New Carlisle-Rolling Prairie Rivalry Ends
Another chapter in the New Carlisle-Rolling Prairie sports rivalry has reached its conclusion.
When it was all said and done in 1966, the little town on the hill had dominated the series on both the hardwood and the gridiron. In fact, New Carlisle never lost a football game to Rolling Prairie, winning all six matchups between the schools.
Nearly fifty years later, the dust has settled on the latest installment of the rivalry: wiffleball. And in this case, the two sides have been dead even.
On April 12, Old Republic Wiffle®Ball League (ORWBL) Commissioner Alex Friedman announced that the Rolling Prairie franchise, Emery’s Army, was folding after seven years in the league.
Emery’s Army finishes their ORWBL run with an overall record of 153-118. The mark of 153 wins ranks second all-time in the history of the league.
The renegade squad from Rolling Prairie first made a splash on the wiffle scene in 2008 during The Wiffle®Ball Championship at Hometown Days.
Playing their way into the Elite Eight and just one win away from the Hometown Cup Finals at Migley Field, Rolling Prairie ran into its old nemesis: New Carlisle.
At the time, the New Carlisle Newts were already establishing themselves as one of the premier teams in the game. The Newts were the defending champions of the Hometown Days tournament and were also on their way to clinching a second consecutive National League pennant in ORWBL play.
The legendary 2008 quarterfinal game would just be a sign of things to come. One out away from their first loss ever in Hometown Days play, the Newts caught a break when an Emery’s Army outfielder dropped the potential final out over the fence for a home run. The Newts would go on to win the game, 9-8, en route to their second straight Hometown Days title.
Looking for revenge, Emery’s Army joined ORWBL for the 2009 season and immediately became division rivals with the Newts. In the first league season competing against each other, New Carlisle and Rolling Prairie would finish with identical 30-12 records, forcing a one-game playoff to determine the division crown. The Newts won the tiebreaker and would eventually play in yet another ORWBL World Series.
The following year featured another tight divisional race, with the Newts capturing the division title again. However, as a Wild Card, Emery’s Army pulled off the upset in the NLDS and eliminated New Carlisle from the postseason. Emery’s Army would continue their surge in 2011, finally besting New Carlisle for a division championship.
The rivalry quickly gained national attention, as the National Wiffle League Association (NWLA) recognized it as one of the top nine rivalries in the entire country. The NWLA currently consists of 61 leagues throughout the United States and Canada.
Both franchises struggled in 2012, but all the while, the games between the two teams were among the most highly anticipated of the season. After Rolling Prairie swept the series at Robin Court, the Newts took two of three under the lights in the annual Migley Field night series.
By the next year, both New Carlisle and Rolling Prairie were forces once again. The Newts won their first of two consecutive ORWBL World Series. While Rolling Prairie, fighting back against sanctions levied by Hometown Days, reached the Hometown Cup Finals for the first time (under the name Habeas Corpus).
Despite meeting every year in league play, New Carlisle and Rolling Prairie went five years without crossing paths during The Wiffle®Ball Championship at Hometown Days. That changed in 2014, when they met in a classic pool play matchup.
Emery’s Army won a tense ballgame, 10-8, seemingly exorcising some of the demons from the 2008 loss. However New Carlisle would find a more favorable playoff draw that year, and found their way to the Hometown Cup Finals. Last summer, in what would be the final year of the rivalry in league play, New Carlisle and Rolling Prairie met in the postseason with a trip to the ORWBL World Series on the line.
Although New Carlisle entered as the two-time defending World Series champions, Rolling Prairie was actually favored to win the series. Emery’s Army had won two of the three head-to-head matchups in the regular season and finished higher in the standings.
The best of five series was typical Newts-Emery’s Army. The first two games at Migley Field ended via walk-off home runs by the Newts.
In Game 1, New Carlisle trailed by nine runs heading into the sixth inning but rallied to send the game into extra innings. With the wind howling out, the Newts would hit a home run to end it in the seventh, 30-29.
The script flipped in Game 2, as Rolling Prairie mounted the large comeback. Down seven going into the final frame, Emery’s Army forced the Newts to bat in the bottom half. Once again, New Carlisle prevailed on a home run, winning 19-17.
When the series shifted to the Grassy Knoll on Robin Court, so did the wind. Rolling Prairie avoided the sweep by manufacturing three runs in the sixth inning to claim a 4-3 victory.
New Carlisle answered in Game 4, clinching a World Series berth with a 2-1 win in what has now become the final game between the storied rivals.
All told, the head-to-head series in ORWBL play ends tied at 25 wins a piece. As previously noted, the teams also split their two meetings at The Wiffle®Ball Championship.
Like the overall series, the individual games between the two teams were just as closely contested. Extra innings were often needed and walk-off wins were a common occurrence. Nearly every game came down to the last inning, and 13 of them were decided by one run.
The total runs scored against each other were almost identical, with New Carlisle holding a slight 373-370 advantage.
The rivalry represented neighborhood wiffleball and a sense of community pride. Just like the crowds of interested spectators at famed Migley Field, the games on Robin Court were a well-attended neighborhood event. Arguably, Emery’s Army had the most dedicated contingent of fans, making Rolling Prairie a favorite destination for the other teams in the league.
While the New Carlisle Newts will play on and remain a fixture in the league, part of their decorated history has come to an end.
For Rolling Prairie, wiffleball Sundays on the Grassy Knoll at Robin Court will remain a great memory and source of pride for the residents of the neighborhood.