Bearded Bullfrogs are your 2019 World Champions
There aren't many grand things about Drew Provence. He likes the Gamecocks, has questionable taste in music, and has an odd man crush on Ryan Tannehill. But one thing UWBL fans cannot deny is Provence's clutch performance in the World Series.
The Bearded Bullfrogs won their third consecutive title Wednesday thanks in large part to clutch hitting from Provence, including a third-inning grand slam in the first game, effectively dismantling the roid-driven hopes of the Slippery Locomotives.
The Locomotives, coming in as huge underdogs in their first World Series appearance, seemed a bit off before the first pitch was even thrown. GM Kyle Heppeard was seen berating UWBL beat reporter Edna Becker for a fact-driven article, using big words such as "asinine" and "stupid". Needless to say, his "I had a dream speech" did little to inspire his team this week.
On the field, Heppeard crushed a homer, but little was seen from the Locomotives' offense past that. In fact, Provence's game 1 slam scored as many runs as the Locomotives did in the entire second game.
Perhaps the most overlooked but most genius managerial move of the series was the Bullfrogs deciding to keep Travis Vaughn out of the field for the entirety of the series. This not only prevented a potential defensive liability, but helped Vaughn continue to recover from his weekend jog around the White House.
Not many teams in sports' history can claim three-straight titles. The Bullfrogs join elite company, with striking similarities to the 90's Chicago Bulls. Provence brings size and defense like Scottie Pippen, Wilder has all-around play like Jordan, and Vaughn, like Dennis Rodman, gets just as many questions and comments about his hair as he does his play, and has made some questionable off the field decisions.
Congrats to the Bullfrogs on yet another (predictable) world title. Where they go from here isn't the question as much as the UWBL trying to figure out how to improve the parity across the league. For now, the teams can sit back, enjoy the offseason, and prep for the holidays, knowing winter is coming soon.
2019 World Series Predictions
It's only fitting that the MLB would rig their World Series to reach a game 7 on the same day the UWBL World Series is played. Clearly Rob Manfred fears the competition the UWBL brings in the ratings, as previous World Series have boasted as many as a dozen spectators.
This championship round features the UWBL dynasty Bearded Bullfrogs and first-timers Slippery Locomotives. The Locomotives have always had the talent to make it here, but have performed in the playoffs as if Andy Reid were their coach, choking away chance after chance.
Look for the Locomotives to come out swinging for the fences. Kyle Heppeard and Terry Wright are the modern day Bash Brothers, and since the UWBL has no formal PED policy, will likely continue to be so for years to come. Add on a Prince Fielder-esque player in Charles Blue and some real-life minor league player, the Locomotives have all the reasons in the world to be confident.
But this is no exhibition squad they're playing. This Bullfrog team is used to winning. So much so that their manager has decided to not only skip half the games, but put his (and his team's) health at risk by willingly running around our nation's capital in pouring down rain. For fun. No really...he did that.
Still, Travis Vaughn has built a winner. Mike Wilder is no Andy Dalton: he knows how to perform well in the regular season and postseason. The addition of Drew Provence only makes this team more potent than ever, and that's pretty remarkable.
Rain is falling, but that's no reason for this World Series to be delayed. And though the Locomotives will pull out all their tricks, there will be no treats for them in this day-before-Halloween-championship.
GAME 1: Bullfrogs 18, Locomotives 15
GAME 2: Bullfrogs 22, Locomotives 11
Bearded Bullfrogs 22, Freshwater Feline 2
The ramp-up to club volleyball season and the Florida Gators making a run at an SEC East title will surely help distract Ben Baldridge from an abysmal year with the Feline. Matching only Eddie Becker as the only GM in UWBL history to have a winless season, this surely won't be Baldridge's swan song. Yet one has to wonder upon hearing that 4 of the 5 Feline members may retire: is that number too low?
Slippery Locomotives 33, Rally Dragons 13
In what can only be described as a shocker, Kyle "I swear we're not taking PEDs" Heppeard went off as did the rest of his team's mashers, setting up what should be an exciting World Series. Meanwhile, we're still confirming reports as to whether or not Josh Garrison was "seeing ghosts" in the field as his team did their best Braves' postseason impression giving up 33 runs. Early speculation of the Dragons also chalks this loss up to the "Provence Curse."
World Series EARLY LINE
Bullfrogs -4.5 vs. Locomotives
2019 Fall Season Recap
Freshwater Feline; 0-6 Record
Things have not gone well for the Freshwater Feline in 2019. Every single player, with the exception of Corey Helle, has regressed offensively. Helle raised his average .068 points from the previous year. Baldridge, Grote, Kellett, and Watson decreased by a combined .469!! On the bright side, the Feline clinched a playoff spot for the 4th consecutive season. They were competitive in half the games they played in, and were blown out in the other half. The Feline still have not recovered from their 2018 playoff loss, going 1-13 in their last 14 games. Baldridge will have some big decisions to make in the off-season to right this ship.
Rally Dragons; 2-4 Record
The Rally Dragons are coming off of 2 consecutive World Series appearances. Andy Aulick was lost for the season prior to the draft, so Josh Garrison did everything within his power to replace his production. Garrison found that replacing a Silver Slugger Award winner is no easy task. The Rally Dragons aren’t the worst team, but they didn’t do enough during the regular season this year to show that they’re elite. They have made some uncharacteristically bad decisions on the base paths during big moments this year, which has cost them on the scoreboard. Garrison led the way offensively while tying the single season HR record with Seth Hinrichs finding himself near the top of the average leaderboard. 1st year Rally Dragons player and 2nd year pro Drew Warren didn’t fall victim to the sophomore slump and looks poised to be a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come.
Slippery Locomotives: 4-2 Record
Talent has never been an issue with this franchise. On paper, they’re the best team. They’re also looking for their 1st ever World Series appearance. Terry Wright hit .822 on the year giving him his 2nd career Silver Slugger Award. Rookie Landon Beck struggled early after missing the first 3 games of the season, but has come on strong as of late. Stuart Kay has played exceptionally well at 3B while managing to hit over .700 again. Kyle Heppeard once again found himself near the top of the league leaderboard in runs scored. Perhaps the most surprising stat of the entire 2019 Fall season is the Locomotives have hit 2 HR’s on the year (Wright & Kay with 1 each). The small ball approach that the Locomotives have instilled this year has gotten them to a winning record and a #2 seed in the playoffs.
Bearded Bullfrogs; 6-0 Record
The Bearded Bullfrogs are on quite a run. They have won 18 of their last 19 games dating back to 2018. 2nd year player Taylor Dale has taken significant strides this year and has proven himself to be one of the best players in the league. Dale and Provence have set the table all year for Wilder, who tied the single season RBI record this season. Rookie Reed Jostes has played well defensively at 1B and is a threat to do damage offensively. Travis Vaughn dealt with some calf injuries early in the season causing him to miss some time. His pitching has been outstanding since he’s returned and is a large part of why the Bullfrogs have looked even better over the last few weeks of the season. With Vaughn at the helm, the Bearded Bullfrogs find themselves at the top of the league with no end in sight.
An Embarrassing Start for the Slippery Locomotives
There has never been more excitement around the Slippery Locomotives than this year. After the controversial ending to last season’s team, they looked poised to make a run heading into the Fall 2019 season. They lost Drew Warren to the Rally Dragons in the Rule 5 draft, and lost Justin Finley to early retirement. Replacing those 2 is rookie Charles Blue and professional baseball player Landon Beck. That means they have 2 former collegiate baseball players (Heppeard & Kay), 1 former professional baseball player (Wright), 1 current professional baseball player (Beck), and 1 former college basketball player (Blue) on their roster. To say the sizzle has worn off from their big off-season would be an understatement. It didn’t help that they played the 2-time defending Champion Bearded Bullfrogs in week 1. It also didn’t help that Landon Beck is currently tied up with his pro team for a few more weeks. Former League MVP Terry Wright was been placed on the 5 day DL prior to week 1 with Vertigo. Charles Blue is listed as day-to-day after leaving the game in the 2nd inning with a quad injury. It got so bad that the Bearded Bullfrogs GM Travis Vaughn put on a Locomotives jersey and played 2B for them. Vaughn is known for his sportsmanship and willingness to give the other team the benefiting call, but even this is stretch for him. The Bullfrogs seemed to be going through the motions and won easily by a score of 29-5. Bullfrog’s rookie Reed Jostes looked ready for the big leagues, while Drew Provence finds himself as the front runner for the Cracker Barrel Player of the Week.
Bearded Bullfrogs 29 Slippery Locomotives 5
The Rally Dragons made a statement in week 1 with a pounding against the Freshwater Feline. Josh Garrison, Drew Warren, and Seth Hinrichs all hit HR’s in the game while they combined for 10 extra base hits on the day. The Freshwater Feline seemed underprepared for week 1. They struggled at the plate and in the field. Corey Helle led the Feline with 5 base hits. They'll look to rebound against the Slippery Locomotives next week.
Rally Dragons 25 Freshwater Feline 7
2019 Fall Season
For the first time in UWBL history we have a franchise with back to back Championships to begin the season. The Bearded Bullfrogs have established themselves as the class of the league. The Bullfrogs bring back 2 time MVP Mike Wilder and Drew Provence in an attempt for another championship run under the leadership of Travis Vaughn.
There isn’t much turnover this season with only 2 players unable to participate this fall. Reigning Silver Slugger Award winner and Rally Dragons OF Andy Aulick is on temporary leave while Slippery Locomotives 1B Justin Finley has been demoted to the minor leagues. This means there will only be 2 players invited to the first year player draft – Landon Beck and Reed Jostes. Both players come with high expectations and will battle it out for the right to be chosen #1 overall among a crowded list of draft eligible players.
Dates to know entering the 2019 Fall Season:
August 1 – Teams must submit keepers
Bearded Bullfrogs – Mike Wilder and Drew Provence
Freshwater Feline – Corey Helle and Zach Watson
Rally Dragon – Bart Shartzer and Seth Hinrichs
Slippery Locomotives – TBD
August 14 – Pro Day/Scrimmages
August 21 – Scrimmages/ UWBL Draft
August 28 – Scrimmages
September 4 - Opening Day
October 16 – UWBL Playoffs
October 23 – UWBL World Series
How'd We Get Here
If you’re tired of the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers playing each other every year in the NBA Finals, then you’re probably tired of the Bearded Bullfrogs and Rally Dragons playing every year in the UWBL World Series. Much like the Warriors and Cavs over the last few seasons, the Bullfrogs and Dragons have been the best teams in the second half of the UWBL season. Both teams are coming off of walk-off wins in the Semi-Finals round, albeit without lack of controversy.
How’d They Get Here?
The Rally Dragons and Bearded Bullfrogs made the biggest draft day trade in league history when they swapped Seth Hinrichs and Andrew Provence. The Rally Dragons have been pleased with Hinrich’s left handed bat in the lineup who has the ability to hit for power and average. The Dragons started the season 0-3, but then went 3-0 to finish the season. Bart Shartzer has had a big second half, which has contributed to their hot streak. 3B Josh Garrison has hit for power, tying the single season HR record (5), this year and he’ll always rank near the top defensively. OF Andy Aulick is the 2019 Silver Slugger award winner and is a candidate for MVP. This team ranked #1 in the Pre-Season Power Rankings, so it’s no surprise they find themselves in the World Series. They’re looking to win their first UWBL Championship.
The Bearded Bullfrogs have been the best team the entire season. GM Travis Vaughn isn’t afraid to make aggressive moves to better the team. He took some heat with the aforementioned Hinrichs/Provence trade, but Vaughn couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. Andrew Provence finished the season hitting .806 and didn’t make an out in the Semi-Finals Playoff round. He’s the all-time 1B leader in league history and sets the tone for the big boppers hitting behind him. 2017 League MVP Mike Wilder has had another MVP candidate season. Wilder leads the league in Hits, Runs, 2B’s, HR’s, RBI’s, SLG and also hit .800 on the season. Rookie Taylor Dale has done what is expected offensively, while playing great defense in the OF. Perhaps the biggest moment of the Bullfrogs season was when David Kellett dropped to them in the draft. Kellett has been one of the most improved players from last year now that he’s playing for a winning franchise. He’s a 3B by trade, but has played 1B this season making the Bullfrogs the best defensive team in the league. The Bullfrogs look to become the 1st Back-to-Back League Champions and first UWBL Dynasty team.
UWBL Power Rankings Playoff Edition
Bearded Bullfrogs – There’s no surprise here. The Bullfrogs have been the best team from start to finish. They head into the playoffs as favorites to repeat. Drew Provence and Michael Wilder have lived up to expectations this year, while David Kellett has made significant strides and find himself in MVP consideration. Rookie Taylor Dale has done enough offensively for the Bullfrogs, but it’s his defense that solidifies them as the best defensive team in the league. GM Travis Vaughn has dealt with injuries and scheduling conflicts this year, but he’s managed the team brilliantly, even though from afar at times. The Bullfrogs are the favorites to win the 2019 UWBL.
Rally Dragons – The Rally Dragons have rallied from a 0-3 start to the season to finish with a 3-3 record. They’re the hottest team in the league heading into the playoffs, and should find themselves in the World Series again hoping for a different outcome. Andy Aulick is this year’s Silver Slugger award winner, and Josh Garrison tied the all-time single season HR record. Seth Hinrichs has had a career year, and Bart Shartzer has come on strong in the second half of the year after some bad luck early. Hazelwood will be out for the playoffs, but should be able to return if this team advances in the playoffs.
Slippery Locomotives – The Locomotives have the best offensive team on paper. A lineup of Heppeard, Wright, Kay, Warren, and Finley sounds like an offensive juggernaut, but they managed to score a total of 7 runs in their last game. If you’re a Locomotives fan, you’re hoping that they figure out a way to put it all together at the right time. There’s nothing to suggest they will, which is why many have them predicted with another first round exit.
Freshwater Feline - The Freshwater Feline have had the type of season that many predicted. We knew it’d be a rebuilding year with them. They do have a Championship pedigree, so they have a punchers chance at moving on. Doug Grote is the leading candidate for comeback player of the year. Most eyes will be on what the Feline do this off-season, but let’s not count them out yet.
UWBL Draft Grades Are In
2019 UWBL Draft Recap
Slippery Locomotives – The best player in the draft was Drew Warren. The Locomotives had the 1st pick, so it was hard to mess this up. They didn’t get too cute and took the best player on everybody’s draft board. They also came away with first year player Justin Finley. They’re the only team to draft two players with no UWBL experience. Overall, this was a nice draft for the Locomotives. DRAFT GRADE: A-
Rally Dragons – The Rally Dragons moved up in the draft when they traded away Drew Provence to the Bearded Bullfrogs earlier in the week. They added experienced UWBL players and stayed away from any rookies. While that’s not an aggressive strategy, it could turn out to be a smart one. They added Gary Hazelwood, one of the fastest players available, and the sure hitting Bart Shartzer to go with their already strong lineup. There were no surprises with these picks. DRAFT GRADE: B+
Freshwater Feline - The Freshwater Feline were involved with the most surprising picks of the day. They took Blake Scribner, who impressed in his Pro Day workouts with the 3rd overall pick. They elected to go with the offensive player Scribner over some better defensive options that were available. In the second round, they selected Doug Grote, who is already threatening to sit out the remainder of the year due to his Ailurophobia. DRAFT GRADE: C-
Bearded Bullfrogs - The Bullfrogs needed an OF heading into the draft. Even though they needed an OF, they took the best available player on their board with their 1st round pick in IF David Kellett. The draft broke their way in the second round when OF Taylor Dale dropped to them at #7. The Bullfrogs were able to address a need, while also adding another solid player to their lineup. DRAFT GRADE: B-
A Monumental Trade
The day began with an Upward Wiffleball luncheon where ticketed guest were able to spend some time with their favorite UWBL players. In a day where the luncheon was designed for the UWBL to get to know season ticket holders and fans, it quickly became overshadowed by a monumental trade agreed upon by the two teams that represent the biggest rivalry in the league. The Bearded Bullfrogs and the Rally Dragons agreed to a trade that sent Seth Hinrichs and the 5th draft pick to the Rally Dragons in exchange for Drew Provence and the 7th pick. Both Hinrichs and Provence have been staples on their franchises over the last several seasons. It’s a change in direction for both teams after competing against each other in last year’s World Series.
The Rally Dragons have had a major overhaul this off-season, plucking 2 players away from the reigning champion Bearded Bullfrogs in Andy Aulick (acquired in the rule 5 draft) and now power hitting 1B Seth Hinrichs. It didn’t come without a cost. The Rally Dragons lose Drew Provence, who is coming off of his best season where he hit .803. Provence doesn’t hit with as much power as Hinrich’s, but he has gotten on base more consistently over the last few seasons. It’s unclear if Provence will be in the OF or IF for the Bullfrogs.
After much speculation over the last few weeks with all the UWBL teams, the Bearded Bullfrogs and Rally Dragons were finally able to come to an agreement. This certainly shapes up for an interesting Pro Day and Draft Day tomorrow. One thing is for sure – the UWBL is Back!!
UWBL Pre-Draft Power Rankings
1. Slippery Locomotives – This might be the only time you see the Locomotives at the top of the power rankings, so let’s start with that. However, after a disappointing finish to their season, they are in great position heading into the draft. They return 2018 League MVP and Silver Slugger award winner Terry Wright, along with Kyle Heppeard and Stuart Kay. It’s hard to argue that their top 3 isn’t the best top 3 in the game. They have the first option of what draft order they’d like to have, so it’ll be interesting on their strategy headed into the upcoming draft.
2. Rally Dragons – The Rally Dragons caught a break, when the Bearded Bullfrogs didn’t protect Andy Aulick in the Rule 5 draft. Aulick was scooped up and solidified their leadoff and OF position. Drew Provence had a great 2018 season ranking near the top in many offensive categories, while former gold glove winner Josh Garrison is one of the most consistent players in the league. The one thing this team lacks is a true power hitter. GM Garrison has been the most aggressive scouting potential players and holding private work-outs making sure he finds the right player.
3. Freshwater Feline – It’s not uncommon for the Freshwater Feline to find themselves near the bottom of the power rankings to start the year. It’s also not uncommon for them to be at the top of the power rankings by season’s end. The Feline had an incredible 2018 regular season, but came up short in the playoffs. They lost Zach Roschi and Curt Wheeler to retirement, so this could be a rebuilding year for them. They do return MVP candidate Ben Baldridge and 2019 Silver Slugger watch list nominee Zach Watson for 2019. Don’t overlook the best pitcher in the league, Corey Helle, or you’ll be looking up at them when the season ends. Baldridge and Helle won the UWBL World Series in 2017, so they understand what it takes to win. If they can bring along the new guys, they’ll have chance to win another Championship this year.
4. Bearded Bullfrogs – The defending champions find themselves at the bottom of the Pre-Draft power rankings. Most of this has to do with the unknown whereabouts of GM Travis Vaughn this week. It was no secret that the Bullfrogs struggled during the 2018 regular season. To Vaughn’s credit, he had the players committed to the process and they were ready for the playoffs and ultimately won the 2018 UWBL World Series. Returning to the Bullfrogs along with Vaughn is 2017 MVP and 2018 Gold Glove winner Mike Wilder as well as left-handed hitting Seth Hinrichs. There’s no doubt this team could repeat in 2019. The question is which team will show up from week to week.