Revitalized Billy Goats Off To Hot 10-2 Start
TWIN BRANCH- It was just a few short years ago that the Twin Branch Billy Goats were within one win from a trip to the World Series. Twin Branch made the NLCS in their first season in the league in 2018 before switching over to the American League in 2019. After falling in the 2019 ALCS to the Maple City Magic, three games to two, Twin Branch had their share of struggles.
They posted back to back losing seasons in 2020 and 2021 to go along with early playoff exits. With all the talent on this roster, the Billy Goats players and fans were not the only ones confused at their struggles.
As the league looked for parity within the AL and NL along with keeping geographical locations in mind, the Billy Goats were moved back to the National League where they originally played their first season in the league in 2018 in which they went 15-9.
Over the offseason, Twin Branch was able to keep their entire core together in hopes of turning things around over in the National League. Just as the offseason was winding down, Twin Branch began tweeting cryptic Roger Federer GIF’s (Koch's favorite athlete).
After hinting the Koch signing on twitter for a while, Twin Branch made the official announcement that they had signed ORWBL legend and former MVP winner, Tony Koch, turning the speculation into a reality. Heading into the season, Koch knew that he would have a large role whenever he is able to make it.
Through 12 games, Twin Branch sits with a 10-2 record as they are only one game behind the Granger Panthers for first place in the National League. Offseason addition Tony Koch has played in 6 of those games as the Goats are 5-1 when he plays. After missing the last 3 seasons due to retirement, it looks like Koch remains a force to be reckoned with as he has gone 19/33 with 9 HR while sporting a .575 Batting Average.
On top of his solid play out of the gates, you have to imagine that Koch has brought some positive energy and vibes to a struggling team with loads of talent. Things just feel different this year with Twin Branch as they will now get a chance to pick up a statement series win in Week 5 against the defending World Series champion, Granger Panthers.
We got the chance to sit down with ORWBL legend Tony Koch as he took part in some Q&A to talk about his return and Twin Branch’s early season success:
Q: You have been a major part of the Billy Goats early season success. Why is this team off to such a hot start and is it sustainable?
A: It’s no secret looking at our schedule that thus far we haven’t truly been tested, so basically we have taken care of business in series we feel we should. But I believe this team is quite deep which has really helped us out early on and should continue to do so. The core Goats guys have wiffled for awhile now and understood the game and how to win. Lucas seems to have really taken a big step forward as en elite hitter. They’ve all had success in tourneys and within ORWBL. By having two vets like myself and J-Law around sometimes only helps things, to boost the team whether it be on the field or just by giving some words of encouragement to the rest of the team.
Q: What led you to come out of retirement to join Twin Branch?
A: I was totally content on just playing tournaments as I have done so the past three years. I think my legacy in ORWBL is in tact and I’m at peace with everything. Interestingly enough, I just thought it would be a fun opportunity to play with some guys I got to know during my season with Granger in 2018 and during the Hometown Cup in 2020. Doran and I were chatting in a fantasy football group and I told him I would try to play some series for them this season if they’d like to have me. He said absolutely and whenever I am able to play, I’ll play! So really it was a combination of just wanting to play more this summer when I could and getting the chance to play with some guys I’ve gotten to know better the past few years here. Honestly, kind of similar to how I ended up in Granger in 2018 really. They have treated me like one of their own despite me not being there every series, I love the group chat we have going as a team!
Q: How far can this Twin Branch squad make it this year? In your opinion, what would define a successful season?
A: The last couple of ORWBL seasons for the Goats haven’t been ideal. I think a key has been staying locked in mentally and needing some extra oomphh in the lineup. With me there, I think it helps add that. I won’t go all out and say oh we are winning it all! I like to be realistic. But given our start and looking at the state of the NL, I believe a good goal is to make it to the NLCS. If we get there we certainly can win and advance the World Series. As I said before, these guys have played in big games before and won quite a few. They were a game away from the World Series two seasons in a row in 2018/2019 I believe. A nice early test against Granger awaits us, a potential NLCS preview.
Q: What is going to have to happen for you guys to take the series vs. Granger this weekend?
A: This is a big series for all the guys involved on both sides. They all know each other so well and now I have been on both sides of the rivalry as of Sunday. When I was on Granger in 2018 playing the Goats in the NLCS, a key was to stay energized and try to get the Goats to get down on themselves as they play worse when they were emotionally down. It worked. I think to this day Granger is one of the best high energy teams the league has ever seen. Once one guy gets hot, it’s like an avalanche and they all get hot and the floodgates open! So for us, we have to stay cool but at the same time motivated and energize ourselves out there. Limit the home runs from Granger and make the easy plays in the field. Can’t give the Panthers any second life. And simply put, we need to hit the ball hard. This Panther D is incredible, but I’m a believer in hard plastic typically=good results. Really excited for this series against some guys that have become good friends of mine. But more looking forward to taking a huge step forward with the Goats as a team within in the NL with a series W.
While the return of Tony Koch to ORWBL has certainly been a headline so far, there are plenty of other Billy Goats who are big reasons for the hot start. Lucas Oletti is hitting at a .562 clip to go along with 21 HR’s as he has certainly earned some early season NL MVP attention. They have also received very solid play from their Manager Andrew Doran along with Justyn Fox as both players are currently hitting above the .500 mark.
Former Cy Young winner Andrew Doran has also looked sharp on the mound as he boasts a 5-2 record thus far. A big reason why Twin Branch has had their early season success is the fact that they are effectively utilizing a two pitcher rotation between Doran and ORWBL great Jake Lawrence.
Doran and Lawrence are two of the best pitchers we have seen over the years in ORWBL and this duo is quickly becoming a lethal one. The Billy Goats have done a nice job keeping opposing teams guessing as Lawrence and Doran have two different styles of pitching.
Lawrence has been a true difference maker on the mound so far for Twin Branch as he holds a 5-0 record through their first 12 games of the season. On top of his perfect record, Lawrence also ranks in the Top 5 in both ERA (4.07) and Strikeouts (8). It seems as though the Emery's Army great has found a perfect role with this team.
If Doran and Lawrence can continue pitching at an elite level, this team could make a serious run this season. This Twin Branch squad came together at the end of last season as they finished runner-up in the 2021 World Wiffleball Tournament as that may have been a sign of things to come in 2022.
While the Goats have had a favorable schedule so far, they are still doing what they simply were not able to do last season and that is to win the games on their schedule. Twin Branch now shifts their focus to the defending champion Granger Panthers as they will look to turn some heads and make it clear that the Goats are back!