November 19th, 7:05pm PDT
Snappers vs Sandvipers
The two teams with the best regular season records who each won their division have found their way to a showdown in the Premier League Wiffle Championship. The Snappers led the way in the regular season with a 29-10 record and an East Division title. The Sandvipers finished at 27-12 with a league leading +80 run differential on their way to winning the West Division. The cream has really risen to the top this season where we have a match-up of the clear best two teams on paper for the trophy.
How they got here
Both of these teams received a first round bye into the semi-finals, so they got to sit out of Monday’s wild card round and patiently await their opponents. The Snappers watched as the Warbirds took on the expansion Lightning who squeaked their way into the playoffs winning their last 3 regular season games. But the Warbirds were too much for the Lightning as Jim Dodos led the way with a monster series and propelled his team to the East final. On the other side of the league, the Vaderz who had won their way into the league via the challengers tournament this year took on the Bombers. The Vaderz jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the best of 3 series, but the Bombers came storming back and took the second two.
That led us to Thursday night where in the first series, the #1 West seed, the Sandvipers hosted those Bombers. Tom Gannon took the hill in game one and looked good but a big 2-run homer by Max Fernandez in the top of the 4th gave the Bombers a 2-0 lead and they held on to win game 1. The Sandvipers needed to right the ship and in game 2 they did just that. Pummeling them Bombers 11-2 on the back of Justin Hicks who led the team with 2 homers and 5 RBI. Game 3 was scoreless through 3 as we saw Mateo Fernandez battling Adam Tanic on the mound. The tie was broken in the top of the 4th on a big homer by power hitting Trevor Bauer and the Bombers were 6 defensive outs from heading to the finals. But Tom Gannon had different plans as he battled deep in the count vs Mateo and smacked a ball that just barely got over the container in left and we were tied at 1. The next pitch Mateo threw was to Justin Hicks who copied Tom and hammered it over the wall and it was 2-1 Sandvipers just like that. They added one more and took a 3-1 lead going to the top of the 5th. Tom Gannon shut the door on the Bombers with a scoreless 5th and the Sandvipers headed to their first career championship game.
The second series of the night saw a showdown of the best two teams in the East division with Season 1 Champion Snappers taking on the Warbirds. The first game was scoreless through 2 until we saw Jim Dodos announce his presence by hitting a homer off of Shane Weber to give the Warbirds a 1-0 lead. But it didn’t last long as the Snappers bit back, and exploded for 4 runs coming from a 3-run Johnny Castaneda homer and a Manny Santillanes solo shot. Shane Weber finished off his complete game and the Snappers took game 1 by the score of 4-1. Matt Petrikas got the start in game 2 but was rudely greeted by the Snappers who jumped out to 3 in the top of the 1st and put the Warbirds on their heels. The Warbirds hit the ball hard all night but just couldn’t seem to find any holes against the Snappers Gold Glove filled defense. The Snappers added 3 more in the top of the 5th and took a 6-0 heading to the bottom of the inning and gave Jonathan Wilson the ball to close it out. A little rocky outing as he gave up a couple of runs but ultimately got the job done and the Snappers took game 2 by the score of 6-2 and we had our finals match-up set.
Championship Series Breakdown
David Harley Jr.
The Snappers have a deeper roster overall which gives them the flexibility to use their best defenders, pitchers, and hitters optimally. The Sandvipers have their 6 guys who they swap in and out as well and one can argue that fewer decisions to be made is an advantage but the Snappers get the nod here. Overall roster advantage: Snappers
Both teams pack a 1-2 punch that makes the opposing hitters fearful of facing. The Snappers are led by aces Taylor Bryner and Shane Weber and the Sandvipers by Tom Gannon and Adam Tanic. All 4 men had great seasons on the mound and at any point each of them could be regarded as the best the league has to offer. It’s extremely close at the top but a slight edge could go to the Sandvipers if they go to a game 3 as Trench Picone had a great season himself. Jonathan Wilson and Brandon Gregg are very good options for the Snappers as their 3rd starter. This one might be too close to call but we’ll do it. Pitching advantage: Sandvipers
This category wouldn’t really be that close but an injury to two time MVP Taylor Bryner has forced him to hit with one hand and while still being effective, isn’t the same guy. But the Snappers made sure to get Johnny Castaneda qualified for the playoffs and he’s been on fire the last few weeks. The top of both of these lineups are pretty even as the trios of Castaneda, Weber, and Santillanes match that of Tanic, Gannon and Hicks. But it’s likely the bottom of the lineups that could decide this series. It’s Wilson, Bryner and Gschwender vs Picone, Harley and Dean. We’ve seen all of those guys step up at different times this year, and each will be looking to do the same to push their team over the top. Hitting advantage: Snappers
These two teams are widely regarded as the best two defensive teams in the league. The Snappers are led defensively by Gold Glove winners Michael Agwara and Jesse Capps as well as Greg Kelley and Brandon Gregg. They’ve built a roster that allows them to maximize their defense while not sacrificing any offense. The Sandvipers have Gold Glove winners themselves as Tom Gannon and Trench Picone lead their team with Justin Hicks, David Harley Jr and Michael Dean making every play look easy. Taylor Bryner and Adam Tanic field their positions at elite levels as well. Neither side really has a single hole on defense and it’s one of the main reasons these two teams find themselves in this showdown. Defensive advantage: Tie
Unsurprisingly we have another close category to call. Both Adam Tanic and Taylor Bryner have shown a mastery of managing their rosters to perfection. They have an understanding of lineup structure, pitching rotation order, and defensive positioning. They both show veteran leadership at all times and are both extremely highly respected by their teams. Managing edge: Tie
Odds to win Fall 2021 PLW Championship
We have a great match-up on our hands tonight between the league’s best two teams and the two teams most deserving to fight for the title. Overall it’s a very close match-up and in a best of 3 series, it could really go either way. The games should be close and hard fought and it’s going to take a couple of standout performances in order for either team to hoist the trophy. The league has waited 3 seasons for this showdown and now we’ve got it, and it will deliver.
***Odds are for entertainment purposes only