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 seem very eager to join the league. This team hails from Crown Point, Indiana but will be playing their home games either in Michigan City or on the road as the home team against their scheduled opponent.
While this team is definitely more of an unknown team to many, you can expect these guys to compete and win some ballgames as they impressed some people when they played at the Hometown Cup. The roster includes five different Ooms family members as this team truly will bring a family aspect to the game. Look for these guys to have a lot of fun in their first season with Manager James Ooms in charge. Ooms has relayed that the team is very excited to be a part of the league as they are really looking forward to being a part of things.
New Carlisle Newts
The New Carlisle Newts head into the 2021 season with one of the deepest rosters in all of ORWBL that is filled with loads of talent. The Newts bring back their core of Garrett Curless, Scott Soos, Noah Shail, Jay Ryans, Matt Soos, Aidan Cotter, Garrett Ruiz, Zarek Finley and Koby Keck while they also signed a former Newt, Jared Emmons back to the squad.
This group has been playing together for quite some time now so chemistry will not be an issue. With all of the talent on the roster you can expect the Newts to be one of the top competitors in the National League once again.
There is no doubt that Manager Koby Keck will once again have a lot of fun making that lineup cards as he has a ton of weapons to choose from. While many view the Panthers as the favorite to win the National League this year, the guys on the Newts definitely believe that they can be the team to beat in the senior circuit once again in 2021.
The Panthers once again put together a fantastic regular season run, but their season was cut shorter than they expected as they were taken down by the Elkhart BFAM in the National League Championship Series last season.
With that said, the Panthers head into 2021 poised to return to the World Series for what would be the 2nd time. With all of the regular season success that they have had in their first 4 seasons in the league, it is definitely a surprise that they only made it out of the National League once, doing so in 2017 with a roster that was depleted with injuries by the time the World Series began.
This team appears determined as ever to put their past playoff struggles behind them as they want nothing less than to win their 1st World Series title this season. They boast one of the most complete lineups in the league as you can expect Griffin Smith, reigning NL MVP Alex Zarazee, Austin Williams, Seth Campbell, and Daivyn Davis to be mainstays in the Panther lineup. They have also relayed that Brandon Campbell will have a larger role with the team this year. All in all, the Panthers hope that bringing back Tiki Szcerosynski will provide them with enough options on the mound as they definitely missed having him as an option last season. Look for the Panthers to put together another great regular season for the 5th consecutive year. But the thing that will define the Panthers season in 2021 is what they end up doing in the playoffs as it is World Series or bust for these guys.
Lynn Street Leprechauns
The Lynn Street Leprechauns return once again to the National League as this franchise has become a mainstay in ORWBL over these past few seasons. While the Leps have certainly had their struggles over the years, they have definitely shown that they can be a solid team in the league.
Manager Nick Brassell has done a great job of bringing in talent over the years as he ended up making another splash during the offseason. Last year, Brassell was able to bring in Levi Miller along with Nate Hansen as those two players really helped the Leps take a step forward. Miller ended up winning the NL Gold Glove award which was well deserved and a long time coming. Brassell's big splash this offseason was his acquisition of former Elkhart BFAM starting catcher Austin Traxler.
Traxler figures to be a mainstay in the Leprechauns lineup as he brings one of the top lefty bats to the team. Traxler played a huge role in Elkhart's success last year and could definitely be a difference maker for this team. When this group is focused, they have the talent to take anyone down on given Sunday. If Nate Hansen is able to show up every now and then like he did last year, he adds that veteran presence that this team had been searching for. All in all, expect the Leps to continue taking that next step forward as it should be a fun season for the fans out at Rocko's Park.
Great Lakes Godfathers
The Godfathers moved over to the National League last year after playing in the American League for the previous 3 seasons. While they likely did not perform the way they wanted to in the regular season, Great Lakes still made the most of their season as they ended up winning their first ever ORWBL playoff series.
Andy Sieradski proved to be a great acquisition as he was selected as an All Star in his first season with the team as he brought some much needed pop to the lineup. Great Lakes made a couple of offseason signings as well headlined by Chaz Boyd who is coming off a great season with BFAM. Boyd figures to be one of the top fielders for this team as his ability out in the field will prove to be quite useful for them.
All in all this team is loaded with veterans and with Mark Haase and Matador Smith back leading the charge, the Godfathers will look to be a little more consistent in their 2nd year in the National League.
Union Mills Goon Squad
Union Mills returns to the National League for their 3rd season as a member of the Old Republic Wiffleball League. The Goon Squad finished with the same record that they had in their first season so they will certainly be looking to make some improvements this season.
Manager Jake Osburn appears determined as ever to lead his team to some success as he will return as the skipper for his 2nd season. The Goon Squad notably lost a couple players who ended up going to play for the Mill Pond Pink Pandas. For a second it appeared that it might lead to the demise of the Goon Squad but Osburn clearly did a great job of weathering the storm and keeping his franchise alive.
This team was a sneaky, good defensive ball club last season as they made some obvious improvements on the defensive side of things. The thing that held this team back was their inability to pile on the runs but you can expect this team to take another step forward at the player with another years worth of experience. On top of that, look for reigning NL Rookie of the Year Josh Trim to continue to make a name for himself.
The Meatspins head into 2021 making the transition from the American League to the National League as they were moved in order to try and replace the void left by BFAM's departure. This team put together a rather solid inaugural season together last year as they finished near the .500 mark playing in the loaded American League.
This team also arguably has one of the deepest rosters in all of ORWBL as the roster boasts loads of proven veteran players who have won many tournaments together. Heading into 2021 they will now look to replicate some of their tournament success in the Old Republic Wiffleball League and they certainly have the names to do it. The squad is led by guys like Anthony Rieff, Ryan Warmoth, and Nick Thoman, along with the rest of the Granny's Quilt crew.
The Meatspins made some noise during the offseason as they announced that they had signed former New Carlisle Newt Randy Schuster as he figures to be an excellent addition to the team. With loads of veteran talent, these guys can take any team down on any given day. While we shouldn't expect this team to go all out in the regular season, we should expect these guys to compete for a National League title once playoff time roles around.
South Bend Truffle Butter
The South Bend Truffle Butter will be entering their first season as a member of ORWBL as this expansion team boasts loads of proven wiffleball talent. Former New Carlisle Newt Ryan Galiher and former Maple City Magic Jeremy Ratajczyk figure to serve as the premier bats on the team as both players head into this season as the only players on the roster with any ORWBL experience.
While the rest of the roster does not have any ORWBL experience, they certainly do have plenty of wiffleball experience. Behind Galiher and Ratajczyk, the Truffle Butter lineup figures to include notable Griffleball league veterans such as Kyle Gagliardi, Ryan Voges, Ian Garavalia, and Jim Tucker.
All four of those players have become top tier players in the Griffleball League over the past few years so this team most definitely has the talent needed to have success in this league. While you can expect them to take a couple of series to adjust to the slow pitch, this is a talented group of players who will likely get the hang of the different style of play and end up having a very successful inaugural season in the Old Republic Wiffleball League.
Glen Lee Skeeters
Last but not least we have our 4th expansion team who will be making their ORWBL debut on Sunday. This team will be managed by former Billy Goat, Peyton Doran, who followed in his brother's footsteps by creating an ORWBL team of his own.
This is a younger group of guys who have shown that they are very excited to make a name for themselves over the next few years as you can expect the Skeeters to be around for a bit. While Sunday will mark their first series as a team, a few players on the roster do have ORWBL experience as a few of their players at one point played for the Granger Panthers or Twin Branch Billy Goats.
The Skeeters familiar names include Jason Migas and Kade Stone to go along with their skipper Peyton Doran. The rest of the roster includes six players who will be playing in their first ORWBL season. With that said it seems like a safe bet to assume that a Skeeter or a member of the Truffle Butter will end up taking home National League Rookie of the Year honors. All in all, the Skeeters will be a nice addition to the league as the ORWBL youth movement is in full effect!