2021 ORWBL Season Preview
The 2021 ORWBL season is less than a week away as the league returns to a 16 team league for only the 2nd time. After losing BFAM and Emery's Army from last year, the league was able to add four new teams to get us back to sixteen.
Starting in the American League we have 6 returning teams featuring the Maple City Magic, County Line Kings, Flat Rock Cyclones, Bourissa Hills Wildcards, Twin Branch Billy Goats, and Hudson Lake Heat. The AL also brings in two new teams as the Mill Pond Pink Pandas and Crown Point OTF round out the American League.
Moving over to the National League, we have 5 returning teams from last year featuring the New Carlisle Newts, Granger Panthers, Lynn Street Leprechauns, Great Lakes Godfathers, and the Union Mills Goon Squad. After losing the defending National League Champions Elkhart BFAM, the Mishawaka Meatspins head over to the National League to fill their place. The NL also receives two new franchises as the South Bend Truffle Butter and Glen Lee Skeeters round out the senior circuit.
The league manager's also voted to approve a 30 game regular season as this will be the first 30 game season since 2017 as we have operated under a 24 game season for the past 3 seasons. Each squad will play the other seven team in their respective league once and will then play three different inter league teams to round out the 30 game regular season schedule.
We will continue to move forward with the all in playoff as all teams that play all 30 of their regular season games will be eligible for the playoffs. With all of that said, let's break down each of our 16 teams starting off with the 4x defending World Series Champions, Maple City Magic.
Maple City Magic
The Magic will head into this season with about as big of a target on their backs as we have ever seen as they have their eyes set on a 5th consecutive ORWBL World Series title. Maple City could not be positioned much better heading into the season as they bring back the majority of their entire squad from last season while also acquiring Danny Hernandez, Ryan Murphy, and Eric Johnson in free agency this offseason.
The Magic boast arguably the top trio in the sport as Caleb Jonkman, Wes Ellis, and Jared Jonkman will once again be staples in the lineup. With Wes Ellis having moved back from Texas, the Magic appear to be at full strength right away as they also have one of the deepest rosters in the league.
Outside of their big 3, Maple City has plenty of talent to round out their lineups with guys like Drew Luther, Shane Anderson, Bronson Severs, John Arndt, Danny Hernandez, Ryan Murphy, Alex Friedman, George Stainko, Brian Lockhart and Eric Johnson. You can expect to see many different lineups throughout the year similar to what they did last season. All in all, the Magic seem to be in a really great position to continue their run but there is no doubt that the target on their back is bigger than ever before.
Flat Rock Cyclones
The Flat Rock Cyclones took the league by storm this offseason after announcing that they had signed former BFAM sluggers Brandon Terry and Walter Griffin III to ORWBL contracts. While it was certainly a surprise to see the BFAM run come to an abrupt ending, we shouldn't be too surprised to see Terry and Griffin III team up with Mark Richards whom they have had success with in tournaments playing for The MOB.
While the Cyclones and their players have certainly taken some heat this offseason, there is no denying that they are trying to build a championship roster with the hopes of being the team to take down Maple City. The Flat Rock big 3 of Richards, Terry, and Griffin III could definitely end up being one of the most dangerous trios in all of ORWBL.
Outside of those three, the Cyclones will definitely need some production out of their 4th and 5th hitters and it seems like Tyler Shupert and Owen Satoski will get the most opportunities to shine in that role. If the Clones' can lock down the bottom of their lineup, this team should definitely be ready to give the Magic all that they can handle.
County Line Kings
After taking the league by storm last season, the County Line Kings head into 2021 looking to replicate their success that they had in the regular season. The Kings scored the most runs in all of ORWBL and had multiple MVP candidates in JP Kehoe and Kody Webb. Kehoe was triumphant in taking home the AL MVP honors, while also being named National Home Run King.
Kings skipper Michael Forrester also put together a very solid season along while Colton Boren and Kadin Abegg as this squad boasted a very explosive lineup from top to bottom. As long as the Kings are able to get the same consistency with their lineups, they seem poised to put together another impressive run as they made it all the way to the American League Championship Series last season.
There have been rumblings about JP Kehoe's availability but as long as he is able to be around like he was last year, there is no reason to expect the Kings to not have another great regular season with all of the talent in the lineup along with a talented outfield led by Gold Glove winner Kody Webb.
Bourrissa Hills Wildcards
The Wildcards were definitely one of the feel good stories in 2020 as they had a turnaround for the ages. Bourissa Hills started the season with a 2-10 record and appeared to be headed for a long season. The Wildcards had an incredible 2nd half turnaround as they went 11-1 during the 2nd half of the season as they finished with their first winning record since 2010 when they were still under the Bourissa Hills Pterodactyls name.
This group definitely seemed like they figured a lot of things out during their 2nd half run, as they looked like one of the premier teams in ORWBL down the stretch. The addition of 2020 AL Rookie of the Year DJ Hill proved to be a game changer as he brought a major presence to the lineup. While Hill had a great Rookie season, Wildcards sluggers like Cody Carlisle, Allan Amendt, and Zach Rehlander really rounded out what was a very explosive lineup. If Zach Rehlander can continue to just get on base like he did last season, the rest of the Wildcards lineup figures to have plenty of RBI opportunities with all of those big names in the lineup.
We also have to mention the reigning AL Cy Young winner Evan Layman as he will likely to return to his role on the mound as he really figured some things out on the mound last season the long time pitcher was truly a weapon on the bump. With Layman on the mound and the rest of their lineup returning, Bourissa Hills is positioned to have another really good season as this is definitely a team that could make some noise this year.
Twin Branch Billy Goats
The Twin Branch Billy Goats head into this season with tons of motivation after they had a really tough year in 2020, just one year removed from coming within 1 win of making the World Series. With all of the talent at the top of their lineup it was definitely surprising to see them struggle the way they did. The American League was very deep last year so they did not really have many cake walk series and they lost a lot of close games.
Had a few of those close games gone the other way, the Billy Goats would have been a lot closer to the .500 mark. There are still some question marks surrounding this team in terms of who they expect to round out their lineup. As of now we can expect to see Andrew Doran, Lucas Olleti, Frankie Minerva, and Keigan White as main stays in the lineup as all four are hungry to replicate their success that they had at the end of the year when they finished 2nd at the World Wiffleball Tournament.
As long as those four guys are around, the Billy Goats should definitely be able to return to their old form as they were one of the best teams in the league just two season ago. These guys head into this season hungry and should definitely be much improved from last season.
Hudson Lake Heat
Hudson Lake also heads into this season looking to bounce back from a rough season last year. The Heat finished at the bottom of the American League just 3 seasons removed from an American League Championship appearance.
They will bring back the same roster as this tight knit group believes that they can put it all together and figure things out without bringing in any big name free agents. With guys like Jared Monhaut, Ben McDonald, and former AL MVP Bob Bushman at the top of their lineup, Hudson Lake certainly has the ability to compete with any team on any given day.
They will likely once again rely on Doug Benner to be their top pitcher as he will be a key player if they want to turn things around after a tough season in 2020.
Mill Pond Pink Pandas
One of our four new teams, the Mill Pond Pink Pandas join the American League for their inaugural ORWBL season. This team is managed by former Goon Squad member Andrew Karsten as he decided to start his own ORWBL franchise.
Karsten will bring a few more former Goon Squad players along with some other new names to round out their roster. The Pink Pandas made a nice splash during the offseason as they announced that they had signed former Flat Rock Cyclone, Zach Christy to a deal. There is no doubt that Christy is heading into this season with a lot to prove after getting cut via snapchat by the Cyclones during the offseason.
If Christy and Karsten can take that next step together this season, the Pink Pandas will certainly be relying heavily on those two to provide some veteran leadership and consistency. This team appears to have a lot of motivation to put together a solid first season together as a group. They will have their work cut out for them playing in the American League but this young team has lots of room to grow together and could definitely end up surprising some people.
Crown Point Only The Family
Rounding out the American League we have another expansion team as the Crown Point Only The Family (OTF) will be making their ORWBL debut on Sunday. This team has experience playing together as they recently played in the Hometown Cup.
They had a great time in that tournament and see