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  • Writer's pictureNWLA Tournament

10th Times A Charm; Griffleball Hoists 2021 Cup In Hoosier State

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The 10th Annual National Wiffle League Association (NWLA) National Tournament took place this past weekend in the southside of Indianapolis, Indiana, hosted by Circle City Wiffle. It's only fitting that the 10th seed, Griffleball Celebration Station, won in their 10th tournament.

Griffleball battled all weekend long to win a well-deserved first cup. Throughout all of bracket play the team did not play an opponent that doesn't have a top-2 finish on their resume.

In pool play, the Celebration Station opened with a 3-0 win over Colonie Wiffle Ball, from New York. Erik Detmar pitched all four innings, while Jeremy Ratajczyk drove in two runs and Caleb Jonkman went 2-for-3 with two doubles and an RBI.

In the second pool play play game, GBL and WSEM battled for five innings and neither could push a run across. Wes Ellis tossed a complete game one hitter with 14 strikeouts and no walks for the Black and Gold.

To round out pool play, GBL suffered a 2-1 setback against Dirtball Wiffle Circuit in their crossroads game.

They entered bracket play with a 1-1-1 record and were seeded 10th.

In the first round of bracket play they took on the 7th seeded Wiff is Life League Waves, who won the 2018 NWLA Tournament. GBL jumped ahead early and often to get out to a 7-0 lead in the fifth inning. WILL battled back and plated six in the bottom half of the fifth, and was about to take the lead on a two run home run, but Caleb Jonkman leaped over the fence to make an inning ending catch. The Celebration Station added insurance runs in the sixth to win the game, 15-6. Caleb Jonkman, Brett Detmar, and Wes Ellis split the pitching duties 2-2-2 in that order. Ratajczyk homered twice in the contest, while Caleb Jonkman and Ryan Galiher added one longball each.

They moved on to take on the 2020 NWLA Tournament runner-ups, Kalamazoo Wiffle League Keggers, in the second round to cap off play Saturday night. After getting out in front early again with a three run top of the first, KWL answered with four in the bottom half. GBL tied it in the top of the second and added two in the fourth, while Caleb Jonkman settled in on the rubber to secure the GBL win, 6-4. Jonkman added a homer in the game and each of the four Celebration Station batters drove in runs, with each Jonkman driving in two apiece.

GBL began Sunday morning play one win away from clinching a spot at the Dirtyard for the final four and they did just that. Brett Detmar dealt a no-hitter, with 17 strikeouts and just three walks, against Skibbe Wiffle Ball League, who were the runner-ups at the 2016 and 2017 NWLA Tournament's, to advance GBL to the final four with a 2-0 win. Caleb Jonkman drew a bases loaded walk in the first and Jared Jonkman belted a solo homer in the fifth for the Celebration Stations' runs.

At the Dirtyard, GBL played in the first semifinal and it was a thriller. They did not score in the first inning for the first time all of bracket play, and Wiffle in South East Michigan, who has raised the Cup a record three times (2014, 2015, and 2017), took the early lead in the bottom of the second, 1-0. Griffleball answered right back with two in the top of the third and the score stayed steady until the sixth inning. With one out in the bottom of the sixth, WSEM hit a ball to the left centerfield wall and scored the tying run and put the winning run on third base. Caleb Jonkman fired back with a strikeout and then took Griffleball into extra innings. The Celebration Station plated three in the seventh and Jonkman held the lead to advance to their third NWLA Tournament championship game. Ryan Galiher paced the Black and Gold offense with two hits and three RBI. The entire GBL lineup displayed patience at the plate, drawing 14 walks.

It all came down to one game under the lights at the famed Dirtyard against the 2020 NWLA Tournament Champions, Home Run League, out of Hopkins/Eagan Minnesota. With two outs and two on in the top of the first, Caleb Jonkman blasted the first pitch he saw over the right-center field fence to put GBL up 3-0. That would be all that Wes Ellis would need, as he tossed a complete game shutout to bring the Cup home to Griffith. Ellis was magnificent, striking out 14 batters and only walking one, while giving up just two hits. GBL added two runs in both the second and third innings to win it 7-0. Caleb Jonkman and Jeremy Ratajczyk each finished 3-for-6 in the championship game, and all four Celebration Station hitters drove in at least one run.

Caleb Jonkman was named MVP of the tournament for his outstanding performance on the weekend.

Griffleball hails from just a couple hours north of the hosts, in Griffith Indiana. They were part of the inaugural tournament and has competed every year since. After a rough start to their careers, the squad pulled together to make deep runs in recent years. In 2018 and 2019, GBL came up one game short, finishing in second place.

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