2012 COWL Preview
Shondrick Locklear, Brent Hoover, John Kepler, Jordan Nelson
(missing: Shay Netter - sorry big guy)
Inside the Numbers
League and Place: American - 2nd Place
Post Season Record: Defeated Brothers Squared 2-1 in round 1
Defeated the Redlegs 3-0 in Divisional Championship
Defeated 4-1 by the Legends 3-1 in the COWL World Series
Win/Loss Record: 17-19 (11-14 Regular season)(4th best overall)
Win/Loss vs. teams above .500: 8-14 (4th)
Win/Loss vs. teams below .500: 9-5 (5th)
Win/Loss games decided by < 5 runs 9-10
Avg. Runs scored in games won: 12.7 (4th)
Avg. Runs scored in games lost: 7.6
Avg. Runs scored in all games: 12.7 (4th)
Avg. Runs allowed in all games: 13.8 (7th)
Homerun Total: 132
Avg. Homeruns per game: 3.8 (6th)
Runs For/Against: 310/482
Homerun Leader: Brent Hoover (42) (9th)
RBI Leader: Shondrick Locklear (83) (8th)
Wins Leader: John Kepler (6) (5th)
2011 Season Recap
If a most-improved award were to be given in this league, there is no question that the trophy would
have been given to the U in 2011.
Though they were paired in a division where nearly every team could have been considered a dark
horse, they emerged as the cream of the crop. The U wasted no time in stunning the league with a 2-1
series win over reigning American League champion and World Series runner-up, the Gookie Dawkins
Experience. You could make an argument this was the biggest upset in the regular season league-wide.
However, the schedule got no easier as the U followed with two consecutive series’ vs. top league
teams. The low point in the season came when the U was swept by first year team and American League
rival, Brothers x2. This dropped the U to 3-9 and last place in the AL through 12 games.
Slowly the U began to gain momentum and ascend the rankings yet again, taking a series forfeit from
Blade Sharp, a series against the Knights, and a 2-2 showing on fast pitch night. By the end of week 6,
the U had finished their regular season, and got to watch the regular season close on two weeks rest with
an 11-14 record. The U had climbed from last place to 2nd in the AL behind the Redlegs.
The playoffs began as the U drew 3rd seeded Brothers x2, an interesting match-up giving the U a
chance to revenge their early season fold. Despite losing their fourth straight game to Brothers x2 in
game one (including getting swept 0-3 in reg. season), the U rallied to take the series 2-1 with consistent
defense and a balanced offensive attack.
This U moved on to the Divisional Championship series with the AL champion Redlegs and a ticket
to the COWL World Series at stake. On paper this looked to be a series that was way too close to call,
but the U rode their late-season momentum to a 3-0 series sweep powered by Brent Hoover’s 6 HRs.
This landed the U squarely in the COWL World Series Championship vs. the defending champion
Legends. The U put up an admirable fight, winning game 2 and being very competitive in games 3 and 4
but ultimately the U could not overcome the high-powered Legends offense and fell in the series 4 games
to 1 to finish as the COWL World Series Runner-Up. The U closed the season at 17-19, with a losing
record disguising their late season hot streak and improvement. In tournaments it's all about being hot
at the right time and the U got hot at precisely the right time.
2012 Season Preview
Within this preview I will establish what I believe to be the strengths and keys to a U
Championship in 2012.
statistics. They don’t necessarily overpower teams with their offense or their defense. But, I’m here
to testify first hand something that doesn’t show up on stat sheets; these guys are something else on
the base paths. Unorthodox, crazy, ridiculous; all the adjectives work here. They will take and take
and take and if you are lackadaisical with your fielding, they will take some more. They have no fear
about challenging defenders to try and peg them and they push for extra bases with impunity and
disregard of being thrown out. This turns singles to doubles, doubles to triples, and madness to
insanity. It is a true game-changer. Few teams have the guts to run with when ever with little regard
at the chance of getting pegged. The U does, and in spades.
are easy to look past. But for the past two years we (The Legends) have had a tall task when we
have played the U. It’s no secret in our circle that if we let our guard down or don’t play our best,
these guys will beat us, which they have. 50% of the losses to the Legends, record-wise, in the league,
have come at the hands of the U. They thrive on close games and outworking you in the basic
components of Wiffle ball (base-running, limiting mistakes, and team balance).
particular strength of play to this team. Offensively, you look at Shondrick Locklear, who has clubbed
74 HRs and 168 RBIs total over the last two seasons. Add to that impressive total Brent Hoover, who
bashed 86 HRs and 166 RBIs of his own in the same time frame. These two provided over 50% of the
U’s run production in 2011.
Jordan Nelson has added 39+ RBIs each of the last two years as well as providing steady defense with
his overall length. In games where the U beats somebody they probably shouldn't, Jordan likely is the
Shay Netter was a nice addition for the U, powering nearly 20 HRs of his own in his first season, in
addition to the laughs he brings to the field.
Defensively, the U strength starts with pitching. Pitching is an art lightly regarded in our brand of
Wiffle ball, but I am a believer that good pitching is a game-changer. John Kepler tallied 6 wins in 2011.
In those 6 wins, the opposing team averaged only 7 runs per game. Pitching wins close ball games.
It turns HR's into pop outs at crucial moments and results in leafless ground balls with 2 on base and 2
out. Good pitching results in batters hitting pitches they don't really want to, in key situations.
On top of that, each U player has contracted the mad base running virus meaning defenders can not
relax regardless of who is on base. Very nerve racking.
Essentials for a U Championship
But I believe that their aggressive nature will be the key to how they finish the year. When you look
at the U’s run spread (12.7 runs in games won/ 7.6 in games lost), it shows that the margin for winning
games and losing games is very little.
When playing games within 5 runs, each and every out is amplified. Just take the time to look at the
U’s schedule and you will see that 19 of their games were decided by 5 runs or less. The aggressive
style is boom-or-bust, sometimes you win games with it, and other times you lose games because of it.
Depending on how the breaks go, the high risk-high reward strategy could be the swing factor in over
half their games.
that no one will be surprised by them in 2012. After the title run in ’11, it is more than fair to consider
the U as a team in the upper echelon of our league. Sure, you could argue that this team is 27-35 in
their first two COWL seasons, but more importantly than the numbers, they pass the eye test.
We see year after year how teams improve from Wiffle ball year one, to Wiffle ball year two. John
Kepler, of the U, explains that keys to success in 2012 will be to
“Score runs and cut out the costly mistakes.”
We will now see how the U improves in year three, with added expectation.
This is evidenced by their multiple franchise wins vs. the Legends and their series win over GDE last
year. Going away, those are the two best teams from a statistical standpoint. That’s not what
concerns me. If the U’s 3 forfeit wins vs. Blade Sharp last year are taken away, that leaves them
just 6-5 vs. teams with a record below .500.
The statistics indicate the U plays up and down to their competition each week. While it is
understandable that no team can be on their game each week, I believe the mark of a good team
is the ability to win despite not playing their best ball. I look for the U to take that next step this
year, and take care of the games they should win.
year. The Commissioner's strategy is to place the best returning teams in the same division so at
least 1 new team is guaranteed a spot in the World Series each year.
That puts the U squarely in a division with the Legends, GDE and possibly PVB, a very tough row
to hoe to put it mildly. Although the Texas shootout format may permit the U to avoid these teams
in round 1 of the playoffs, there is not chance they will get to the World Series without going through
at least one of them, and quite possibly both to get there. How's that for a tough draw !?!
Will the U exercise their option to buy a home field and choose their division away from the past
powerhouse teams ? Or will they choose to take their chances in the conference champs division
and let the cards fall where they will ?
All in all, I am excited to see what the new-year brings for the U. I believe they may be the most
blue-collar, hustle team in the league. I fully expect them to be in the thick of it near the end of July.
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