Long Beach Wolfpack hungry for another NAFA World Series title

Written by Bob on August 2nd, 2014

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The Long Beach Wolfpack won the 2013 NAFA World Series A-Division and are eager to see what they can do after moving up to the A-Major Division that runs from Aug. 7-10 in the Quad Cities, Ill / Ia. Here second base Steve Parks celebrates with last year’s A-Division trophy. Photo By BOB OTTO

LONG BEACH, Calif. – Twelve months a go, the Long Beach Wolfpack won the NAFA A Division World Series championship in Des Moines, Iowa.

They were a first-year ball club playing in their first NAFA World Series. And they came away with their first World Series championship.

But that was last year; it’s time to move one; time to challenge for back-to-back titles.

Wolfpack manager Jesse Mullen believes if his team plays up to its potential, they should be in the hunt.

“We are balanced offensively and defensively,” said Mullen, who is also the team’s catcher. “As a team, we believe in each other and we want to keep progressing and moving up.”

    FROM A TO A-MAJOR

And therein lies the challenge for the Wolfpack, moving up from the A to the A-Major Division. Where Long Beach will surely face stronger teams with stronger pitching and stronger hitting.

But Mullen has prepared his ball club well for the stiffer challenge. They played in the tough Southern California Independent Fastpitch League (SCIFL). They entered some challenging tournaments – including the Las Vegas Road Trip, the Best of The West, and the California Classic.

Though Long Beach didn’t win those tournaments, they faced some quality ball clubs with very good pitching.

“We faced teams like the Portland (Ore.) Brewers and Bakersfield Sivlerhawks,” Mullen said, “and pitchers like Travis Price, Sebastian Gervasutti and Sonny Perkins. That has made us better.”

    SOLID PITCHING STAFF

As for the Wolfpack’s pitching, they return with the staff intact in right-handers Debby Day and Andrew Ysais. Day was selected the Co-Most Valuable Pitcher in last year’s World Series. And Ysais was the winning pitcher in the championship game, a 7-3 decision over the Kansas City Outlaws.

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Debby Day was the Co-Most Valuable Pitcher in the 2013 NAFA World Series A-Division. Photo By BOB OTTO

“They have two different styles and compliment each other,” Mullen said. “Debby is a control pitcher, like a Greg Maddux (Atlanta Braves Hall of Fame pitcher), and hits her spots. Andrew is more of a power pitcher and throws harder. He has good control, too.”

    KEY RETURNERS AND NEWCOMERS

Long Beach returns most of its team intact, including some key players such as Joe Janicke – the 2013 A-Division Most Valuable Player – who moves to third base from shortstop.

Also returning is fleet-footed centerfielder Aaron Breslow, one of the best – if not the best – outfielder in all five divisions of last year’s World Series.

Breslow made a great catch in the championship game, robbing Kansas City of three runs as he made a catch over the fence to take a home run away from Tyler Carlton.

“Aaron is a great outfielder and he’s hitting the ball well,” Mullen said.

    JANICKE AND WELLS SOLIDIFY INFIELD

As for Janicke, he slides over to third to make room for rookie Mark Wells, who takes over at shortstop in his first year of fastpitch after making the switch from baseball.

And he’s adjusted quite nicely.

“Mark has a really good glove and good bat,” Mullen said of the right-handed hitter. “He has done well in his first year.”

The Wolfpack have also added veteran Doug Shaw, who will split time at first base and in the DH spot.

“He’s a veteran of 30 years,” Mullen said. “He’s a great hitter and has been clutch.”

    LET THE GAMES BEGIN

The 36-team A-Major Division World Series Starts on Thursday, Aug. 7, and ends on the 10th with the championship slated for 1:15 p.m. on Sunday. The Wolfpack, hope and plan on a date in that time slot.

But first up on Thursday is a formidable challenge in the Fort Collins (Colorado) Knights.

The Knights represent the caliber of talent Mullen expects the Wolfpack will face and have to defeat if they are to win back-to-back World Series titles.

“We know Colorado is good,” he said. “We lost to them in Las Vegas (Road Trip VII). They have good pitching and hitting. The A-Major has a lot of good pitchers and players.”

And that high-quality talent the Wolfpack is sure to face has Mullen and his teammates eager to get started. Eager for the possibilities.

“Last year was magical and we are excited to see what we can do this time,” Mullen said.

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