The last thing Wyatt Wilson wanted was another swing-off. If it took all night – and it nearly did – Wilson was going to make sure he got the perfect pitch to end the Crisp Springs Fireworks Home Run Derby in style.
Layne Roberts missed high, low, outside and inside, but he finally served his teammate up with one down the middle. Wilson did the rest, rocketing a final shot over the right-field fence to claim the derby championship.
Wilson was able to defeat Logan Underhill, the league’s current HR leader with 18 moonshots this season, 6-5 in the finals. It came after Wilson had to survive two swing-offs with David Martin in the semis, but in the end, this year’s champion was crowned by taking last year’s winner deep.
“Layne rubbed some magic on the balls and helped me squeeze a few out in the end,” said Wilson. who got big-time support from Roberts, his teammate and the 2020 derby champion. “We’re just happy to keep the trophy with the Benchwarmers.”
After a two-homer performance in the semis, which added two his six HRs in the first round, Wilson’s chances of survival looked bleak. Martin had already hit a first-round leading eight homers, so he just needed one to eliminate Wilson and move into the finals.
It just wasn’t meant to be. Martin had several close calls, but he went 10 straight swings without a homer, setting up a tiebreaker with Wilson. Both players were allowed five swings, with the one who hit the most homers in those swings getting to move on.
Wilson hit his first two swings out, but stalled from there. Martin rallied back, hitting his fifth and final swing over the left-field wall to tie Wilson at two.
Another tiebreaker was held, this time with three swings, and Wilson was able to move on by launching a rocket into right field on his third swing. Martin went without a homer in the final swing-off.
“It was pretty shocking to watch David hit eight in the first round and zero in the second to give us a swing-off. I wasn’t really expecting to be in the finals,” said Wilson.
When he got there, Underhill – the favorite to win – was waiting. The league’s long-ball leader had hit five home runs in each of his first two rounds (surviving a swing-off of his own in the first round) to get to the finals.
Underhill smashed four home runs in his final round, but it wasn’t enough, even with Wilson running into added pressure in his final swings.
Signs were placed around the fence to give hitters bonuses if they were able to make contact, but none of the 21 big swingers were able to connect. However, Wilson did hit a liner right at a obstacle placed in the field in his final round, which counted for two outs.
He regrouped quickly though, getting to four homers with two outs left. After making his ninth out, Wilson decided to wait for the perfect pitch. It took nearly 10 pitches to find the one, but the league’s No. 1 overall draft pick zeroed in on a pearl over the plate and sent it sailing.
Crisp Springs Fireworks owner Chris Cope was on hand to present Wilson with a trophy, a shirt and a gift certificate for fireworks. Underhill also received prizes for finishing second.
It’s been a crazy ride in his first season in the Westwood Wiffleball Association, but it seems Wilson is starting to get comfortable being first.
Check out the full Crisp Springs Fireworks HR Derby on Facebook.
League organizer John Bryan O'Connor on the derby: "(It was a) Huge success. We loved having Chris Cope from Crisp Springs Fireworks there to show some love to our participants. There was a lot of excitement with the swing-offs in each round. Wyatt snuck into the swing-off to get in the finals, but got hot at the right time and I think the short porch in right proved to be the difference. He knocked out the league HR leader for the win."
First round highlights:
Overall, 22 competitors registered for the event and only three finished without a homer in the first round.
Coty Grissom had the first homer of the derby, part of a three-homer performance from the Smashing Pumpkins star.
Nick Stern, who shouted people were, “sleeping on me,” when he hit some colossal blasts during games Sunday, was a leader in the clubhouse for a short time in the first round. Stern hit four home runs, including an epic blast that may have been the longest of the day. Underhill, who showed opposite-field power all night, hit five homers in the first round to unseat, and eventually edge out, Stern.
Sharp Shooters teammates Trent Gilley and Ryan Walker went back-to-back in the competition, swapping out as pitchers along the way. Walker had a huge assist for Gilley, saving a potential two-out shot right at a barrel late in his teammate’s round. Gilley went on to hit homers on his next two swings, eventually finishing with three. Walker also had a wild round, switching which side to hit from three times. When he finally settled for the right side, he blasted three straight shots out to match his teammate’s total.
Martin’s eight-homer performance featured two different stretches where the long-time baseball coach hit three homers in a row.
Wilson had an impressive six-homer showing in the first round, including going to one knee while hitting a golf shot out to the short porch in right.
League organizer John Bryan O’Connor made nine straight outs before he got rolling, but he finished with a three-homer surge before bowing out.
Roberts and Jax King each hit five homers late in the first round, setting up a swing-off for the No. 3 and 4 spots in the semifinals. Underhill hit 2-of-5 homers on his five swings, while Roberts hit just one. King had a flare for the dramatics while hitting last, connecting on a liner over the left-field fence to eliminate Roberts, the 2020 Derby champion, on his fifth swing.
David Martin 8*
Wyatt Wilson 6*
Logan Underhill 5*
Jax King 5*
Layne Roberts 5^
Ryan Jennings, Nick Stern - 4
Coty Grissom, Trent Gilley, Ryan Walker, John Bryan O’Connor, Casey Hertwig – 3
Caleb Graves, Chad Graves – 2
John Hanson, Alex van Vuuren, Matt Martin, Jay Medley, Will Vance – 1
Ansley Mullican, Kip Medley, Aiden van Vuuren - 0
Semifinals (were combined with first-round totals)
Logan Underhill 5 (10 total)*
Wyatt Wilson – 2 (8 total)*
David Martin – 0 (8 total)^
Jax King – 2 (7 total)
Wyatt Wilson 5
Logan Underhill 4
^lost in swing-off