Flying V soars to first World Championship -- and other observations on the 2013 Founders Cup

Tuesday, October 15, 2013 - 12:04

Flying V soars to first World Championship -- and other observations on the 2013 Founders Cup

The WAKA Founders Cup is headed to Atlanta! Flying V, reigning champs of GA Thunder League in Sandy Springs, came to their 2nd FC with a loaded roster, complete with well-recruited veteran free agents, and walked a difficult path to the championship - having to face and beat top-seeded defending champs OSC Kickball in a grueling extra-innings Sweet 16 match, before facing returning Finalist The Situation (#2) to clinch the championship with a 3-1 victory.

It wasn't a smooth flight by any means -- a hiccup in pool play by which they lost 9-7 to Vegas' own All Your Base Are Belong to Us (#15) knocked them off the bracket track of pool winners, and into the Wild Card round. Their original 8-seed would have put them in line to face #1 OSC in the Quarterfinals, but by ending up in the WC5/WC6 game, they still had to face OSC, just one round sooner. This turned out to be hard luck -- for OSC, who lost their first Founders Cup game since the 2010 Championship match.

The V pulled out all the stops to avenge their 2011 quarterfinal loss to OSC, playing them to a 3-3 tie after five innings and bringing on the shootout of extra inning play - with only 8 fielders (4 male/female) in the field and a runner starting on second, OSC (who elected to play as the Away team) put two runs across in the 6th... Flying V responded with 3, and a dramatic walk-off 6-5 win.

But that alone didn't secure them the Cup - they still had to get by two of SoCal's best -- Pasadena powerhouse #9 Los Brew Crew and West Coast Regional champs #5 The Kicktators,  each having the best FC run of their careers -- en route to the final where the juggernaut of The Situation awaited them.

Unlike the rocky pool path of Flying V, Hampton VA's The Situation enjoyed a steady streak of victories, sweeping Pool B with three wins and a 25-to-1 run differential. Equally impressive were L.A. legends #3 Sofa King Good, boasting a 24-to-1 pool play run differential of their own, and muscling past rivals old and new to reach their 3rd FC Semifinal appearance.

Their co-domination of the right side of the bracket culminated in a true clash of titans, where 2 teams with no apparent weaknesses battled into extra innings in what was by a large margin the longest match of the tournament. SKG had Sitch on the brink of elimination multiple times, up by 2 runs in the bottom of the 5th (before Sitch tied it to put the game in extra innings), and again by two runs in the bottom of the 6th (before Sitch rallied for 3 runs and a walk-off victory).

One could debate whether there was a "pool of death" but there were unquestionably 2 pools of chaos. In Pool D, returning Semifinalist and home town heroes #4 Pitches Be Crazy! (NV Lucky) had tough luck following up their brilliand FC'12 run. They lost a player to injury early on, in what turned out to be a costly loss to L.A.'s #26 Menace II Sobriety. Meanwhile, #41 99 Problems but a Pitch Aint One! (NC Glory) upset #19 We'll Spot You 10 (TX Panther). PBC managed to survive to the Wild Card round, only to be eliminated by the dangerous #13 Balls Deep (CA Dogtown). #Menace, hailing from Hollywood's junior circuit CA Tinseltown League, proved one of the day's true overachievers in their run to the Elite 8, winning not only their pool but their Sweet 16 match against ABQ's #18 Howie's Heavers (NM Elite), before a quarterfinal loss in extra innings to The Kicktators.

Venice's Balls Deep emerged as Wild Card from an equally chaotic Pool J, which was knocked upside down by the fast start of #35 YO Momma! (FL Riptide), who proved to be the breakout team of the South Florida contingent. Beating Balls Deep and San Diego's #10 SoCal RiOT in the first two hours put the field on notice... and while after a long BYE they faltered against #32 Playground Prodigies TT (ATL Leaguemates of Flying V), it was enough for YM to prevail as Pool Winner, leaving the hardened veterans Balls Deep and SoCal RiOT to square off for the Wild Card. Balls Deep got the better of that match, and took out PBC in the Wild Card round before falling to The Situation. YO Momma! advanced to the Sweet 16, ultimately eliminated by NOLA's #7 Oh Danny Balls.

For #6 Relax and Let It Happen (from Austin TX), the day was a thoroughly mixed bag against L.A. teams -- in pool play they fought the upstart #17 Barely Legal Little Leaguers to a scoreless stalemate; in the Sweet 16 round, they bested the veteran #11 Pitch Please; and in the quarterfinals they were once again thwarted by Sofa King Good.

#31 OKC (OK Capital) brought their region to a new level, surviving pool play as a Wild Card thanks to an upset of 5-time FC vets #14 Multiple Scoregasms (CA Solstice, Santa Barbara). Though they fell to top Wild Card BL3, it's a distinct forward step for the eager Oklahomans.

With 11 Pool Runners-up and 10 Wild Card slots, one unlucky team had to fall on the bubble... that distinction went to 3rd time FC competitors #24 Swift Kickin The Balls (TX Tornado, Plano), whose early tie against Sacramento's fellow 3rd-timers #21 Holla Holla Kickballas seemed to seal both their fates. While the tie between Relax and BL3 meant both could advance undefeated (BL3 as Wild Card 1), both Swift and HHK had 1-1-1 records thanks to losses to Sitch. Each had 12 pool Runs Allowed, so only the 2nd tiebreaker of Runs Scored made Swift the "bubble team"... leaving HHK on the bubble of the bubble.

Of the 3rd-place pool finishers, three had promising and noteworthy stats in their 1-2 records, allowing 8 or fewer runs and maintaining a net positive run differential: #27 Gorilla Juice Heads from FL West Palm (tight 1-run losses to Kicktators and Howie's Heavers); #38 TBD from CA Crown (proving that being perennial league runners-up to Los Brew Crew does in fact make for a respectable tournament team); and #25 Outsiderz/PAK from CT Triumph (whose losses demonstrated great defensive prowess: 1-0 to Denver's #20 Rocky Mountain Ice, and 3-0 to Sofa King Good -- which was the fewest runs per game they were held to all day!) Teams with stats like this are often on the verge of reaching the next level -- keep an eye on them in 2014...

Also notable:
- 5 of 8 2012 Quarterfinalists repeated the feat in 2013.

- The SoCal tide continues to rise: Half the teams comprising the 2013 Sweet 16 were from the Greater Los Angeles Area. As were half the teams comprising the Elite 8. As were half the teams comprising the Final Four. (And Sofa's been 3 outs from the Finals for 2 years running...)

- While a 23-2 score doesn't sound like anyone covering the spread, take a moment to reflect that the 2 runs scored against #1 OSC Kickball by #60 That's What She Said (WA Emerald City) -- the first Seattle team to ever play at Founders Cup -- are the most runs ever put up on OSC by the low-seed in their pool. OR by any overall bottom seed against the overall top seed in 5 years. In the ultimate high vs low matchup, if the over/under on low seed runs scored is 1, it takes some guts to pick the over. Nice kicking, Seattle!

As with last year, I'll close on the wonkiest possible observation, for the true stats geek.

As a self-diagnostic check I analyzed the past 5 years worth of tournament data, evaluating the overall efficacy of what we might call our "holistic" ranking method, which attempts to factor in a variety of data sources to project FC performance, as opposed to relying on any one predetermined stat or point system. If ultimately each rank comparison reflects a prediction that the better seed should prevail, than the overall rate of upsets (by this definition) should roughly reflect the strength of the prognostic process. For purposes of this analysis, pool play ties were counted as upsets only if the two competitors differed by more than one pool rank deviation (i.e., the 2nd and 3rd ranked teams tying would not be an upset, though the 2nd vs the 4th would).

In 2009, the last time FC Ranks were based on a raw stat (Runs Allowed in qualifying League Tournament), the upset rate was 45 in 143 games, or 31.46% (predictive accuracy of 68.54%).

In the "holistic" ranking era:
FC2010: 21/112 = 18.75%  (81.25% p.a.)
FC2011: 24/118 = 20.33% (79.67% p.a.)
FC2012: 20/115 = 17.39% (82.61% p.a.)
2013 WC Regional: 5/25 = 20% (80% p.a.)
FC2013: 18/86 = 20.93% (79.07% p.a.)

The meaning of the numbers is subject to interpretation, of course. Maybe 80% percent is a reasonably successful benchmark, or maybe a B- average is nothing to brag about. But it is certainly an improvement over the D+ from '09... and it does seem weirdly consistent from year to year... and if greater than 80% predictive accuracy is possible, is it desirable? (I mean, isn't 20% surprise just about right for keeping things interesting?) You be the judge...

For complete FC'13 results, see these links:

Pool play:
Elimination brackets:
Final Four:
The whole tournament, tweet-by-tweet:

-- OW!

Orion Walker (@theorionwalker) is the WAKA Founders Cup World Kickball Championship Scorekeeper, Bracketologist, Twitter-caster, and self-styled "Tim Kurkjian of Kickball."

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