NEW CARLISLE — As local Wiffle Ball goes, the New Carlisle Newts and Granger Panthers is on par with the Cubs-Cardinals and Yankees-Red Sox.
"It's one of the best rivalries in the game," Panthers captain Griffin Smith said. "It's two of the best teams in the game."
The weekend's Wiffle Ball Championship proved it again as the Panthers outslugged the home-standing Newts 32-26 in Sunday's championship at Migley Field, avenging a loss in last year's final to capture the Hometown Cup.
"This is huge for us," said Smith, who couldn't play last season due to injury. "The summer's kind of sad if you get knocked out in the last game. We knew everyone here would be rooting against us. We had a huge 'Us against the world' mentality."
The Panthers won the Old Republic Wiffle Ball League regular season title with a gaudy 21-3 record, taking two out of three from the Newts, but were then knocked out of the post-season tourney by the Newts.
"It's always hard when you're that close and don't win," Newts standout Garrett Curless said. "Getting (to Migley) is what we're always shooting for. It's better than any place out there. The fact that we were second out of 70 teams is never a bad thing."
A strong hitter's tailwind turned the Final Four into a home run derby with practically every run Sunday coming via the long ball. While Smith pitched the whole game for the Panthers, the Newts used all five players in an effort to slow the Panthers' roll with a variety of looks.
"With our style of play, we have to be selective," Curless said. "We're a really good defensive team, but it's a tough game to stay in when everything they're swinging at is going out. You hit it relatively decent and it was going over the fence."
Granger scored 12 runs in the first inning to go up 12-4 and posted 13 more in the fourth after New Carlisle had rallied for a brief 18-16 lead entering the bottom half of the frame. The 32 runs represented its highest output in a game, according to Smith.
"We knew coming in we just had out-hit to them," he said. "We were going to win with me pitching or lose with me pitching. They're pretty good hitters. I wasn't that confident. I wasn't throwing anything special. I just feel like we have the four best hitters in the game, and we proved it every game the whole tournament."
The Granger team, comprised of four Penn graduates and one from Mishawaka Marian, began playing in 2013 when they were all about 14. They went 3-1 in pool play in the World Wiffle Ball Championship in Chicago, qualifying for the second day of the tournament, and have been building to Sunday's moment from there.
While a loss in his backyard is never easy to swallow, Newts captain and tournament director Koby Keck called the latest renewal of the tournament another success. Monster Message of Elkhart provided a Jumbotron on which the Final Four games were shown live. Atlanta Braves broadcaster Chip Caray provided a recorded introduction of a rendition of 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' by his late grandfather, Harry Caray, during the fourth inning. Continuous music and a rainbow of tents added to the festive atmosphere of the event, which is a part of the town's Hometown Days.
"It went really well. Everything was smooth," Keck said. "I had great help from my family and girlfriend. We had a ton of people here for the home run derby Friday, we had a great day yesterday and a huge crowd here today. It was an awesome weekend."