As we have reached the midpoint of the IMG Wood Bat League season, we will turn to two of our league experts, Yaz Ashrawi and Brian Muldoon, to preview what to expect over the last half of the season.
BM: With the first half of the season over, what stood out to you the most and what do you expect in the final weeks of the season?
YA: What I have really been impressed with is the parity within the league. At the beginning, everyone thought that the league was a bit lob-sided, but there have been a few surprise teams that have made it interesting. For example, the Buccaneers and the Sea Dogs have had a balanced attack since day one. Neither team has a particular strength, but has just played really strong baseball. They have experienced great coaching and are right in the thick of things in the standings.
BM: I am surprised how tight the standings are, it seems like teams are exchanging positions after every game. Every team has a great chance to win every game they play, the talent is really widespread through the league, and should make for an exciting playoff hunt.
YA: What player can you see carrying their team through strong second half play and possibly a run at the championship?
BM: There are a lot really talented players in the league that have the capabilities to lead their team. Anthony Hajjar, Ryan Brenner, Shay Mlakar, Ben Johnson, just to name a few, are great team leaders and are having great summer seasons. But the player that can really set the tone for his team is Jonathan Davis of the Sea Dogs. The leadoff hitter knows how to get on base, whether it forcing a walk or ripping a single. He has got game-changing speed, and he is one of the best defenders in the league playing shortstop.
YA: There is an abundance of talent in the league, but the two players that really stand out to me are Cas Dean of the Hurricanes, and Corey Wiley of the Sea Dogs. These players are dual-threats on the mound and at the plate. They are 1-2 in ERA, and are tied for the league lead in wins, while also producing at the plate. Their teams really rely on their arms and will continue to do so as the playoffs get closer.
BM: We're halfway through the IMGWBL season, what are your predictions for the rest of the summer?
YA: I think it is going to come down to the Hurricanes and the Conquistadors. Both teams are right in the mix and neither team has a weakness in their lineup. When it comes down to it, it will become more dependent on the arms of the pitchers and if they can hold up through the last couple weeks of the season.
BM: The Hammerheads and the Sea Dogs are my teams to watch towards the end of the season. Both teams are in the middle of the pack right now, but like everyone, are definitely not out of it. The Hammerheads have a strong lineup led by Ben Johnson and Trevor Johnson (no relation), and Zak Wasilewski and Andrew Ladisa are two power pitchers that know how to strike guys out. The Sea Dogs, like Yaz said before, have a really solid team. They have some talented arms in the rotation, and they have a lineup that does not strike out much. It should be an exciting couple of weeks.