7/8 7/12 7/13 7/13 7/13 7/13 7/13 7/27 7/27 7/27 7/27 7/27 8/2 8/3 8/3 8/9 8/9 8/16 8/23
FS 3|3 FS 0|0 HB 0|2 BW 0|4 EL 1|1 ON 0|0 IS 0|13 EL 1|1 IS 0|0 WW 0|0 ON 3|0 KF 6|3 KF 0|1|0 FS 0 BW 1|2 EL 1|2 R★ 2 BW 0 The
WW 0|0 WA 1|1 KF 1|3 KF 1|10 HB 0|0 WA 3|3 WO 11|8 WA 0|2 WA 3|3 ON 3|3 WW 1|1 WO 0|0 EL 4|0|1 BW 2 WA 0|1 BW 0|0 G★ 0 EL 2 Thrill

Week 2

 < Week 1 Week 3 > 

Lafayette Park Poolside Park The Swamp The Swamp The Swamp Lafayette Park The Club The Club
5/5 5/5 5/6 5/6 5/6 5/6 5/6 5/6
DK 19|6 DK 1|0 FS 0|4 FS 9|3 KF 1|3 WA 7|10 WD 4|3 WA 1|1
CC 1|5 WA 0|10 TD 2|0 KF 0|0 TD 16|5 CC 0|2 JM 0|2 JM 0|0

Probable Starters:
Game 1:   Joe Seto   vs.   TBD 
Game 2:   Don Shaw   vs.   Daniel Egan 

You probably look at the team's records (Donkeys 2-2, Commandos 0-2) and ask yourself, "why do they deserve the Marquee Match-up? Why not one of 4-0 Whiteford's series? Or last year's champion, the Ducks, making their debut?" Ah, well this is all about history. This is a rivalry series! Last season Joe Seto was the number-one pitcher and star of the Campus Commandos. After the season he left and reformed the Donkeys, his long-time tournament team, for league play. He brings with him players, like Don Shaw and Joe Spagnuolo, who also saw action with the Commandos last in 2011. This will be the Donkeys first trip back to Lafayette Park since leaving the team. That, my friends, is cause for Marquee!

Adam Grant has done a good job corralling a new group of players around returning veterans Alex Linebrink and Eric Pfefferle. In Week 1 the Commandos lost two one-run games to the Squirrels, and had a 2-0 lead going into the fifth inning of the second game. The charge was led by Linebrink who went 2 for 6 at the plate, with a home run and 2 walks for a 1.333 OPS. Linebrink also delivered on the mound, throwing 10 K and allowing 5 BB and only 2 H in his 5 innings of work. Another key piece for the Commandos is Daniel Egan, who had the Squirrels baffled through 4 innings pitched before giving up 3 runs in the fifth. Egan also suppled power at the plate hitting a HR in Game 1 to bring the tying run to the plate in the fifth. Donald Pederson, another new pick-up, showed great bat control at the plate, routinely putting the ball in play. Pederson also has some chops on the mound, as he struck out the only batter he faced in relief of Egan. And as is their trademark, the Commandos are still a patient team at the plate: racking up 8 BB in Week 1.

For their part, the Donkeys opened up their tough Ringler Division schedule by winning two one-run games against the Jason Mattseals, the latter of which went 9 innings, and then dropping two close games, including another extra inning barnburner, to the Whiteford Wicked Aces. The Donkeys played without their ex-Warriors contingent of Shore and Malloy, but were still very impressive in their season openers. Don Shaw's pitching may have been the biggest surprise from the team. He leapfrogged Seto and started game one against the Mattseals [Video], holding them scoreless, striking out six and walking only one. Shaw's ability to foul off pitches and extend at bats was also touted as one of the key reasons the Donkeys were able to get the win by 'Seals pitcher Adam Cosby. It is unclear yet if Jeremy Haapala will be an everyday player or not with the Donkeys, but he brings a big stick at the plate - he was one of few players able to get a ball behind the outfielders in the windy conditions last Sunday - and also provides good range and heads up defense. As a whole the Donkeys pitching rotation, rounded out by Seto and Matt Murtha, has been very effective to start the year, allowing only four runs in four games to two potent offenses. With the addition of Shore and possibly Malloy, Seto will have no trouble maneuvering pitching talent to keep the Donkeys in the thick of games.

The Donkeys deep pitching staff goes a long way in making them the favorites coming into this two-game series with the Commandos. Their defensive play can be shaky, however, and even with Seto's experience at Lafayette Park that long grass can be the great equalizer: ground balls do not make it to you, tricky hops, easy scoops get tangled up, slow starts and slips when moving. Above everything you have the returning Commandos wanting to prove they do not need Seto, new Commandos wanting to show they can fill that roll, and a new attitude around the team that says something like, "we're just going to play and make it happen." Taking all these things into account, we could see pitching dominated games with a spattering of unconventional - maybe even ugly - hits to keep this a closely contested series.

Elsewhere in WSEM:
 -  The returning champion, Thunder Ducks, make their 2012 debut in a Fri-meet (King Friday possible tri-meet) at The Swamp with the Squirrels and King Friday on Sunday. This will be our first chance to see how the Ducks adjust to the new rotation rule in league play; will they let their pitchers go complete games, or decide to use the 2-1-2 approach?

 -  2011 runners-up, the Wiffle DeLoppes, will also make their 2012 debut on Sunday in a two-game series at The Club at Civic Center Park against the Jason Mattseals in what should be a clinically sound game: good pitching, good defense, and all around heads-up play.

 -  The 4-0 Wicked Aces will be busy: two games at Poolside Park against the Donkeys on Saturday after their Marquee with the Commandos, then four games on a road trip to Lafayette Park (2) and the Club at Civic Center Park (2) on Sunday.

* Unavailable Pitchers:
  One Game:  Egan (CC), Shaw (DK), Constanti (FS), Hewlett (JM), Paquin (JM), E. Bischoff (WA)
  Two Games:  N/A

Week 1

 < Opening Night Week 2 > 

Lafayette Park The Zoo The Zoo The Zoo
4/27 4/29 4/29 4/29
FS 2|3 JM 0|1 WA 1|2 WA 1|7
CC 1|2 DK 1|2 DK 0|0 KF 0|0

Probable Starters:
Game 1:   Adam Cosby   vs.   Maclin Malloy 
Game 2:   Jason Hewlett  vs.  Joe Seto 

A month before the start of the season this Donkeys vs. Mattseals match-up would have been looked at completely in reverse from how it is now. The 'Seals would have been the team surrounded by uncertainty and performance questions; today it is the Donkeys who are a riddle in their full-time roster. Everyone would have expected the Donkeys to tear off to a hot start the Ringler Division; now, it is the Mattseals who are being talked-up to jump out in the strong division. This is all due to their respective performances in the Spring Tournaments: the Mattseals shocked the world as a very competitive team with skill in all facets of the game. The Donkeys, on the other hand, played with a three-man lineup and struggled in every aspect.

Shore and Seto in Warriors throwbacks
To be fair, "three-man lineup" is the key to the questions about the Donkeys. This Saturday they are slated to have their full roster, including Maclin Malloy and Alex Shore. When they have all of their talent, this roster will be a strong threat. Joe Seto and Malloy will form a tough rotation, and Shore can fill in equally well, if needed. In order to capitalize on this, the Donkeys are front-loading their schedule (ten games in three weeks) to get Shore in as many games as possible. I imagine the Mattseals were chosen as Week One opponents to ease into the season, however, this match-up will be a huge first test for both rosters in the competitive Ringler Division.

2012 Mattseals (sans Paquin)
For their part, the Mattseals are not your father's Mattseals. They have bulked up incredibly this offseason, like Brandon Inge and his blacksmith arms. Unlike Inge, though, this team has solved their issues at the plate. New captain, Greg Franzen, along with his additions - Mike Myers, Adam Cosby, and Chris Paquin - bring good contact and bat control. Returning players Imran Kakli and Jason Hewlett have also made good strides in the offensive part of their game. On the mound Cosby adds an arm equal to Hewlett's, giving them a nasty one-two punch in their rotation.

If both teams can field their full rosters, then I expect this Opening Weekend series to go blow-for-blow for all ten (possibly ten-plus) innings. It may only be Week One of fourteen, but close wins will be the official currency of the Ringler Division this season. Picking up a couple extra at any point could be the difference between the seventh and third seed. Expect good-to-great pitching, tactical hitting, and aggressive baserunning. If this comes down to one thing that gives either team an advantage, it is team fielding. And that is why I might give a slight edge to the made-over Mattseals in this Opening Weekend series.