NEW CARLISLE - With the warmer weather arriving in New Carlisle, the Newts have emerged from hibernation and will open up the 2018 Wiffle®Ball season this weekend against the Twin Branch Billy Goats at Migley Field (Sunday, 1:20pm ET).
Falling in the ORWBL World Series to Maple City in 2017, there seems to be a little extra motivation for the Newts as they embark on their quest for their fourth championship, which eluded them last summer.
Despite the World Series disappointment, the Newts were relatively quiet in the offseason. The roster remains essentially the same, full of veterans looking to make another run at a ring.
It all starts at the top of the lineup with two-time MVP Garrett Curless. The leadoff man hit 51 homers in 2017 and needs just one dinger to become only the fifth player in ORWBL history to reach 300 career home runs.
Speaking of the 300-home run club, the Newts will also look to all-time home run king Scott Soos to continue to produce at an elite level. Soos was the team leader in virtually every offensive category last year, belting 54 homers and driving in 73 runs.
Sticking with the theme of former MVPs, Noah Shail returns for his fifth season with the club. Despite only playing in half of the regular season games last year, the young superstar still hit .577 and clubbed 28 home runs.
On the mound, the Newts pitching staff with hinge on ace Jay Ryans. Ryans, who was unavailable for the entire 2017 World Series, has gained a reputation as a the most effective hurler in the sport. The Newts rode his arm throughout the 2016 playoffs to the team’s most recent title.
Danny Hernandez, Joey Schuster, Randy Schuster, Matt Soos, and Sean Touhey will also be expected to make a big impact. Chayse Davis, Jeff Szczypiorski, Dewey Thompson, and Matt Went provide a deep bench of crafty veterans.
Although there were no major offseason acquisitions, the Newts will look for expanded roles from Ryan Galiher and Zarek Finley. A National Wiffle League Association All-Star from his time in the Griffleball League in northwest Indiana, Galiher appeared in just one series for New Carlisle last year. Finley, known for his play on the tournament circuit with the Warsaw Whitecats, will finally make his ORWBL debut this season. Both players will add a new dimension of athleticism in the field and powerful bats in the lineup.
After five consecutive appearances in the World Series, it would be tempting to pencil in the Newts to be playing in August once again this season. However, the defending National League champions will face an uphill climb just to get back to the Series for the eighth time in franchise’s 12-year history.
With the ORWBL expanding to 14 teams, there will be no shortage of challengers to the Newts. Among the most dangerous, the Granger Panthers will be hoping to avenge a loss to New Carlisle in the 2017 NLCS.
Granger finished with the league’s best record a season ago, and jumped out to a 9-0 lead in Game 1 of the NLCS at Migley. However, the Newts stormed back to win the game, and eventually the series.
Although New Carlisle and Granger will be the favorites to meet again in the NLCS, the new-look National League features three young expansion teams in the Billy Goats, Landsharks and Silver Sluggers.
The Lynn Street Leprechauns, who finished at the bottom of the standings with just three wins in 2017, continue the process of building up their club.
And of course, the New Carlisle-Rolling Prairie rivalry lives on as Emery’s Army enters their second season since Jake Lawrence took command. This offseason Rolling Prairie added Jared Emmons, notorious Newts killer, to bolster their lineup and give a pitching staff a left-handed arm.
Even without taking home the crown in 2017, the Newts remain a squad with a target on their backs for the rest of the league. It will be another interesting summer in Migleyville for the Bray Street Bombers.