OSC Repeats, While New Dynasties Rise: Observations on the 2012 Founders Cup

Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - 20:39

OSC Repeats, While New Dynasties Rise: Observations on the 2012 Founders Cup

At a glance, the headlines reek of déjà vu -- DC's defending champs OSC (Other Shot Callers) outdo Norfolk #2-seed The Situation 4-2, keeping the Founders Cup on the East Coast for another year. But beneath that result is no tale of dominance and sameness, but one of shifting tides, rising powers, and ultimately the gutty resiliency that separates champions from contenders.

In both the Championship game and the Semifinal vs #5 Sofa King Good, OSC did not have a lead in the game until the final inning. SKG and OSC, in a rematch of the 2010 Semis, had a defensive duel, with no score at all until the 5th, when each team managed to put a runner in scoring position. OSC brought theirs home, SKG didn't, and game ended 1-0. In the Final match, The Situation led OSC for most of the game - a first-inning run holding up until the 4th inning, when OSC tied it briefly, before Sitch scored again to take a 2-1 lead into the 5th. Backed into a corner, OSC manufactured a 3-run rally amidst their last 3 outs.

As clear as it is that these games could have gone either way, there's a lesson in the fact they DID go OSC's way.  For all this team's strengths, what is it that enables them to stay on top against opponents that get better and more experienced every year? Their confidence? That they never quit? The invaluable ability to calmly execute exactly what is needed when there is no remaining margin for error? Give OSC their due: this team's got heart.

The Situation solidified their status as OSC's chief rival, living up to the #2 ranking and holding off an array of veteran challengers to meet OSC in the final. The 4 games they won via shut-out were the most by any team in the 2012 field.

After missing FC'11, L.A. vets Sofa King Good were eager to reestablish themselves as the top kickball team out of California, and arguably they did just that, matching their best finish from FC'10: a spot in the final four, losing only to a late rally from OSC.

The acquisition of a former Situation player is a popular factor to cite in the surprising Semifinal run for Las Vegas' own Pitches Be Crazy!! -- but it takes a full team to execute, even with the best coaching, and every player deserves credit for a spectacular leap forward in the performance from this relatively young kickball region. Their path through the elimination bracket was no cake walk, with three 1-run victories (two of them in extra innings) over such veteran outfits as #22 El Guapo (MO), #6 Pitch Please (L.A.) and #14 Kicktators (O.C.). In the end, perhaps appropriately, it took The Situation to finally stop them in the Semifinal round.

Also making their mark on the FC'12 tourney was #9 Oh Danny Balls of LA Freedom League (New Orleans). They made a splashy debut at FC'11, making it to the Sweet 16, and managed to improve on that finish this year with a run to the Elite 8. After edging #37 Balls Deep (CA Dogtown) 1-0, ODB's 12-5 elimination of trendy sleeper pick #8 Los Brew Crew in the Round of 16 opened a lot of eyes. Even while losing to OSC in the Quarterfinals, the 3 runs they scored in that game were the most put up that day by anyone against the champions' impeccable defense. Look for this young NOLA dynasty to only get better and more dangerous.

One of the unexpected feel-good stories of the day belonged to #21 Straight to the Bank, longtime vets of AZ Fire League in Phoenix. In four prior FC appearances they've had more than their share of frustrations, with their deepest run a 2009 trip to the Sweet 16. Some were even skeptical they still merited the top seed out of Arizona. Apparently the 5th time is the charm, as they swept Pool Play for the first time in their history, and put up huge numbers taking out #23 Holla Holla Kickballas (Sacramento) and #7 NDW - No Dead Weight (Portland, ME) en route to the Elite 8, where once again The Situation played the cooler.

The unexpected resurgence of Straight to the Bank but a kink in the fate of 10-seed Dragon Army. A 5-4 Bank victory in the 3rd round of Pool Play caused the Dragons to be the only top-ranked team in their pool to advance as a Runner-up rather than as Pool Winner. This made them jump to a bracket wherein first they had to face a tough 12-seed in Sunnyvale's SCUMBAGS - and after squeaking past them 3-2, put in their way the familiar face of Sofa King Good. CA Studio is regarded as perhaps the most competitive League in SoCal, and the last three Championship matches have been between these two very teams. Those matchups went 2-1 in Sofa's favor, but DA is one of the few local squads that can boast having ever gotten the better of SKG. Their fateful FC'12 meeting in the Sweet 16 was as close as could be expected, remaining tied most of the game until a late Sofa rally gave them the 3-2 edge.

Interstate bragging rights are always hotly contested, perhaps most so in California. The latest team to make a splash in that storyline are CA Surf City's Kicktators (#14), who got the best of San Francisco's #3-seed Pink on the Inside in punching through to the Elite 8. CA Surf City in Huntington Beach is the oldest WAKA league in Orange County, and the up and coming Kicktators franchise is finally giving this section of SoCal an elusive taste of the Founders Cup success enjoyed by northerly sister leagues CA Studio and CA Hollywood.

A regional rivalry rich in storylines is that between California and Texas. The marquee matchup was the Elite 8 bout between #4 Relax and Let it Happen (from Austin's TX Capital League) versus SoCal's finest, #5 Sofa King Good. For Relax, after three straight years of getting knocked out by Pink on the Inside, this was a case of different region, same headache, as SKG's 7-4 win kept them once again out of the Semis. Fellow Austinites T. T. T. (#17) expunged some tough karma, reaching the Sweet 16 at the expense of #16 Dandy Lions of CA Star, the team that knocked them out last year. In the Round of 32, CA teams went 3-1 against TX teams, the toughest of them surely the showdown between #36 I'd Hit It (of Dallas' highly regarded TX Thunder League) and #8 Los Brew Crew (of CA Crown League in Pasadena). The Dallas vets had a strong showing in their FC debut, outperforming their rank by 13 notches and taking the experienced Brew Crew into extra innings before succumbing 5-4. Even the Pool Play match between #19 Annexation of Puerto Rico (CA Hollywood) and #42 Swift Kickin' The Balls (TX Tornado) was notable, being the only tie game in the entire FC'12 tournament (1-1).

To close on the wonkiest note possible, here's a list of teams that statistically outperformed their seeding by 10 or more ranks -- just a glimpse of the analytical process that helps us improve our seeding every year:

Team/League/Starting Rank Actual 2012 Statistical Final Rank Differential
VT Sunshine League (#48)
29 +19
Balls Deep
CA Dogtown League (#37)
19 +18
You Look Like I Need a Drink
CT Ivy League (#50)
33 +17
Walk of Shame
TX Capital League (#53)
36 +17
Moist Ballsagna
CA Crown League (#59)
42 +17
Purple Cobras
OK Capital League (#57)
41 +16
CA Silverlake League (#60)
46 +14
Straight to the Bank
AZ Fire League (#21)
8 +13
I'd Hit It
TX Thunder League (#36)
23 +13
All Your Base Are Belong to Us
NV Lucky League (#32)
20 +12
The Ballkickers
MO Jazz League (#56)
44 +12
Swift Kickin' The Balls
TX Tornado League (#42)
31 +11
No Big Deal
CA Dogtown League (#44)
34 +10

For complete FC'12 results, see these links:
Pool play: http://www.kickball.com/tournament/founders-cup-matches
Rounds of 32, 16, 8: http://www.kickball.com/tournament/founders-cup-bracket
Final Four: http://www.kickball.com/tournament/final-4-bracket
The whole tournament, tweet-by-tweet: http://twitter.com/founderscup
Video excerpts from selected Founders Cup games are available at http://www.justin.tv/founderscup/videos.

-- 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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