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Digging Double-Deep: Shoreline Repeats As Pro League Champions

Photo Credit: Connecticut Wiffle®Ball League, - Ben Fiore

The 2021 Connecticut Wiffle®Ball League Pro League Season had a conclusion that no living organism could have imagined. In a year that seemed so - for lack of a better word, predictable - the Shoreline Breakers won their second CTWL Pro League championship against all odds. Much like their 2020 counterparts, this squad was viewed with all of the pieces to win a championship: a solid ace in Liam Wallace, good hitting and defensive effort from Club Manager Conor DeCosta, and contributions from the rest of the cast. Yet despite everything they had, all of their strengths never seem to come to fruition. And the struggles of this team do go back further than you may initially think.

Following their upset of the Augerville Defenders in the 2020 CTWL Pro League World Series, the shortened inaugural season left the Breakers with serious questions regarding their roster composition. In the months that followed their win in August 2020, all three of their rostered players at the time - Conor, Liam, and Patrick Grudberg - held reasonable doubts to their return to action. For Liam, the possibility of pitching through a full 20-game slate on top of his heavy load pitching in college looked to be a deal-breaker. For Patrick, the necessities to stay busy throughout the summer, excluding Wiffle®Ball, were of paramount importance. Not only that, but rumors had loomed that Patrick was looking to join up with the expansion team Ridge Hill Retrievers. And for Conor, a struggle in his own personal life loomed over his ability to focus on the game he loved so dearly. For much of the 2020-21 offseason, I worried that the defending champions would not be seen, and put the league's order in jeopardy.

But as the months rolled on, and eventually to May, everything seemed to work itself out. It did yield the banning of the previously-rumored Retrievers, and the twelfth-hour maneuvering of teams to even HAVE a season to begin with. But in the end, Conor was able to confirm himself, and his teammates, that they would play in 2021. For once since their championship victory, all was well as a Shoreline fan.

In the rush to get the team to open the season this past May, that joy would be short-lived. Showing up on May 25th to open the season against the expansion Madison Risers, the Breakers realized that winning this time around, was going to take a different level of excellence than the year before. The Breakers that day - consisting of only Conor and Liam - managed to only score 2 runs across their first two games, and were quickly swept by mercy rule in consecutive games by the Risers. Having not played together for the better part of nine months, there had to be some mercy placed on this team.

For a team that dealt with adversity before - and even some embarrassment - it felt like a sure bet that Shoreline would get itself together before the season got too late. And yet, nothing seemed to click. The next series, their home opener against the Rocky Hill Rage, saw a more competitive series that still ended in another sweep. Liam continued to look incredibly erratic, and Conor held very little of 2020 swagger at the plate. A forfeit sweep to the Augerville Defenders the following week saw the unthought of happen: the Shoreline Breakers were without a win in their first SIX games of the season.

Bad luck and omens - both of poor attendance and performances - followed them throughout the first half of the season. At the All-Star Break, the team sat comfortably in last place, a record of 4-8, on the brink of elimination from Pro League title contention. With a grim outlook and a team full of inconsistency, many expected the Breakers to shut down shop and begin their prep for the 2022 season. But Club Manager DeCosta still knew what this team was capable of. He did the same following being swept at home at the end of the 2020 regular season, where a miserable 40-25 loss handed the regular season title to the rival Defenders. He stilled called upon himself and his teammates, he called upon their strengths to shine through when the moment was right. Conor knew that at the very least, going out there with the guys he knew, and giving every game a good effort and a little hope; it could generate good things. When that happened, they managed to go on the road and win that first title.

Much like that ghost of the past, the Breakers exorcised all demons in the second half. And where better a place to start then the place they did last year: Bassett Park. The same place they posed their three-games-to-one Series win a year ago, the Defenders were shown once again the full potential of the Breakers' cast. Conor finally began to see the ball well at the plate, and even pitch some serviceable innings. Liam turned into the composed, lights-out ace that the team needed for a stretch run. And Patrick provided the offensive spark that rounded out a solid 3-man batting lineup. A sweep their gave them a flicker of hope at 6-8, and they still continued to battle. They wished for a sweep the following week to knock off the competing Rage for the 2nd World Series spot, but managed to stay alive with a split of that series. They hoped for mercy in their last series of the year, and they got it. The combination of the Rage and and the Risers being unable to show to their final series gave them the final two wins to push them to 9-11. Whilst not .500 or a winning record, it would put them one game over the Rage for 2nd place, and into a second-consecutive Pro League World Series.

Having battled back against every team they had faced that year, one team still remained to be topped. One team still stood between them, and a chance at history yet again. And yet again, Conor called on his guys, and perhaps on a little bit of fortune. After battling through three consecutive days of games and five difficult battles, only one team was left standing. And yet somehow, that hope that everything would work itself out, did. After a record 10-inning display, and teammate Liam throwing 200 pitches, the Commissioner presented DeCosta with the championship trophy. It was not a pretty run, but a run that symbolized that with great obstacles, great determination cannot be underestimated.

Being a Defender player myself, I cannot dare ponder how this turn of events came to be. But then again, I could not be proud to see the team battle itself out the way it did. It was title well-deserved, and a run that will surely never be forgotten.

Photo Credit: Connecticut Wiffle®Ball League, - Ben Fiore


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