Sofa King Good crowned at last, and other observations on the 2015 World Kickball Championship

Wednesday, October 14, 2015 - 00:42

Sofa King Good crowned at last, and other observations on the 2015 World Kickball Championship

It took Sofa King long... but the Founders Cup is finally heading to the West Coast.

After nearly 10 years as a franchise, countless league championships in CA Hollywood and CA Studio, 2 Regional championships, 6 FC appearances and 4 trips to the Semifinals, Sofa King Good (#2) finally made it to the Finals – and didn’t stop there, defeating The Situation (#4) 5-2 to secure the first World Kickball Championship for Los Angeles.

In the 18-year history of WAKA’s Founders Cup, no champion had come from outside the Eastern time zone. Only once before had a more westerly team even reached the final match. But the history-making regional power-shifts of FC2015 didn’t stop there – it was also a big day for Denver and Boston, who were each able to reach their first FC Final Four appearance. (More on that below.)

SKG took a rocky route through the tournament, losing in Pool Play to #21 Pitch Intense, which forced them into the Wild Card bracket. There they began the slow grind back to their rank, beginning with a 3-0 Wild Card win over ABQ’s increasingly strong NM Mesa vets, The Andy Dufresnes (#15). Then Sofa had to deal with dangerous #3 seed Oh Danny Balls a couple of rounds early. This proved a tough break for ODB, who had the tournament’s top offense with an average of 8 runs scored per game, but fell to Sofa 6-5 in the round of 16.

Next Sofa drew Vegas locals The Fainting Goats (#17), who already had recorded two upsets on the day – a pool-round defeat of Relax and Let It Happen (#6) to win pool F, and an epic Sweet 16 defeat of CA Hollywood’s Barely Legal Pitch Pleasers (#11) – the only game of the day to go into extra innings. The Goats, a new assembly of Vegas vets, showed flourishes reminiscent of Pitches Be Crazy’s 2012 run to the Final Four – but may have run out of gas in losing 6-0 to Sofa in the Quarterfinals.

The semifinals brought a rematch between SKG and Pitch Intense – both times a 1-run game, but the one with elimination on the line went in Sofa’s favor, 4-3. (Asking any team to beat Sofa twice in one day is, by any account, a tall order.)

The SKG/Situation Final represented a rematch of the legendary 2013 Semifinal game, in which Sitch prevailed in extra innings after twice rallying to stave off elimination. This year, Sitch – an FC Finalist 2 of the past 3 years, and 2008 champs in their Frosty Balls incarnation -- would strike first with a 2-run first inning, only to see Sofa respond with 4 runs in the 2nd. This was the first FC finals lead ever held by a CA team, and one they would not relinquish.

- Denver’s top franchise of recent years has made FC appearances under several names, most notably an Elite 8 run in FC2014 as The Darkside Colorado Chapter 2.0. This year, they went by Dice (#8) – and proceeded to go on their longest roll yet. The CO Mile High vets played giant-killer more than once against top-tier competition --firstly, in the Sweet 16 they beat #9 Chain Reaction (Washington DC) in a 1-0 instant classic. Chain Reaction’s roster carries substantial DNA from the OSC franchise (3-time FC champs in the Vegas era), so this could have easily been a trap game – but Dice proved up to the challenge. And for their reward: a Quarterfinal match with Maryland’s top-seeded Shockwave.

Of the whole FC2015 field, only Shockwave and Dice completed pool play without allowing a run. They would both carry those scoreless streaks into their Elite 8 showdown, in which Dice was able to prevail in a hard-fought 3-2 game to knock out the defending champs. The 3 runs allowed all tournament would give Shockwave the best defensive average of the day, at .6 runs allowed per game… but it would be Dice advancing to the Final Four carrying Denver’s banner. There, a third consecutive Mid-Atlantic giant proved one too many, falling 5-3 to the Situation.

Pitch Intense (#21), a qualifier from the CT Northeast Regional, was comprised of mostly Boston-area veterans, with reinforcements from CT and just a bit of DNA from FC2013 Champs Flying V. The Boston core had a respectable run last year as Public Enemy, and managed impressively not only to recruit talent for a Regionals squad but to gel as a team well enough to beat several highly-seasoned FC vets. Winning Pool B with a 3-2 victory over Sofa King Good put the whole field on notice, and they followed through on that promise by eliminating #6 Relax and Let it Happen 6-2 and #10 The Gargyles (a.k.a. SoCal FC veterans The Kicktators) 3-1. They would fall 4-3 in a Semifinal rematch with a resurgent SKG, but not before securing first ever Final Four bragging rights for the New England region.

- For 5 of the last 6 FC Tournaments, Relax and Let It Happen has found itself knocked out by a CA team, usually in the Elite 8. This year, it was a good news/bad news proposition – they finally took out a SF team when they narrowly edged out #12 NorCal Nightmare (CA Solar) 5-4 in the Wild Card round… and then proceeded to lose to Pitch Intense in the Round of 16, for their earliest exit since 2010.

Simi Truckers (#31), out of CA Mercury (in Ventura Country), opened their day with a 2-1 upset of FL West Palm’s Beastmode (#14), and ended it in the Round of 16, in a 1-0 loss to defending champs Shockwave, after holding them scoreless for 4 innings. Many Truckers play all over the greater LA area, but this performance helps put Simi Valley on the FC map – the 5th best overall finish for a CA team this year, and this was a good year to be from CA!

- For sheer statistical defiance, The Big D (#29) tops the list of Cinderella teams this year – an assortment of veteran Dallas players in a new configuration that proved to be more than the sum of their parts. Their opening-hour 7-1 win against CA Dogtown’s always-formidable Balls Deep (#16) was eye-opening, and their pool-concluding 6-1 defeat of Scottsdale hopefuls Dry Heat (#7) to win Pool G was jaw-dropping. Their run was stopped in the Round of 16 by CA Surf City’s Gargyles in a razor-thin 2-1 loss. Stats of 8 runs scored and 1 run allowed per game are enough to place The Big D at 2nd best Defense in the tournament and a #9 rank overall – the first time in FC history that Dallas has finished ahead of Austin.

- Pool G was surely the group of death – Big D as the projected 3rd place finisher won out, while Balls Deep and Dry Heat played to a 1-1 tie that led to their mutual elimination. Dry Heat finished as the “bubble team” – the lone 2nd place finisher not to advance as a wild card, while Balls Deep played spoiler.

- 4 new regions made their FC debut this year: Amarillo TX (#44 TX Cowboy), Montgomery AL (#43 Schwetty Ballz), and Portland OR (#40 Kickball Whores United). Culture shock is to be expected when setting foot on the stage of super-competitive Kickball, but we hope they had a blast and come back next year!

- Annual Stats Geek section:
This year, the upset rate was 14.3% (or 85.7% predictive accuracy). Most of those upsets were courtesy of these teams who exceeded their starting seed by 5 or more positions:

Final Rank differential  Team
9 +20 The Big D
TX Thunder (#29)
13 +18 Simi Truckers
CA Mercury (#31)
4 +17 Pitch Intense
CT Northeast Regional (#21)
8 +9 The Fainting Goats
NV Lucky (#17)
24 +8 South Bay Sonics
CA Solar (#32)
3 +5
CO Mile High (#8)

For complete FC2015 results, see these links:
Pool play results
Elimination brackets
Elite 8 Bracket
The whole tournament, tweet-by-tweet
FC2014 Observations
FC2013 Observations
FC2012 Observations
-- OW!

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