Dirtyard Classic: Sunday, August 14
Tailgate: 12 PM EST
First Pitch (Game 1): 2 PM EST
Stream: ISC Sports Network https://www.iscsportsnetwork.com/circle-city-wiffle-ball
We're just two days from a mega heavyweight showdown at the Dirtyard: 8 Balls vs Moonshots. The 8 Balls, making their 5th title appearance, are looking to become the first CCW franchise to win 3 Dirtyard Classics. The Moonshots are trying to #RunItBack and be the first team to win back to back titles. Will Smithey and Taylor Carpenter, locked in a tight (?) MVP race, are each trying to prove to us that they're 2022's most valuable player. Austin Alles is attempting to make history and become the first rookie to win Silver Slugger.
Oh! And for the first time in league history, we'll have a live game streamed on television. So, ALLLLL of this juicy drama will unfold LIVE in front of the eyes of millions (rough estimate) of viewers at home.
There's a LOT on the line here, people! Let's use the treasure trove of advanced analytics and data that we have available to analyze and predict a winner!
Hitting: The Shots are right at league average in most of the offensive categories, right where the top team should be in a newly “balanced” league. Enter Austin Alles, who decided balance is just not something he’s interested in this year. Thanks to his surprise production, the 8 Balls are miles ahead of the Moonshots (and the rest of the league). I think Smithey will neutralize some of this offense’s effectiveness, but it’s still the best lineup in the league.
Advantage: 8 Balls (1-0)
Pitching: The 8 Balls have the advantage when it comes to depth, but the Moonshots have the best arm in the league in Will Smithey. Oh, by the way, Smithey “felt like crap” last Sunday and still spun two shutouts to get his squad to this point.
Advantage: Moonshots (1-1)
Fielding: Both squads feature top-tier fielders in Church and Carpenter. The problem for the 8 Balls is that Carpenter is also the starting pitcher for games 1 and 3. Aside from those two, the next best fielder is Moonshots’ Tyler Gregory. With Speek inactive and Carpenter’s limited defensive innings, the 8 Balls just don’t match up.
Advantage: Moonshots (2-1)
Experience: The 8 Balls have Speek, and his experience goes a LOOOONG way, but the Moonshots entire roster (minus Witty) was in this series last year. They have the reigning MVP (CCW & NWLA) plus 3 CCW OGs in Church, Voris and Gregory.
Advantage: Moonshots (3-1)
Drunkenness: Will Smithey simply does not drink during Wiffle. The pressure here is on Taylor Carpenter, who gets better as the Diesels go down. However, I worry that the pressure of this series might cause him to drink less. Does he have a teammate who will be willing to slap him and tell him to walk over to the cooler in between ABs?
Advantage: Moonshots (4-1)
Looks: Ironically enough, if these two teams were playing in a good looks tourney, this would also be the championship matchup. Headlined by Carpenter, Voris, Speek, Gregory and Church, there are like 18 guys in this series that have a legit chance at cracking Ashley Hopkins’ 2023 Top 10 hottest CCW players. Gregory’s dad-bod is only improving, Alles, Witty and Voges are emerging as breakout candidates, Smithey and Ball bring a ruggedness that can’t be taught. It’s truly amazing. The cameras are in for a treat.
Advantage: tie/the women watching from home (4-1-1)
Work/Life/Wiffle Balance: I’m pretty sure Smithey works about 8 remote hours per week and spends the other 32 hours cutting Wiffle balls, honing his pitch command and wiggling his mouse so that his boss thinks he’s still there. Who knows what Carpenter is doing at this point - Librarian? DJ? Yoga instructor? Whatever the case, he may spend more time at the Dirtyard than anyone in the league. Church’s dad— erm, boss just gave him unlimited vacation days. Speek’s Amerifence schedule is actually built AROUND Wiffle, not the other way around. Alles is likely a bodybuilder whose main career goal is to single-handedly keep Wiffle in business from all the replacement balls we have to buy after he hits them. Tyler Gregory watched the NWLA Championship live stream while HIS CHILD WAS POPPING OUT!! Every single player in this series was born to Wiffle. They’re dawgs and there’s a reason they kicked the rest of our asses all year long.
Advantage: Tie (4-1-2)
Jerseys: The 8 Balls will roll out not one, but TWO b-e-a-utiful, hard-to-go-wrong-with black and red jerseys.
Advantage: 8 Balls (4-2-2)
Rooting Interest: Hm… the 8 Balls lost a LOT of their hatability with the addition of Carpenter, and this section revolves entirely around him. With the Moonshots almost all having a title, I think it would be cool to see Taylor finally get his.
Advantage: 8 Balls (4-3-2)
Calves: Austin Alles
Advantage: 8 Balls (4-4-2)
Knowledge of the League Rules: Whichever team has Mike Speek loses this one. We love you Mike, but GET THIS MAN A RULE BOOK!!!
Advantage: Moonshots (5-4-2)
If The Game Were to Break Out Into A Brawl: See “Calves”. I’m fairly certain that Alles would simply pick people up and snap them over his tree trunk legs. Then whoever’s left standing would get RKO’d by Voges.
Advantage: 8 Balls (5-5-2)
After all that advanced analytical analysis, we’re TIED!? Unbelievable and in no way scripted. It looks like you’ll have to make your way to the Dirtyard on Sunday at 2 PM to see how this one shakes out!
Jokes aside, both teams are loaded with awesome players and this series has the potential to be one of the best our league has seen. Whether in person or via stream, DON’T MISS IT!
Player: Will Smithey
'22 Pitching: 52 IP, 7-1, 0.91 ERA, 118 K, 163 FIP
'22 Hitting: .450 AVG, 1.702 OPS, 17 HR, 24 RBI, 51 RC
Achievements: '21 CCW MVP, '21 CCW Champion, '22 NWLA Tournament Champion, National Wiffle All-Hitting & Pitching
Come Sunday, it will have been almost exactly one month since the NWLA title run. Now that you've got a CCW and NWLA title, how do they feel the same? What's different about them?
They feel the same in the sense that each were so rewarding. A lot of work went into both of them, especially from a pitching perspective. Being able to control games with the arm has so much impact on the game. It feels amazing knowing what you worked on came to fruition.
A CCW MVP and Champion, you've achieved more than most players have to this point in their careers. With a lot of Wiffle left in you, which CCW accomplishments are you still chasing?
I want the Cy Young award. That's the part of my game that I've worked on the most and I would love to see it pay off. I'd love to be known as the best all-around player in CCW history when I'm done. There are some amazing players on both sides of the ball, but proving to be great at hitting and pitching has shown to be difficult. That's where I want my legacy to end - being the #1 guy anyone would choose to build a team around.
How do you get locked in before a big game or series?
I make sure to get my arm loose. Hitting just takes a few swings and seeing the ball move. Pitching though is all about getting everything loose, moving fast and seeing my pitch movement. Knowing my ball can move a lot of ways means I just lock in to one pitch to start the day and go from there.
Which 8 Balls player is the X-factor this series? What do they do well?
Taylor has to be their X-factor. He's their best pitcher and hitter. We have to get to him early on both sides, get him chasing a few pitches and putting runs on the board early. As a team, they all hit the ball so well, especially slow pitch. That's one of the more impressive things about their team.
Finish the sentence: In order to win the title, the Moonshots have to...
hit the board. Plain and simple. They will put up runs no matter what, but being on the board limits them to a couple runs when lob pitches are automatic home runs.
Player: Taylor Carpenter
Team: 8 Balls
'22 Pitching: 48 IP, 7-2, 2.88 ERA, 74 K, 104 FIP
'22 Hitting: .430 AVG, 1.599 OPS, 24 HR, 51 RBI, 60 RC
Achievements: '18 CCW DPOY, '18 ASG MVP, '18 All-NWLA Rookie, '18 All-NWLA Fielder, '22 NWLAT Champion
Come Sunday, it will have been almost exactly one month since the NWLA Tournament title run. In what ways has your participation in that tournament helped you as a player?
The [NWLA] tournament has made me a much better fast pitch hitter. I know that having the pitch-to-hit rule in our league is big for me, but I'm just as comfortable trying to square up a fast pitch against some of the best arms if that's what's needed.
You're widely considered as the most talented/skilled player in the league, but have yet to win an MVP. Is that a goal of yours? Do you feel like you've played your best Wiffle ball yet?
MVP is a goal of mine, but not something I'm too concerned about during the season. I thought as long as I was playing well enough to help our team win throughout the year, that I'd be in good shape to put together a solid [MVP] resume.
Some predicted that Mike Speek would have a massive impact on you this year as a player. How has he helped you grow?
Senior has been great for my game. He's always calm out there and that's something that I've struggled with in the past. He's helped me the most on the mound. being able to throw different pitches and staying consistent are things that we have worked on. He's constantly giving advice on how to be better and having that voice really has pushed me.
Which Moonshots player is the X-Factor? What do they do that's special?
No doubt - it's Will [Smithey]. Dawg. He's really one of the best players in the country. He can win games by himself out there at times. We will have to do everything to try to keep him in check on Sunday.
Finish the sentence: In order to win the title, the 8 Balls have to...
Pitch extremely well. I think our bats are the best out there, but both [Ryan] Voges and I have to be our best selves on the mound to give our bats a chance to play. Go Balls!
By Brendan Dudas
The bottom 3 teams (Shorts, Pistols, Yakkers) will play a round robin tournament on Wednesday, August 3rd. The winner of the round robin tournament will advance to Sunday’s (August 7th) tournament where the top 3 teams (8 Balls, Hounds, Shots) await. The tournament will operate as a double elimination tournament up until the championship round. The 2 finalists will advance to the Dirtyard Classic on Sunday, August 14th. A best of 3 series will determine the 2022 CCW Champion.
Team Pre(and Re)views
8 Balls (11-5)
The 8 Balls lead CCW in team ERA and team OPS - a rare combo that hasn’t happened since the Short Shorts (Sand Gnats) in 2016. Mike Speek’s Lasso-esque motivation skills, Taylor Carpenter’s development and the winning lottery ticket that is Austin Alles have all come together to form the perfect storm. You have to be pretty nitpicky to find any weaknesses with the 8 Balls, but every team has their flaws. One, their defense is questionable when Carpenter is on the mound. The absence of Speek only hurts that. Two, Carpenter probably ranks 4th (behind Smithey, Werner and Sprinkle) when it comes to the league’s true shutdown aces.
X-Factor: Mike Speek - Senior isn’t even playoff eligible, but anybody that’s been to the Dirtyard this year knows that the 8 Balls are an entirely different team with him present than when he’s not. A championship run will require his focus, motivation and Moonshine Cherries.
The Hounds began 2022 on fire, winning 6 of their first 7 games. However, the offense was struggling and their wins were coming in close, low scoring games. This is not a team that will succeed by trying to outslug opponents, and an 0-4 (-32) record against the 8 Balls definitely spells trouble. However, with a 1-2 punch of Sprinkle and Du. Dowden, the Hounds will find themselves in a spot to win every game.
X-Factor: Dustin Dowden - Dustin has been the best number 2 pitcher in CCW this year, but his slugging has dropped almost 120 points compared to 2021. In order for the Hounds to have playoff success, they’ll need Dowden to provide some much-needed pop behind Dylan Jones.
Will Smithey has done Will Smithey things again in 2022. The league’s defending MVP is tough to beat, but the Shots’ near-.500 record shows that they struggle without the ball in his hands. Behind Smithey, Blake Voris has shown an awesome return to form at the plate and Myc Witty has broken out in a huge way. The defending champs have the MVP, elite defense and veterans all over. If Smithey can win his matchups and they can steal a win during a non-Smithey start, they’ll have a great chance to upgrade their title to “Back To Back Champs”.
X-Factor: Myc Witty - Witty has been lights out in his last 2 starts (10 IP, 2 W, 2 ER, 16 K). As mentioned above, the Shots are going to lean on Smithey to win the “Game 1s”, but if Witty continues this run, they’ll have the best playoff pitching duo in the league.
Short Shorts (7-8)
There’s no better representation of this Shorts team than last Sunday’s games: a 2-1 victory over Smithey & the Shots, followed by a 15-0 beatdown delivered by Werner and the Pistols. If everything goes the Shorts’ way, it seems that their ceiling is up there with some of the better teams in the league (4 of 7 wins came against 8 Balls and Moon Shots). However, when Dudas, H. Palmer and A. Palmer are missing the board, their ceiling crumbles and they become the league’s bottom feeder.
X-Factor: The K-board - This 3-man staff doesn’t allow much contact on fast pitch strikes. However, they struggle with making contact with the board. The x-factor for the Shorts is simply their ability to throw strikes.
Pork Pistols (6-9)
Still one of my dark horse picks to make a run to the Dirtyard Classic, the Pistols can’t be counted out. Reid Werner hasn’t historically boasted the consistency on par with Will Smithey, but his stuff is miles ahead of the next best CCW pitcher. Offensively, this lineup is incredibly balanced (3 hitters have exactly 10 HR and 17 RBI) and will make you pay for missing the board and serving up lob pitches. Historically, this group has spent the regular season “feeling things out”, only to up the intensity for playoffs.
X-Factor: Dalton Lewis - In order to win Wednesday’s round robin (and compete on Sunday), DLewy has to keep the score close during his outings. This serves two purposes: keeps the run differential close in the event of a 3-way tie on Wednesday and allows the Pistols’ offense a chance to go win a game.
The Yakkers stumbled to an 0-7 start and turned in CCW’s worst team ERA and OPS - a double whammy combo that makes it really hard to win games. That being said, I was high on them in the preseason and still believe most of the players on this roster are better than their ‘22 statistical profiles. The Yakkers finished 4-3 and closed out the regular season with wins over the #1 and #2 teams. Momentum is such a large part of playoff success and the Yakkers have it on their side. Come Wednesday, it’s an entirely new season and a fresh slate.
X-Factor: Mitch Buis & Cade Luker - This is a team that relies heavily on being greater than the sum of its parts, but those parts have all been very hit or miss up to this point. For the Yakkers to get going, Mitch Buis has to deliver on the mound and Cade Luker has to be a spark plug at the plate. As a duo, the regular season needs to be left behind them and the focus turned toward winning Wednesday’s round robin.
More Players to Watch
Austin Alles & Taylor Carpenter - The teammates seem to be #1 and #2 in the Silver Slugger race. The 8 Balls will likely drop down to a 4-man lineup and this race likely won’t be finished until the dust settles at the Dirtyard Classic.
James Haworth - Haworth’s unorthodox style gives the Yakkers a much-needed injection of energy when he’s in the lineup. If he’s available, he immediately makes the Yakkers better.
Holden Palmer - Palmer (6 IP, 1 ER vs Moonshots) has turned it up in his recent outings, giving the Shorts an arm that they’ve desperately needed.
Evan Butz - If not for Austin Alles, we’d be talking more about Evan Butz’ (.415, 10 HR) incredible rookie campaign. Expect to see him in the lineup on Wednesday.
Jake Sprinkle & Quinn Cloghessy - The Hounds only have 5 players eligible for the playoffs. Neither of these players accrued full-time hitting stats, but one of them will find themselves in the lineup for playoffs.
Blake Voris - As teams begin to use their 3 IBBs to pitch around Will Smithey, Voris (.459, 7 HR) will be counted on to make those teams pay.
Dirtyard Classic: 8 Balls over Moonshots
Playoff MVP: Austin Alles
Wednesday Round Robin Winner: Pork Pistols