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Wiffle ball bash
Players of all ages enjoy Y.C. tourney
He's a walking YouTube clip.
As Sunday progressed, Todd Borcher's reputation grew.
Congregated in the outfield of Yuba City High's Winship Field, disgruntled participants in the 6th annual Yuba City Baseball Club Wiffle Ball Tournament kept mentioning "the kid in the red shirt."
An arsenal of five pitches at his disposal, Borcher does things with a Wiffle ball that seem to defy physics.
In Sunday's semifinal game, Borcher threw a pitch that started at the knees of tournament director Dave Rodriguez and ended up above Rodriguez's head.
After flailing at the pitch, Borcher's former coach could only look around, flip his bat and ask, "Was that even close?"
That's how the afternoon went for nearly all opposing batters who stepped in against Borcher. The one hit he surrendered in the tournament was a bunt single.
Borcher's innings were short. In a tournament that required only two strikes to record a strikeout, the right-hander's pitching rhythm was like a drum cadence: Whiff, thud. Whiff, thud. Whiff, thud.
When Borcher threw, the only sounds heard were bats swinging through air and the ball hitting a 55-gallon drum that served as the strike zone.
As if some sort of magnet was in play, Borcher's slider started at the back of one batter and suddenly broke to catch the edge of the drum for a strike.
The batter's reaction? Double-take, sigh, bat toss.
Riseballs, curveballs, sliders, fastballls and screwballs, Borcher honed all five pitches and mystified everyone from 10-year-old Little Leaguers to 40-somethings in Hawaiian shirts.
Some other musings from opposing batters:
"That's not even fair."
"Is that hittable?"
Borcher didn't allow a run in the tournament and led his team, Dirty Mike and the Boys (a reference to the Will Ferrell comedy "The Other Guys"), to the tournament championship, though didn't do it all himself.
Fellow Yuba City High Class of 2008 graduate Aaron Crouch delivered walk-off hits in the semifinals and championship game.
The former Sacramento State and Marysville Gold Sox outfielder ended the tourney with an opposite-field homer. That ended a 1-0 pitcher's duel between Borcher and Will Burwell, who also hadn't allowed a run in the tournament.
Since Crouch discovered the world of competitive Wiffle ball last year, he and Borcher have been practicing twice a week looking out for tournaments to enter.
"I haven't really had that many walk-off hits in baseball, but with Wiffle ball I've apparently found a good match," Crouch said. "I didn't have much of a competitive attitude, just wanted to have some fun."
Crouch, Borcher and Zach Walden bested a field featuring teams such as the Kekambas (runners-up), Game of Shadows, Sons of Pitches, The Swag Squad and the Choir Boys, along with 25 other teams.
Rodriguez began the tournament in 2006 as a way to raise money for the Yuba City baseball program.
A former Honker player and current coach in the program, Rodriguez has been playing Wiffle ball in his family since he can remember.
In 1994, Rodriguez competed in a World Wiffle Ball competition in El Dorado Hills. What he thought would be just a "fun" competition turned out to be a day-long event with teams decked out in uniforms and eye-black.
Rodriguez's team won the tournament two years in a row and he has won the Yuba City tournament three out of the six years it has existed.
This year's turnout was the biggest the tournament has had.
The field of participants included everyone from Little League all-stars to A-D All-Area selections and even a cameo appearance from longtime Honker baseball coach Jim Stassi.
"I enjoy seeing everybody come out here," Rodriguez said. "It's funny because a lot of the guys I see only once a year and it's here.
"Everyone loves coming out and competing."
This was only Borcher's second time pitching in a tournament though his results would state otherwise.
He said studying YouTube clips and messing around in his front yard have been the main reasons for his success in Wiffle ball.
Borcher played four years of high school baseball with the Honkers and also pitched two years at Yuba College.
"It's tough to get used to because a Wiffle ball moves way more than a baseball," Borcher said. "I was pretty locked in today and ready to go."
An infielder at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, Mo. during the school year, Walden's seen his fair share of good arms during his time playing baseball.
"That's a good question" Walden said. "You just got to hope you run into one every once in a while."