After months of waiting around through cold New England weather, the Connecticut WIFFLE® Ball League Pro League season got underway on May 25th. With four teams and near sixteen players due to participate, this season has been anticipated to be a competitive overhaul from the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Through the first month of the season, that statement of competitiveness has been a story of two sides. On one hand, a flux of new and exciting talent has emerged, especially from the expansion franchises. Zach Cifarelli of the newly-formed Madison Risers has unquestionably been the hottest player in the league, providing a layer of pitching refinedness no other player has been able to match. Noah Kleczkowski has been a solid two-way option for the Rocky Hill Rage, providing a radiant enthusiasm visible both on the carpet and in the box.
The other side, well... the good play and success has been near exclusive to two teams. The Madison Risers and Rocky Hill Rage have dominated their inaugural campaigns in the league, both well over .500 and having a combined record of 9-1 through each of their first five regular season games. The returning sides - the Augerville Defenders and Shoreline Breakers - have been utter shells of the teams they were last year. The only winning between these two teams have been between each other, when scheduling conflictions led to the Breakers ruling their Matchup 3 series against Augerville a no-contest, forfeiting both games in the series to their cross-county rivals. Either team is yet to win a game - let alone sweep a series - without the intervention of opposing teams' obligations elsewhere.
With the recent prominence of the rookie teams and the downfall of the opposing sides, the start to this 2021 season has been one that likely very few have anticipated. To better analyze the results from the first few weeks of play, dive below into the current power rankings (as of June 20th).
#4: Shoreline Breakers 🔽3 (0-6 - 4th, N/A In Last 8 Games, 4.5 GB of 2nd Place)
To put this frankly...there have been championship hangovers, and then there has been the Shoreline Breakers' start to the 2021 Pro League season.
Winless in each of their first six contests, the Breakers' lack of identity has been at the heart of their recent struggles. Team leaders Liam Wallace and Club Manager Conor DeCosta have been a shell of their production in their 2020 title run. Through their first 4 regular season games together, they have combined for a below-average OBP of .450, limiting their chances to score large sums of runs. It has been a near-disaster start for DeCosta especially, who has only 5 hits in his first four games of the season.
Pitching has also been a concern for the team thus far. Wallace and DeCosta have yet to find their end-of-season dominance that propelled them to their 2020 Pro League World Series run, allowing many more runs than their offense can make up for.
The return of Patrick Grudberg to the roster - who opted out to start the season - has provided some cheer for Breakers fans. Patrick arrived with minimal rust in his return against Rocky Hill on June 7th, which brings hope that he can play to his ROTY form that helped them finish the season strong in 2020. Now with a committed 3-man lineup, the defending champions will have a cohesive roster to potentially rebound from a slow start. With Liam Wallace recording 7 Ks in a loss during that series, things are beginning to look better for Shoreline. But the lack of results and early unease has them at the bottom of the power rankings.