National Wiffle League Association (NWLA) Tournament Recap 2018
Have you dreamed of playing wiffleball on the big stage?
Do you run a league? Or at least a wiffleball enthusiast?
Check out the NWLA (National Wiffle League Association) Tournament in Morenci Michigan!
The NWLA Tournament is an annual wiffleball tournament to determine which wiffleball league has the best talent. It was founded in 2012 by Chris Galloway and Carl Coffee. Leagues from around the country are allowed to submit 1 team of 4-8 players. The tournament begins with 2 open regional tournaments to end up with 16 teams at Nationals.
In its early years Nationals were held in Columbus, Ohio. The first champions were from the Ontario County Wiffleball Association (OCWA) in New York. Since then it has been dominated by Wiffle In South East Michigan (WSEM).
Teams hail from all over the US to compete: Tampa Bay, Seattle, St Louis, New York, Minneapolis, Indiana, Chicago, Pennsylvania, and more.
2018’s tournament was another success. Our wiffle insider has the recap on the National Tournament which was held July 13th-15th.
The weekend starts off on Friday night with a community slow pitch game, home run derby, all star game, and awards.
Morenci, Michigan is a modest small town on the border of Ohio. Quaint houses welcome wifflers on the drive in from Adrian, the nearest town with hotels. Being a small town, the community likes to partake in the weekends events. The community slow pitch game is the highlight of the year for some residents.
After the slow pitch game, the home run derby commences. One representative from each league is placed in a head to head bracket. Hitters get 60 seconds to hit as many bombs as they can. This year’s champion was Kyle Tomlinson of the WSEM.
Awards were next. Lifetime achievement awards were handed out to tournament founder Chris Galloway and NWLA President Sam Skibbe. Chris then threw out the ceremonial first pitch, a blazing strike down the middle.
The main event on Friday night is the all star game. Announcing the lineups this year was YouTube celebrity Mippey5. Earlier in the summer, 2 captains had a fantasy draft of each league’s representative. Team Phillips beat Team Skibbe at the end of the night, Jordan Castelli from the Wiff is Life League (WILL) won MVP.
The format of the tournament is simple. 16 teams are split into 4 pools. On Saturday morning pools play a round robin schedule to help determine seeds for a double elimination bracket which determines the national champion.
Pool play was fierce competition, some teams struggled to adjust the rules while others dominated.
This isn’t your typical backyard wiffleball. The strike zone is 48 feet from the pitching rubber. Pitchers can throw as fast as they want, with some being clocked in the mid 80s and low 90s. In contrast to some other tournaments, the ball may not be scuffed or cut. Only balls fresh out of the box are allowed, which presented a challenge for some teams.
Fences are set around 100 feet while bases are 45 feet apart. There is baserunning here. Fielders must get the ball to the pitcher inside the circle before the runner gets to first to record an out (also known as pitcher’s hand or pitcher’s poison.) Fielders can also “peg” runners or throw the ball at them to record an out.
Umpires are on hand to make calls and handle disputes between teams. Rules are outlined in detail on the NWLA Tournament website and are discussed on an annual conference call between leagues as well.
After pool play, 2 teams stood at the top of the bracket, the Skibbe Wiffleball League (SWBL) from St Louis and the Home Run League (HRL) from Minnesota.
These teams flew in to the tournament from their respective hometowns. The nearest airport is Detroit and a car rental gets you to the fields in an hour and a half. The hotels, which had a group discount were 20 minutes away from Morenci.
What’s the cost? Team registration is $300 which covers fields, umpires, scorekeeping, apparel, and one complimentary dinner. The HRL shared their total cost: which included a round trip Delta flight to Detroit, 2 car rentals, and 4 hotel rooms for 3 nights. It came out to about $500 per player (they brought 9).
The double elimination bracket began around 4 pm on Saturday. The pressure immediately took a toll on some top teams such as OCWA, who was upset by the 14 seeded WILL in round 1.
Other juggernauts went down that evening with the #1 seed SWBL and #5 seeded WSEM taking trips to the loser’s bracket on Sunday morning.
The next top seed to fall was the #2 seeded HRL, who also lost to the red hot WILL.
WILL was the story of the tournament, the young adults from Pittsburgh cruised to their first ever championship behind stellar pitching from Austin Berger and Jordan Castelli. As the 14 seed out of 16 teams, this was quite the surprise run.
Other top performers from the weekend were Kyle Von Schleusingen who led the field with 42 pitching strikeouts, Ryan Bush with a 0.00 ERA, Gus Skibbe with a .484 avg and leading 6 home runs, and Evan Sibbet with a perfect fielding percentage.
All in all, this was a well run tournament for the 7th straight year. The NWLA Tournament continues to gain traction across the nation. Last year, Spencer Bogad of the SWBL made an outstanding catch which landed him on the Sportscenter Top 10.
The tournament host committee will keep tweaking the format every year to get the best out of their budget, so stay tuned for possible changes.
You are encouraged to enter your league in this tournament, visit http://nwlatournament.com/ for more info.
A special thanks to guest editor John Cronin for this recap!
Check out more of John's work at:
See our Wiffle® Ball Tournament Directory for a nationwide directory of events
EXCURSIONS Journey To Health is your source for everything Wiffle® Ball!
See all of our Wiffle® Ball Equipment
WIFFLE is a federally registered trademark of The Wiffle Ball, Inc. Shelton, CT 06484 and used with permission.