They're back... again! Rolling Prairie returns to ORWBL in 2020 hoping the third rendition of EA is the best of the trilogy (think Return of the Jedi and not The Godfather: Part III). After their sequel in 2018 ended with a battered, empty roster losing a tight one-game Wildcard to the Billy Goats, EA took a year off to recoup and ice up the old arms. This season, EA has signed Cult West standout Danny Hernandez in hopes of bolstering their depth. Playing with four has never been an issue for EA, but for their sake let's hope to see a more balanced five-man lineup in this return.
For you newbies out there (75% of the league), here's a quick breakdown of the historic EA franchise. EA first entered the league in 2009 before leaving after the 2015 season, only to return again for 2017 and 2018. In their nine seasons EA held a 174-145 overall record. They made a Hometown Cup finals in 2013 under the name Habeas Corpus which served as a work-around after receiving a year ban from multiple Sunday no-shows. Rolling Prairie has never made an ORWBL world series despite their longevity in the league. Their best season came in their inaugural 2009 season in which they amassed a 30-13 record, although their 2011 first-place finish in the National League is also notable. (27-15 record). Former manager Eric Johnson has made 8 ORWBL All-Star teams (tied for 3rd most all-time), while 2015 Cy Young winner Jake Lawrence has made 6 of his own. EA famously played at the Grassy Knoll, which is arguably the widest and deepest field in ORWBL history. It is unclear where they will play in 2020. Most recently in 2018, EA finished just 8-16, seventh in the National League. In the playoffs, however, they were able to win the first Wild Card before dropping a tight one to Twin Branch.
1. Crafty Vets.
In addition to their core of Kevin May, J-Law, and Ryan Murphy (we'd include Eric Johnson in this but unsure if he'll be at any series this season), EA's roster includes a few other notable wiffle vets including Cult West's Danny Hernandez (more on him below) and Speedy's Chickenheads' Matt Serge and Ben Ellam. It will be interesting to see if the Speedy's guys show up (Serge has already been ruled out for Week 1) but regardless EA figures to be much deeper than their 2018 team. J-Law and Murph are still studs. Even as they've aged Law is still one of the most consistent all-around players in the league and Murph can still absolutely mash. One under-the-radar name to keep an eye out for is Ross Strieter. An older cousin of the Webb brothers, Ross is a sneaky good fielder for EA. If he can stabilize his streaky hitting Strieter could be a major player for Rolling Prairie.
2. Danny as "The Guy".
After seven ORWBL seasons with Cult West and the Newts, 2019 WWBC hero Danny Hernandez turned heads when he was announced to be joining EA in 2020. As a member of the legendary Cult West, Danny has sometimes flown under the radar in mainstream wiffle media (ORWBL's twitter called him underrated... absolutely disrespectful). Despite that narrative being pushed, Danny is obviously no slacker. The four-time Hometown Cup champion is a great hitter who has the power to put the ball over the fence consistently while also being able to place it to all fields. This will be his first ORWBL season as the focal point of his team's lineup, so a big statistical season is absolutely in play... that is, if EA keeps stats (doubtful).
3. Can they get 5?
Perhaps the biggest detriment EA-2018 faced was their inability to get a 5-man lineup week in week out. In the playoffs, even, EA was only able to field four players. The team's desperation forced them to ask current County Line King Roman Kuntz to play on their team... which he did, well. Without Kuntz this season, EA will have to rely on their aforementioned vets to show up. While they have proven the ability to compete with just 4, the disadvantage they face by doing so may ultimately prove to be their downfall... just as it was in 2018.
C Eric Johnson
P Jake Lawrence | .482 AVG, 33 HR, 48 RBI | 7-3, 17 SO, 8.75 ERA
OF Ryan Murphy | .400 AVG, 17 HR, 21 RBI
OF Kevin May
OF Brady Burnett
P Matt Serge
OF Ben Ellam
C Danny Hernandez | .276 AVG, 12 HR, 18 RBI
OF Ross Strieter
It's been a long time since EA finished north of .500. Not since their 2015 season in which they went 21-15 has Rolling Prairie done that. However, I wouldn't count the vets out just yet. They're a legendary ORWBL franchise for a reason. Perhaps more so than any other team, EA's record will largely be dictated by their attendance. If their guys show up and they can get a full 5-man lineup for the majority of their seasons, EA has a serious shot to compete. Their best 5 can compete with anyone in the league, it's just a question of whether or not they can get it to come together. If J-Law, Danny, and Murph can get enough out of the rest of the squad... EA could be dangerous come playoff time.
Or, they could just drink their way through the qualifiers and forget to show up for the playoff. Wouldn't be the first time they did that (paging @HometownCup).