LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – At the end of week one there are some teams that have exceeded expectations, and there are others that have had a rough start. The Sandvipers and Warbirds both have four wins, and they’re the only two teams with a record above .500 after the first week of play. Will another team get hot, and make a run for one of the top seeds in the playoffs, or will it be a race for third place down the stretch? Each team has shown some promise, but it seems as though things are business as usual for the top two teams from last season.
Thursday night’s games began with a doubleheader between the Sandvipers and The Ones. The Ones pitching staff showed some incremental improvement by shutting the Sandvipers out for the first two innings, but their bats wouldn’t stay quiet for long, and they scored six runs in the third inning thanks in large part to a grand slam from Trench Picone. Tom Gannon was the winning pitcher, throwing a complete game, and surrendering just one run on a sacrifice fly from Adam Koutz.
In game two the Sandvipers would get on the board early and often. Adam Tanic hit a two run home run in the first inning, and the Sandvipers would push at least one run across each time they came to the plate. Cody Schmidt hit a home run in the third inning, but the Sandvipers’ Jason Walker was able to hold the Ones’ bats at bay, tossing a complete game, and striking out six in the 7-2 win.
The home and home series was followed up by a three game set between the Warbirds and the Tomahawks. This series pitted the best pitching staff in the league against the hottest lineup Premier League Wiffle® has to offer, and it did not disappoint. Game one was a pitchers duel, and 2020 CY Young award winner Chad Phillips was able to silence the Tomahawks, allowing a single unearned run over seven innings. The Warbirds were also held scoreless until the fourth inning, when they scored an unearned run themselves, sending the game into extra innings. Neither team would score in the sixth, but in the seventh inning, the Warbirds erupted for seven runs, including a grand slam from Matt Petrikas that went over the palm trees in left field, and was estimated by MLB StatCast™ at 147 feet.
The Warbirds lineup was silent to start game two, and Brian “Uncle B” Puter continued where he left off against the Sandvipers on opening night, but the Tomahawks would strike first. In the top of the fourth inning, Kenny Tracy hit a double to clear the bases, putting the Tomahawks on the board, and then manager Jason Stephenson knocked him in with a single. In the bottom of the inning, Phillips came to the plate with the bases loaded, and he hit a two run single to cut the deficit to just one. To lead off the bottom of the fifth, Petrikas hit another home run to tie the game, and five batters later, Phil Surgen hit a walk-off double to put the Warbirds at 2-0 on the day.
In the third game of the series the Warbirds looked to sweep the Tomahawks, and they jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning. They tacked on two more runs in the third to go up 5-0, but the Tomahawks responded with three runs of their own in the bottom of the inning. Jason Stephenson hit a home run in the fourth inning, and Billy Osgood hit another in the fifth, but the Warbirds were able to hold on, winning 6-5 and completing the sweep.
The night ended with a pair of games between the Snappers and Stone Men. In the first game Snappers rookie Taylor Bryner took the ball, and he shut the Stone Men down, scattering five hits in a complete game shutout, striking out nine batters along the way. Snappers manager Jesse Capps hit a home run in the first inning, and Bryner hit one of his own in the fourth inning to put the Snappers up 9-0.
Both teams threw their ace in the final game of the night. Levi Lawrence and Shane Weber each had a shutout through regulation, and Weber allowed just a single hit in the first five frames. Lawrence had a double digit strikeout total at the end of regulation, and he struck out two more batters in the lone extra inning. In the bottom of the sixth, Jimmy Talamantez came to the plate, and hit a single to get his second game winning RBI of the season in just two wins for the Stone Men.
PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The Player of the Week award for week one of the Premier League Wiffle® season goes to Stone Men manager Levi Lawrence. Lawrence had pedestrian numbers at the plate, but he leads the league with 30 strikeouts on the rubber after just one week of play, and the next closest is Brian Puter with 16. Lawrence also leads the league in shutouts with two, complete games with three, and innings pitched with 16. The way too early CY Young favorite only had one blemish, an opposite field solo home run from James Stein, and was a fingertip away from tying the game with his bat the very next inning. Lawrence was able to keep his team in every game he pitched by devastating hitters with a sweeping slider that just barely nicked the outside corner of the strike zone at exactly 55mph several times, and his Stone Men are somehow 2-2 on the season despite only scoring two runs.
The next league night will be on Monday, February 15th. Each team will play a doubleheader, with the Warbirds and Stone Men leading off the night, followed by Ones vs. Bombers, Sandvipers vs. Tomahawks, and ending with Calicos vs. Snappers. Tune in Live on YouTube!