The PWL has been a part of the NWLA tournament for every year of its existence. Yet, we’ve never played anything more than the spoiler role. Never quite as good as WSEM (except the time we eliminated them), OCWA (except the time we beat them), or TBW (we’re still trying to beat them). But never quite as bad as the team West Virginia or the Keg Crushers (until we lose to them this year).
So what’s different about 2016? Not much.
We have a new manager, though! Greg Hudson – who is the only person alive to manage a team to a playoff series victory over the greatest wiffleball franchise in history (do we need to say its name?). So he’s well-trained in the art of giant slaying. Can he equal or surpass Gallaway as a manager? One word answer – Yes. Greg can also play. Not saying Gallaway couldn’t – just ask him what his career batting average in the PWL is (is it above .300, Chris?) – but Greg provides a different level of athlete. Whereas Gallaway was a “my-way-or-the-highway” kind of a coach, Greg is much more receptive to player feedback and believes clubhouse culture is as important as on-field talent. We believe that those who drink together, clink together.
Other new faces include Colin Gannon, a wiffleball journeyman who has finally got the call to the big show. Gannon spent the majority of career racking up world series rings in the PWL, but he has never been able to parlay his PWL pitching success into NWLA success. In fact, in his first outing in the 2015 regionals, he set the NWLA record for walks allowed. Word out of PWL camp is that Gannon has found some consistency from the NWLA mound. His bat has shown signs of life against fast pitch, as well. While management is wary given his hitting performance in the PWL this year…who knows, maybe it is easier to hit Ryan Bush than a 27 MPH looper. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Dan Lockbaum is another new face for the PWL. Like Greg, he is one of the few people on Earth to have beaten the Barnburners. Dan was the main power source behind his team’s victory, hitting .428 with 3 ding dongs in the 2014 PWL World Series. He led the PWL in OBA in the 2016 regionals in NYC, and he’ll put both his bat and discerning eye to good use in Ohio. He’s also a great clubhouse fit in that you won’t find him arguing that we need a curfew in order to wake up rested (I can’t believe you did that, WSEM).
Then we have the old guard. The Shannon twins return determined to stamp themselves as the best set of brothers in wiffleball. Jack has the explicit goal of carrying over his perfect K’s per 6 from the regionals. Go ahead and homer off him, just don’t ground out. Jim believes he can be just as devastating as his brother on the mound. We have our doubts, but if he’s able to pitch decently well, PWL should be able to earn a Top 8 finish. Matt Gagnon makes a triumphant return after being left off the roster last year (in what has been described as a “f***boy of a managerial mistake”). His arm will be employed in pool play and if we need someone to draw a big walk against OCWA, we’ve got just the guy. Kevin Higman is set for his 5th year at NWLA. The God Particle will continue to pound pitching and play stellar defense while everyone at the tournament wonders, “how can he stand those guys he plays with?” Finally, we arrive at our secret weapon we showed off last year… Nick West The quintessential leadoff hitter with hands that would make Brooks Robinson blush. Nick will once again set the table for a top 5 hitting unit in the tournament.
So how can the PWL make the jump from pretender to contender? It all rests on the arm of Jim Shannon. The batting lineup is good enough to win the tournament. The ace of the staff has proven he can beat elite teams. But our #2 pitchers have never been the equality arms you see out of top 4 teams. Jim believes he has the goods this year. If not, we’ll be happy with our early exit, and you can find us at that bar by the highway with a pool and sand volleyball.
Guest post courtesy of Jack Shannon