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Breaking down the derby

Back, Back, Back, Back ----- GONE!!!!

Chris Berman may not be at Westwood Church of Christ Sunday afternoon, but there are still going to be plenty of moonshots hit at Wiffley Field. The Crisp Springs Fireworks Home Run Rerby will begin at 7 p.m. and several Westwood Wiffleball Association players will be vying for the crown.

Over 20 big hitters are going to take their swings, with hopes of going home with bragging rights and a gift card from Crisp Springs Fireworks. To claim the winnings, one hitter is going to have to hit some bombs and survive through three rounds.

All participants will get 10 outs in the first round – with every swing that doesn't produce a home run counting as an out. Trash cans will also be placed in the field and will count as two outs if hit. There are perks too – props will be put outside the fence which can make a single home run count double, triple or more.

The top four home-run hitters will advance to the second round. They’ll get 10 more outs and the cumulative total from the first two rounds of homers will produce a final two.

In the finals, the totals reset and the player to go deep the most wins.

Here are some tiers to break down the field, as decided by the Warren County Sports Authority:

The Favorite: Logan Underhill

This guy has smashed plenty of wiffleballs for the Smashing Pumpkins this season. Underhill currently leads the WWA with 14 home runs, nearly twice as many as anybody else (Park Hilliard has eight). If Underhill gets hot, he could be hitting for hours before he ever makes 10 outs.

He has to be considered the favorite going into the contest, but can he handle the pressure? We’ll see.

The defending champ: Layne Roberts

Two people seemed to stand out from the rest of the field: Underhill and the defending champ in the derby, Layne Roberts. He also has the distinct advantage of being left-handed, giving him the short porch (and no big wall) in right field.

Roberts has shown the power again this year, hitting six bombs. Where he hits his homers will be important again this year. Roberts racked up bonuses in last year’s derby – he’ll need to do it again to rise to the top of this loaded field.

The sleeper: Park Hilliard

It feels funny to call the guy with the second-most homers in the league a sleeper, but Hilliard has racked up his total quietly this season. He takes big cuts though, which will be needed as the speed will likely be down on the pitching tonight.

He’s the kind of rhythm hitter who could knock out 15-20 in the first round and let that carry him all the way into the finals.

The home-field advantage: John Bryan O’Connor

When you built the field – and the league – then there’s always a chance you know a few secrets that others don’t. More so, if you know where all the bonuses are going to be placed, then maybe you move a few into your sweet spot to help the cause.

I’m not saying JBOC is going to do that, but if he does, nobody is going to take issue. This league has been a ton of fun for everybody involved and it wouldn’t have happened without the big righty paving the way.

The young gun: Kip Medley

Mark it down right now: Nobody will have more fun in the derby than Kip. He’s the youngest hitter, by far, in the competition, but he doesn’t lack for power. He’s already roped a homer in game play this year and, with a soft toss approach tonight, Kip can show off the long ball.

The No. 1 pick: Wyatt Wilson

Wilson had big-time expectations put on him when he was selected No. 1 overall in this year’s draft, but he’s starting to live up to the hype. He’s also building that hype on his own, demanding his team rise up in the power rankings after some big wins last week.

Another big lefty, Wilson should be in the running to get to the semifinals. From there, it is anybody’s game.

The coach: David Martin

I’ll always give a little bit of a boost to anybody who probably takes 1,000 cuts a month (or more) during the spring. I’m assuming Martin has hit plenty of infield, outfield and probably taken batting practice in his spare time. His eye is going to be right for the derby.

Sleeping giant: John Wilson

My final individual nod goes to a guy who may not have hit many, if any, home runs in a game this year, but I know who has big power – John Wilson. How do I know this? I played 3B against him in softball and he knocked my glove off my hand and it flew into left field. I’ve also played golf with him and you could’ve built football fields in between my drives landed and his. Let’s see if Willy gets swinging tonight.

The young guns in the field: Jax King, Nick Stern, Will Vance

Of the three, I have a gut feeling that Vance could have the best showing. He’s been sneaky good this year, just flying way under the radar on his squad.

The guys I grew up with: Coty Grissom, Brandon McGee, Jay Medley, Casey Hertwig

I’ve played a lot of sports with, and against, these guys over the years. Hertwig and I were teammates on a travel baseball team when we were 10, while I faced off with Medley in basketball dating back to his days at Boyd. Grissom, McGee and I were all on the same church league team for years.

I’m going to give Hertwig – a lefty – the slight edge in this group.

The vets: Ryan Walker, Trent Gilley, Chad Graves, John Hanson

I’ve seen Hanson hit the most wiffleball homers of this group – he also played last year – so I’ll give him the nod. I’m not counting out Graves though, he’s been at the center of helping the Grumpy Old Men surge up the standings. He could do the same in this field.

Final predictions:

Semifinals – Underhill, Roberts, Wilson, Hertwig

Finals – Underhill, Roberts

Winner – Roberts with the repeat

Layne Roberts, right, was last year's derby winner.

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