games on the mound. Abegg finished the season with a team low 7.56 ERA as he was one of the more quality pitchers in the American League this year.
Abegg also made strides at the plate as he .457 to go along with 16 homers. The list goes on as 2019 NL Most Improved Player of the Year Colton Boren put together another great season as he finished just below .500 while also hitting 28 HR.
Boren has provided this loaded Kings lineup with stability as he figures to be a key part to their success in the upcoming postseason. County Line also has another quality name in Bryce Bloode that you should not forget.
Although this team lacks depth, they boast one of the premier starting lineups in all of ORWBL as they rely on their core group to show up and play well.
The Kings will look to continue their memorable season in the playoffs as they will take on either the Cyclones, Billy Goats, or Heat in the ALDS.
#3 Flat Rock Cyclones (15-9)
For the 2nd consecutive year the Cyclones finished with a record above .500 as this franchise continues to head in the right direction.
2019 American League MVP Mark Richards put together another well rounded season at the plate but made greater strides on the mound. Richards noted that he was looking to win the AL Cy Young award heading into the season and he potentially did just that.
Mark won 14 games on the mound which placed him tied atop ORWBL in that category with Griffin Smith of the Panthers. With Richards doing his thing on both sides of the plate, it was offseason acquisition Tyler Shupert who stepped into the #2 role for this team.
Flat Rock made it clear that Shup' would play a huge role early on as he named Tyler as their leadoff hitter. Shupert remained in that spot as he helped provide the Cyclones with another big bat atop their lineup.
Although this squad won 15 games, hitting remains a concern heading into the playoffs as Richards finished as the only Cyclones player to hit above .400.
Flat Rock will need to get production from their bottom of their lineup as they have struggled to get what they want out of that spot all season long. With an experienced player like Nate Arndt at his dispel, might Richards give Arndt the first opportunity to step up?
No matter who ends up in their lineup, they will be focused on producing at a higher level at the plate than they did in the regular season.
After sitting in either 1st or 2nd in the AL for the majority of the season, the Cyclones fell to 3rd as the Kings surged ahead of them.
Because of that Flat Rock will have to play these games at The Garage as opposed to the Barn Yard which they played very well at.
They await the winner of the Heat/Billy Goats game as they will look to come up on top and earn a date with the Kings for a 3 game American League Divisional series.
This team proved to be one of the top defensive teams in the league and if they can find their rhythm at the plate we could see these guys in the ALCS next weekend.
#6 Twin Branch Billy Goats (8-16)
After a dominant regular season in 2019 in which they went 20-4, the Billy Goats took a step back in 2020. The Goats win total dropped from 20 to 8 which was definitely the biggest drop off in the league.
The Goats struggled to get the production that they had received from Connor VanOverberge and Kadin Abegg last season. After losing both players in the offseason, the Billy Goats went with a younger lineup as they cycled 3 different players for the #5 spot for the majority of the season.
Justyn Fox, Riley Smith, and Peyton Doran all had some great moments throughout the season as Manager Andrew Doran was very good about letting his guys play.
After the tough start to the season it appeared that the Goats got into cruise control mode knowing that performing in the playoffs is what mattered,
After falling just 1 win shy of a trip to the World Series last year, Twin Branch heads into this postseason with a big chip on their shoulder.
They could almost taste a World Series appearance last year and although they lost a couple of pieces, the core remains here.
If Lucas Oletti, Andrew Doran, Frankie Minerva, and Keigan White can play like they did all season long in 2019, Twin Branch could make for a very difficult out in the playoffs.
Thanks to their disappointing regular season they will have to take on the Hudson Lake Heat in the Play in game. If they can pick up a win over Hudson Lake, they would then earn the right to play the Flat Rock Cyclones in the Wild Card game.
If both of those things go their way they would get to see their old teammate Kadin Abegg and the County Line Kings.
Despite their regular season record this team has the pieces to make another deep run in the postseason. Let's see if they can change their fortune in 2020.
#7 Hudson Lake Heat (6-18)
Now one of ORWBL's longest tenured teams, the Hudson Lake Heat will look to play the role of Cinderella in the playoffs.
Despite having a very respectable lineup featuring Jared Monhaut, Ben McDonald, Bailey Rhed, Doug Benner and 2017 AL MVP Bob Bushman, Hudson Lake struggled mightily in the regular season.
After being one of the top teams in the American League for a period of time the Heat have fallen to the bottom of the AL.
This team struggled to get going in 2020 as they were kicked off of their home field in their home opener. The Heat were not able to find a field as they would end up playing some of their home games against their opponent on the road.
Not having a set home park might have played a roll in the team's struggled in 2020. This team often feasted on beating teams in high scoring affairs out at Pine Park.
While this team was not able to perform at the level that we have seen before, the Heat did pick up a win over the Granger Panthers as they can look back on that with pride.
This team has shown the ability to beat the best of em on any given day as this group of established ORWBL veterans still has plenty of talent.
Maybe just maybe these guys can find some of their old success as the Heat hope to pull off some upsets in the playoffs. Hudson Lake will have a tough Play in game matchup against the Billy Goats with the winner advancing to the Wild Card game to face the Kings.