2020 HD Classic Preview

This weekend will mark the beginning of the slow-pitch wiffleball tournament season. Although traditionally beginning in late May or early June, COVID-19 precautions have pushed our area's summer season back a bit. However, the wait is over. The HD Classic will take place this Saturday, June 27th at Rose Park in Mishawaka. 

Last year, Granny's Quilt defeated the County Line Kings in the championship, 1-0. As is customary at HD, homeruns are kept track of and the individual with the most homers on the day is recognized as the HD Classic Homerun Champ. King Anthony Rieff was 2019's winner.

What is the event?

The HD Classic is a slow-pitch wiffleball tournament set up by Homerun or Bust captain and New Carlisle Newt outfielder Matt Went. The tournament acts as a fundraiser for Huntington's Disease. All proceeds from the event go to the Thomas Cellini Huntington's Foundation. 

To learn more about the foundation, click here: http://www.marlev.com/TCHF/?TCHF

To learn more about the disease, click here: https://www.hdwiffleballclassic.com/about-huntingtons-disease

Under normal circumstances, the tournament would be accompanied by a silent auction at the park. However, because of COVID, the auction will be online this year. Bidding ends Friday evening, so get those bids in quickly. To bid, click here: https://www.hdwiffleballclassic.com/2020-silent-auction

The 2020 event will feature 21 teams duking it out over the course of pool play and then a subsequent single-elimination tournament. Pool play this year will consist of 3 games, with 5 pools of 4 (or 5, for one) teams. At the end of pool play, the teams will be seeded and a tournament will follow. The winner will be declared the 2020 HD Classic Champions and will receive the coveted belt as prize. 

Pool Play Preview

Green Pool

Magic Purple
Bloomfield Bombers
Scottsdale Sluggers
Goon Squad

Tourney Sleeper: Scottsdale Sluggers

With 21 teams, none of these pools are going to be cake-walks. But if I had to pick an easiest pool, it would probably be this one. It's hard to see any of the teams running away with this pool. All four of these teams are solid, albeit not spectacular. The Magic Purple and Goon Squad have been playing a lot thanks to ORWBL, so there shouldn't be any rust on their part. The Magic are running an unconventional team with fast pitch players, however, so it may take them a few games to figure it out. The Goon Squad are getting Zack Christy back for this tourney, but they've definitely struggled in prior tourneys even with their improvement in ORWBL. Bloomfield and Scottsdale both will be making their 2020 wiffle debuts this season, but have shown their abilities in the past. They may need a few games to warm up. Bloomfield is a WWBC darling and their defense is top-notch. Look for either of those teams to make a little run as they shake off the rust heading into tournament play. Adam Cseh, Conner Mowers, and Daniel Schafer (go flyers) give Scottsdale some Cinderella potential if their other two can figure it out.

Yellow Pool

New Carlisle Newts
Panthers Black

Tourney Sleeper: Malorts

Another pool with no clear-cut favorite, the Yellow pool features a plethora of ORWBL talent from across the league. The Newts offer a mix-match of guys consisting of regulars (Keck, Touhey, and Cotter), and two County Line King starters (Bryce Bloode & JP Kehoe). This squad should be able to hit with the best of them, but their defense is a major question-mark. Ace Koby Keck will need to solidify his outfield by tourney time for New Carlisle to make a deep run. GP Black offers a flavor of all kinds of Granger including: a starting Panther (Daivyn Davis); a backup Panther (Brandon Campbell); a retired Panther (Tony Koch); and a traded Panther (Tiki Seroczynski). It’s an interesting team with plenty of talent but things will need to come together for them to make a run. Koch will undoubtably need to shake some rust off, but should be ready to go by tournament play. Davis is a rising star who has had a hot start to ORWBL this year. He’s definitely the X-factor for this squad, and how he plays will largely determine how far they go. The Malorts, too, are bringing a mash-up between regulars and newbies. Mookie may not be of much use by tournament time, but addition Levi Miller is rock solid in the field and will be a huge addition for this veteran team. Between him, Prem, Dunc, and Nate Hansen, the Malorts are going to be a really tough out in the tournament. Its easy to see them coasting through pool play, but with the experience and talent on this roster I wouldn’t want to play them in the single-elimination bracket. BFAM is interestingly running their ORWBL starting five for this tournament. It may take them a few games to nail down exactly how they'll align themselves with four fielders but once they do they'll be a nuisance to play. They’ve had a tough sophomore start to 2020 ORWBL, but if they can get hot they, too, will be a tough out. Reigning MVP Brandon Terry leads his team which features solid defenders Chaz Boyd and Walter Griffin III. Austin Traxler and Jimmy  Tumpane give them some nice options on the mound, too. They’ll be trying as hard as possible from the get-go, so no matter when you run into this Elkhart team they’ll be a tough out.  

Black Pool

Granger Panthers
County Line Kings
LaPorte Cyclones
Warsaw Revenge

Tourney Sleeper: County Line Kings

For the Black Pool, it's really going to come down to the Panthers/Kings game. This is a really top-heavy pool, with the Mark-less Cyclones and Warsaw Revenge unlikely to put up a ton of resistant against the top two. Granger is running their usual four of Griffin Smith, Seth Campbell, Alex Zarazee, and Austin Williams. Griffin and Alex have been two of ORWBL’s hottest players through half the season, while Seth and Austin have more than proven their abilities in the past. We know who they are, there aren’t a ton of question marks around these guys. The Kings return their same runner-up team from last year’s tournament. Rieff is their big bat, as he hit the most homers in the tournament last year. Forrester and Boren have had a lot of time playing together in ORWBL this season, so the Kings’ tourney success will largely rise in how quickly they can readjust to playing with Connor VanOverberge and Rieff. I like the Panthers in pool play, but both of these teams have a real shot at winning the whole damn thing come tourney time. 

Blue Pool

Maple City Magic
Hood Rats
Read About It
Warsaw Whitecats

Tourney Sleeper: Hood Rats

A quietly good pool, the Blue Pool is yet another which features a lot of ORWBL talent (starting to sense a theme here). The Magic are bringing an absolutely loaded squad to HD this year. After failing to win a tournament in 2019, it seems like they're determined to do so this year. In addition to Wes Ellis, Shane Anderson (replacing the injured Drew Luther) and the Jonk bros they've picked up 2019 ORWBL MVP Mark Richards. That, my readers, is a squad. Absolutely loaded and the odds-on favorites at this year’s classic. The Hood Rats will be no push-over, however, as they return after reaching the final four last year. Adding Tyler Shupert to replace an otherwise 0 in their lineup last year is a big upgrade and if they can hit they'll be a tough out when the tourney rolls around. With Kadin Abegg pitching and Kody Webb and Garrett Ruiz in the outfield, the Hoodrats may have the best defense here. If they can get hot at the plate they’ll be as tough an out as anyone. Read About It is a semi-sleeper for me. Everybody's favorite Panther Brett captains this squad which features Wildcard ace Evan Layman, too. Brett is better than people think, and it they should be able to squeak out a win despite a tough pool. The Whitecats are bringing a good team, too. Along with Whitt, Clutch Players standout Andy Sieradzski is a big bat who has plenty of tourney experience. This is arguably the top pool at this year’s tournament, and it sucks that somebody has to finish last here. 

Red Pool

Granny's Quilt
Twin Branch Billy Goats
HR or Bust
Elite 260
Tourney Sleeper: Twin Branch Billy Goats

This pool features: the defending champs, Granny's; a solid ORWBL club, the Billy Goats; as well as tourney name-stays HR or Bust. It's hard to imagine Elite 260 and Ohana finishing anything but 4th/5th here. Other than that? Who knows what will happen. Granny's returns nearly the same team as last season and will assuredly be a threat here once again. Nick Thoman, the Warmoths, and Dan the Cat are going to be a problem both in pool play as well as the tourney. They’ll be defending the belt at a place they’re all too familiar with... Rose Park. As they so lovingly reminded us on twitter, Granny’s has won 10 of the 14 wiffleball tournaments held at Rose (which includes the HD Classic as well as when WWBC was held here). The Billy Goats have struggled in ORWBL play this year by their standards, but have shown potency in tournaments in the past. The 'Goats will be running their patented four-man lineup of Oletti, Doran, Frankie, and Keigan so they too won't be going down easy. Matt Went did himself no favors putting his team in with the defending champs. Make no mistake though, with himself as well as the Forslund brothers HR or Bust should be slugging away on Saturday in their defense of Rose Park. I like the Quilt here to win the pool but I could see the ‘Goats or HR or Bust coming out with it. Plus, with Granny's kryptonite Brayden "Biscuits" Myers on Elite 260, Granny's could see their entire day ruined in a single pool play game.

Tournament Predictions

Final Four

Maple City Magic
Granger Panthers
Granny's Quilt
County Line Kings


Maple City Magic

There’s a lot of solid teams at HD this year, and very few push-overs. When it comes down to it, though, there are three teams who are above the rest: Granger, the Magic, and Granny’s. I’d be really surprised if at least two of them aren’t in the final four. But at the end of the day, this Maple City team is pretty damn loaded. Losing Drew to an injury will hurt, but they’re absolutely stacked for this tourney and it’s hard to picture anyone else as the favorite. 


Six things I like and don't like including Granger's teams ripping the ball

Here are six wiffle things following Week 2 of ORWBL action.

1.    The Panthers and Billy Goats smashed the ball this weekend. 

Is this one something I liked or disliked? I'll leave that to the reader. No matter my opinion, these two teams swung* the bat hard this weekend. Both teams swept lovable New Carlisle teams (which I hate to see) by absolutely pouring on the runs.

The Panthers had to beat the wind along with the Goon Squad last week meaning their offensive numbers were unusually average heading into Week 2. Unfortunately for EA, that meant they were ready to mash in more favorable conditions. And mash they did.

I love EA, but the Panthers shit on them this weekend. The Panthers shit on a lot of teams (including mine, quite a few times) but this week was particularly... shitty. The Panthers outscored EA 43-10 in three games this weekend. EA will come into form as they shake off the rust, but for this week the Panthers really piled it on them.

I am an avid fan of Seth Campbell's game (he's been on my MVP ballot each of the last two years). There is a reason he's won two gold gloves, but I don't think there's been enough talk about his work at the plate. For the past two years I think he's been Granger's best player.

I guess Zarazee wants to challenge that narrative.

Brett made sure to let me know that Alex hit 10 homers and batted in a total of 15 runners against EA (texting me, #Zarazee4MVP). For the season, he's hitting .545. I haven't personally played him, but from watching and hearsay, I viewed him as more of a tournament player in the past. In his second year playing ORWBL full-time, I should've known he'd break out. Wiffletalk.com still endorses a Seth Campbell vote, but if Zarazee keeps his play up that tide may turn.

Also, shoutout my boy Tiki who is 4th in the league in batting average according to ORWBL.com! .667 is impressive, but what's even more impressive is qualifying for league leader with 3 total ABs. Good looks.

On the other side of St. Joseph county, Twin Branch put away an always-feisty Wildcards team thanks to scoring 66 runs in their three games. While their Week 1 games against Hudson Lake were fairly low-scoring, playing at the Palace with the wind blowing out results in some of the most offensive-minded wiffleball there is. In fact, the 66 runs Twin Branch scored Sunday is more than 12/14 teams have scored in the first two weeks combined.

The 'Goats offensive show was a team affair. I'll save the recap (just go to Twin Branch's twitter... they all popped off) and skip to my thoughts. Doran seems to really be developing as an all-around hitter. He built off his stellar opening day this week and is now batting .674 while leading the league in hits. The near .700 average will eventually come back to earth, but if he can keep it in the high .500s Doran could flirt with being the first dual Cy Young/MVP winner since "The Doctor" Tony Koch in 2011.

The biggest thing for the 'Goats in week 2 was the rest of the boys getting involved. Oletti struggled in week 1 but bounced back here and is still in fine position to make an MVP-run the rest of the way. It's a long season. The AL is deep, with every team potentially featuring award-winning candidates. His stock will largely depend on how well the team does. 

Along with Lucas and Doran, Frankie and Keigan had big weeks, too. The four combined for 39 home runs. Even with the wind blowing out at The Palace, that's an impressive feat. I liked the 'Goats preseason for a reason. Dude's can rake.

*swung after watching ten pitches go by, that is.

2.    Kings take two from the commissioner's team.

Mainstream wiffle media will try to tell you the Kings taking two from the commissioner's team is some monumental upset, but I'm not really sure why that's the case. Sure, they were swept by the Cyclones on opening day but still. The 'Goats swept the commish's team at their place last year. I don't know whether this Kings team is as good as that 'Goats team, but they're certainly formidable? This is wiffle after all. (insert KG "anything is possible" GIF).

The big story from the Kings side is JP. The second year baseball-standout was absent in County Line's week one lineup and after this week it's obvious they missed his bat on opening day. JP poked out 8 homeruns as the DH. He'd shown signs of this during times last season with the Kings but also in tournaments as a member of Fab 5. We'll see how much he's in the lineup going forward, but it's clear they take a leap offensively when he's present.

After a shaky week defensively, County Line locked things down in week 2. Putting Abegg on the mound allowed the lengthy Forrester to join the outfield, giving Kings a supersized defensive line-up. The Kings were stellar in Week 2, eating up ground balls left and right.

An under-reported part of the King's win was the guy JP DH'd for: Kadin Abegg. Abegg pitched all three games for the Kings, picking up both wins in the process. The reigning Peacefest winner stifled the Magic lineup, including fast-pitch hero Caleb Jonkman. Abegg has flown under the radar as the #2 guy the last two seasons (to Mikey on the Sharks in '18 and Doran on the Goats in '19) but seems to be making the most out of being the go-to starter on the Kings. 

3.    Migley.

DISCLAIMER: Super biased Newts ass-kissing incoming.

I have been to Migley as a spectator, as an ORWBL opponent, and as a Hometown Cup Finals participant. I've played a night series, an All-Star game, and a playoff game there. But there's nothing like that god damn field for a Newts home opener.

Sunday was the best I have seen Migley look and feel. I don't know if it was the Opening Day logos, the numerous cosmetic additions, the soundtrack, the perfect weather, or a culmination of all of those things. Whatever it was, it was working.

There is no field like Migley Field.

Migley got new fencing and ivy this off-season to go along with new banners and signs plastered across the grounds. The music is always unique, but this year for Opening Day skip brought in the big guns: Chicago Cubs radio announcer Pat Hughes introducing home team via recording. As the first game was about to start, Pat's voice echoed across the yard:

"New Carlisle Newts wiffleball is on the air from Migley Field in New Carlisle, Indiana."

As someone who listened to Cubs games on the radio growing up, that gave me chills. Incredible stuff. It's awesome to see other teams and fields step their game up, but make no mistake: Migley is, as it always has been, cream of the crop.  

4.    June as our opening month.

Coronavirus precautions may have done the league a favor scheduling-wise. While opening day was technically May 31st, starting things off in June just feels so much better than doing so in the first week of May.

Let's compare conditions (in New Carlisle) if we would've stuck with the original schedule: 

Week 1 (5/3): Sunny. H 70. L 63. 9 mph winds
Week 2 (5/17): Rainy. H 64. L 59. 16 mph winds

To the revised schedule:

Week 1 (5/31): Sunny. H 64. L 63. 9 mph winds
Week 2 (6/7): Sunny. H 82. L 75. 7 mph winds

Even dumping one rainy day in May for a sunny day in July is worth it in my opinion. It gives guys a chance to play some pickup before the season starts, lets us take advantage of more sunny summer days, and I would predict we're going to see higher offensive numbers across the board as a result.

May wiffleball just sucks. I get wanting to start as soon as possible. Everybody wants to play. But those May series are pretty miserable. It rains alot, seldom touches 75 degrees, and just doesn't have that "summer wiffleball" feel. 

For me, starting in June just makes so much more sense if we can pull it off. June and July are the two major wiffle months, so fitting as much league play in those months is a win for everyone. There's way less chance for rain, and the ball flies out so much easier in the heat.

The best month for wiffle has to be July. It's warm, dry, and typically much less windy. In year's past July has been reserved strictly for ORWBL playoffs and the two majors. That's great for the tourneys, but for the league it means less teams get to play wiffleball during the prime conditions. This year, July's weather will be enjoyed by everyone for three weeks of the regular season. Who can argue with that?

5.    Shit pitching.

Throw the ball over the plate. Lob it in. This is a "pitch to hit" league. I get if you don't want to groove a guy right down the pipe every pitch, but you have to at least give them something to swing at. I talk a lot of shit about people taking too many pitches, but a lot of that resides on the pitcher not throwing strikes. 

I'm not the best pitcher around by any means, but I have thrown a lot of innings in my wiffle life. As a general rule, I try to give guys a good pitch to hit for every two or three "bad" pitches. That doesn't mean I am throwing the ball three feet in front of the plate on my "bad" pitches, it just means maybe I try to jam them inside or curve it a little out of their reach to make them chase. I'm also not trying to throw batting practice on my "good" pitches, but it's gotta be up over the plate giving them a chance to get their arms extended on it.

I don't want to see the league have to move towards a strike board. That would fundamentally change our style of play. But we've got to get back to the "hit to pitch" league we used to be. If guys are throwing heat or tossing it in the dirt on every single pitch, you're not an ass for asking them to clean it up a bit. You've just got to be home for dinner by 5.

6.    Big Ben's big week.

Ben McDonald, have a day.

After helping lead Hudson Lake to a big week one victory over Twin Branch, Ben "McNasty" McDonald carried that over into their Week 2 matchup with Mishawaka. Hudson Lake walks out of their tough road trip to start the season 4-2, 2nd in the American League.

Ben was a hot topic in the preseason after TMZ leaked a video of the All-Star in which he appeared to have gained nearly thirty pounds of pure muscle. Rumors of potential PED's have circulated, but as of this posting no tests have been conducted. (Must be that keto diet, right Ben?)

Potential allegations aside, whatever the sweet-swinging outfielder is doing is working. McDonald batted an efficient 16-20 on the day, taking full advantage of a short-handed MeatSpins squad. Despite a a narrow field, Ben placed base hits early and often for the Heat en route to them taking two of three.

For the season, "McNasty" is batting .622 to go along with his 11 home runs and 16 runs batted in. It seemed like Ben took a real leap the last few seasons in establishing himself as one of the league's premier players. This year, with Hudson Lake recording stats, we have the numbers to prove it.

Thanks to his hot start, the Black Cat's MVP odds have sky rocketed in his favor. McDonald currently shares the best odds to win the award at  +600 (along with Billy Goat slugger Lucas Oletti). The Heat will need Ben to be keep up his hot start in next week's home opener. Hudson Lake takes on reigning AL MVP Mark Richards and his 1st place Cyclones.


Six things I like and don't like including Lev's incredible fielding

Here are six wiffle things following ORWBL's 2020 opening day.

1.    Levi Miller's fielding prowess. 

It can't be overstated how important having a lock-down left fielder is to a slow pitch wiffleball team's success is. Far and away, it is the most important position in our style of wiffle (unless you have someone who can just shamelessly shit pitch for an entire series... in that case go fuck yourself). 

The Leps thought they may have found that guy after adding Levi Miller in the off-season. On opening day, he confirmed that.

Lynn Street is a lot better this year. For the first time it felt like they were a real, complete team. Levi's play in left was a big part of that. Levi was spectacular in the field. The father-of-one robbed countless homerun balls (including two of my own, you ass), turned a clever double play (intentionally dropping a shallow fly ball with runners on first and second), and tracked down a number of deep foul balls. There are a number of reasons the Leps are one of my favorite teams this season, but Levi's emergence as a gold-glove caliber fielder is near the top. 

Levi Miller: 2020 NL Gold Glove winner... book it.

2.    Intentional walks in slow pitch wiffleball.

There are no balls in slow pitch wiffleball. Therefor, you cannot walk a batter in slow pitch wiffleball. Therefor, you cannot intentionally walk a batter in slow pitch wiffleball. Its lob pitch. Pitch-to-hit. Throw the dude a pitch and live with the result. This ain't MLW Wiffle.

But if it was, we'd have sweet videos and a reliable content like they do. Seriously, if you've never checked them out they're an absolute must-watch... especially given the lack of live sports currently. Link below.

3.    Shup as an MVP candidate.

Tyler Shupert is really, really good at wiffleball. Shup tore the Kings up en route to leading the Cyclones to the most surprising result of week one: Flat Rock sweeping County Line. 

I was, obviously, really high on the Kings heading into opening day. I expected them to take 2, if not 3 games from a Cyclones team which lost in the first Wild Card last season. Granted, they added some pieces, but so had the Kings. A Kings sweep was my expectation. Shupert had other ideas.

The 2019 All-Star game MVP slashed the Kings all afternoon. With the wind swirling horizontally across their new park, Shup belted out three homers and seven hits while holding down the fort in center. By the time this gets posted, no doubt #Shup4MVP will be trending. I'm there for it.

(I also like to bring up how we acquired Shup from the Sluggers at the trade deadline last season. What did the Sluggers get in return? A half a case of natty light. Safe to say we won the trade.)

4.    The league has never had this much parity.

I honestly don't think there is a bad team in ORWBL this season. For all of the talk about how serious you guys want this league to be, at least it's showing in the the skill level. Getting rid of the Sinners means there is really no easy sweep this year. For the first time in forever, I wouldn't be shocked if any team took a game from anyone else. 

Even the last few years' "bad" teams are much improved. I talked about the Leps above, but I cannot emphasize how much better they are this year. The Goon Squad, too, seemed to be a lot better. Brew Crew standout Josh Trim led the team hits, while the defense held the Panthers to just 19 runs (albeit, in unfavorable hitting conditions). Sure, the Wildcards got swept by the commissioner's team. But they kept it pretty tight overall and their track record shows they're no cake walk. Every series is going be to close this year. I'm not sure you can even call outcomes upsets anymore. 

From top to bottom, the league hasn't had this much parity in awhile. In an elongated series, I do think there is some separation between the teams. But in a 3 game Sunday afternoon series, it's anybody's ballgame. That's awesome. 

5.    ORWBL fields are better than ever.

I wish most of them were wider (the majority of the fields in this league would be 10x more enjoyable if we would switch to 2 outfielders), but the fields this season are exceptional. The Cyclones' Barnyard is rightfully the talk of the league right now, but up and down the board fields are great this year. Migley is the standard. Rocko's has the best "backyard baseball" vibe. Snead field is great and a massive upgrade over Panther Park. EA brought the Grassy Knoll back. The Hideout and Helmet Head Field are both nice, albeit cookie-cutter. But nice nonetheless.

We haven't even seen the new Comissioner's Park yet. Or where the Heat are playing. Or the Kings. I can't hate on the teams that play on baseball fences, but those that put the extra effort into building a unique field are really what make ORWBL the league it is.

6.    We are playing wiffleball again.

Wiffleball is back. No matter how much of a headache this god damn league causes me, I love it. Wiffleball is back. LFG.

Seeing the lineups get tweeted out, taking cuts before the series, hitting that first homer of the season, throwing it around after an out, it all just feels too good. Especially given what is going on in the world around us, being able to escape into wiffle for a few hours every week is both a luxury and a privilege that not many people have. 

Wiffleball is back.