After three years of near misses, the Northwest Arkansas left-handed reliever finally gets to put his name next to Houston Summers (2007), Will Startup (2008) and Dusty Napoleon (2009) in the category of Minors Moniker Madness winners.
After having to come from behind to defeat No. 1 seed Sequoyah Stonecipher in the quarterfinals and fellow No. 2 seed Mark Hamburger in the semis, Hardy's final victory was far more comfortable against the upset-minded No. 15 seed Seth Schwindenhammer.
Hardy garnered 60.9 percent of the final vote compared to 39.1 percent for the Lowell Spinners' prodigiously named outfielder.
The winner benefited from a grassroots campaign that featured an enchanting video, a Facebook page and a Twitter account. The only entrant in Moniker Madness' field of 64 who challenged Hardy's get-out-the-vote effort was Schwindenhammer, whose club in Lowell used the power of video and its devoted fanbase to send the 19-year-old through to the final.
Hardy's six victories were a combination of blowouts and close calls, but he won and advanced all the way to the title.
Hardy dispatched No. 15 Dale Cornstubble, a tricky first-round opponent, before storming past No. 10 Atahualpa Severino in Round 2. Hardy was again dominant against No. 3 Stolmy Pimentel in the Round of 16 before running into prohibitive favorite Stonecipher in the Farmer Works final. Despite trailing early, Hardy came from behind for the narrow victory and did the same against Icicle Reader Bracket champion Hamburger to win that matchup by just six votes. Hardy's victory over Schwindenhammer was reminiscent of the southpaw's early-round blowouts rather than the more recent nail-biters.
Despite all the hubbub surrounding Hardy's run to six straight victories over the last month, the veteran Minor Leaguer has maintained his focus on the mound with the Naturals. The 27-year-old has pitched five straight scoreless outings for the Royals' Double-A club, encompassing 15 2/3 innings, including a pair of victories.
Hardy's triumph retires him from future Minors Moniker Madness competitions, opening the door for other great names, including Hardy's vanquished final opponent.
Schwindenhammer made a remarkable run as a No. 15 seed in the Natty Nattress Bracket, which soon became the Cinderella Regional. The Red Sox's 2009 fifth-round pick defeated No. 2 Skyler Stromsmoe in the first round before taking down No. 10 Petey Paramore in the second.
In the semis, Schwindenhammer made quick work of No. 8 Bubbie Buzachero from the Razor Shines Bracket before stumbling against Hardy in the final. He will surely join Stonecipher, Hamburger, Shooter Hunt and many others in pursuit of the fifth Minors Moniker Madness title in 2011.
Voters in the latter stages of 2010 Minors Moniker Madness were rewarded for their ballot stuffing by becoming eligible to win great prizes, including a season pass to Minor League parks, a Minor League fan pack or an MLB.com Shop certificate.