It was a season that promised so much, but in the end just didn’t quite deliver. It was certainly a rollercoaster, the title was ours to loose, then we were out the race, then back in, finally thwarted at the last and then ending on an amazing comeback.
Runners-up is nothing to be sneered at. It was an improvement on 2017 and that was the first goal of the season. But when you come so close, it does feel like a let down.
An Impressive Start
The season began with a trip down Wokingham way to play the TV Typhoons. Even though the Royals we fresh off their impressive outing at WMSL First Ball, this was no gimme. Just ask the Blue Sox, 12 months ago the newly promoted Typhoons shocked the Blue Sox. It was not beyond imagination that history could repeat itself. Lightning didn’t strike twice and the season got off to a winning start.
The First Derby
The season wasn’t very old when the first derby came around. As it turned out this derby was one that wouldn’t live long in the memory. The Rebels had a night to forget with both bat and glove. When looking back, the Royals put on one of their best overall performances of the season. The 18-3 score line does indeed tell the story of the game. Going into the game both teams knew that their respective seasons would not be decided on these games, and both would have been happy to get this one out the way early.
The bit before the bad bit
After two rounds the Royals were top and the ship was sailing along nicely and the course stayed true as an under-strength Thames Valley Tornados team came to town. Tornados came into the game having lost both their opening fixtures and found themselves in trouble and behind very early as the Royals scored 9 first inning runs. That quickly turned into 16-1 Royals lead and although there was a mini-rally from the Tornados, the 24-4 Royals victory kept them top. A position they held going into week 5, as week 4 was wiped out by rain, and the first big test as the BA Jets came to town.
This was a real test and an outstanding game all around. Both teams playing good defence, not giving an inch. It took all 7 innings to separate them Need two, the Royals got an early break as a throwing error out their lead-off batter on second, A sacrifice fly advanced them to third to give the Royals the chance of at least a tie, however Barbara Killer had other ideas and a 1 out triple tie the game and left it to Steve Hazard to send a deep fly ball to right field to score the winning run. First Test Past.
4 games, 4 wins and now the Knights away. This was a pivotably period in the season for the Royals. Knights and Phoenix in quick succession would define the season. Win either or both games and the title dream was a possibility. The first half of the critical double header didn’t go well and the Royals paid the price for an error strewn performance against the Knights. Despite spotting the Knights a 10-1 lead after 3 innings. Within 2 innings at lead was gone and the Royals lead 13-11. With momentum on their side, another lapse let the Knights get 10 runs ahead again. This time, innings ran out and while the Royals did chase down 9 of the runs they fell to the first defeat of the season 22-21.
One lose soon became two as Farnham Phoenix, visited and won 28-13. Still smarting from the previous weeks defeat to the Knights, the Royals started the evening like a team determined to get back to winning ways in a hurry. Having batted around the order they lead 8-2 after one inning and everything look back on track. Phoenix didn’t win the league last season just rolling over when teams took good leads over them. Slowly, but surely, they first reduced the lead to 8-4, then turned it into a 9-8 lead. 10 runs in the 4th all but sealed the game and inflicted not only a defeat, but mercy rule defeat at that. The title dream was slipping fast going into the return derby match.
No Love lost.
If there was a wrong time in the season to play the Royals, the Rebels found it in week 8. They ran into a batting and fielding display that made the first encounter seem close. The 27-1 Royals victory was the biggest between the two teams in their recent meetings. The game summed up the Royals Jekyll and Hyde season. They had the ability to dismantle any team in the league at will, but at the same time suddenly play as if this was their first game ever. If you were lucky, both would appear on the same night and team knew they had an opening.
Over weeks 9 and 10, TV wished Mr Hyde had stayed away as first the Royals beat the Typhoons 19-4 in an efficient display, that while wasn’t as clinical a display as against the Rebels, got the win needed. The 46-10 win against another under-strength Tornados team was the Royals biggest win for several years. The Tornados has a season where injuries and absentees all seemed to come together when the Royals were on their fixture list.
Those two wins kept the Royals in the title hunt and kept the pressure on the Knights and Blue Sox, as all three vied for the title. As earlier in the season, while on a 3 game winning streak, the next fixture was the always tricky away trip to BA. The earlier fixture had been one of the games of the season and the first half of this encounter was following the same tight pattern. However, that stopped going into inning 3 and the confidence built from the impressive recent batting performance powered the Royals to an eventual 20-8 win.
The Pendulum swings
With 4 wins in a row, Week 12 was the pivotal week, the visitors were the Blue Sox. A place and two point behind the Royals, but with a game in hand. A 6 pointer in the title race. The earlier season fixture had been rained out. So, this was the first of two encounters that could make or break each ones title challenge or hand the title to the Knights. For the Royals, it was a Jekyll evening and while they did lead early on, it was the Blue Sox who dominated the middle innings and took the victory. This defeat was the biggest dent in the Royals title challenge so far. With 3 games left, the Royals were 4 points behind the leaders and needed favours from other teams to get back in the race.
Before a final showdown with the Knights, the Royals had the tricky trip to last season’s champions. It was the home defeat earlier in the season that derailed the Royals initial title charge, and defeat here would have end any title hopes. The Royals started strong as they scored 10 unanswered runs. Phoenix, as in the earlier game, started to chip away, as soon 10-0 became 12-5. However, the runs kept coming for the Royals and the defence was standing firm and going into the last Phoenix inning a 19-8 lead looked to be enough to secure the points. As we have said before, Phoenix were not champions last season by giving up with bats in hand and when the Royals gifted them base runners through fielding errors they took full advantage. A Fence clearing home-run and more Royals errors combined to help Phoenix put 9 runs on the board and looked to be on the verge of a remarkable comeback win. But the Royals hung on and kept the race going for another week.
The Royals knew going into this game against the Knights that victory was a minimum requirement to keep the title race going. Even then, a win would only guarantee the race would go to the last week. The pressure to win was on both teams, twelve months ago the Knights had the title in their grasp going into their last game, but failure to win handed the title elsewhere. This year they set out to ensure there was no repeat. The Royals, as too often this season, began slowly and coupled with some early fielding errors looked to be letting the game slip away. The 3rd inning saw a rally from the Royals, a good defensive inning was followed by a strong batting display as they pulled the game back to 7-5 in favour of the Knights. That was the high point of the evening, as the Knights took control for one final time. It wasn’t the way many had expected the race to end after the early season performances. Now it was down to a one-off game week the Blue Sox for the runners-up spot.
The Final Hurrah
The Division 1 runners-up spot was decided in the a most dramatic season finale. With the Blue Sox starting the night 1 point ahead of the Royals they started the game like a team intent on securing the runners-up spot in the quickest time possible and the 16-1 score line after two innings didn’t flatter the home team, they fielded better, batted better and were in complete control. Even in the 3rd inning when the Royals rallied a little scoring 4 runs, the Blue Sox responded with 5 to extend their lead to 16 runs at 21-5. This was the high point of the game for hosts as the Royals, who have exhibited spirit and the ability to overcome slow starts, throughout the season began what appeared an unlikely comeback. First, 5 unanswered runs brought some credibility to the score line and while they only added 1 in the 5th inning, a second shutout had the games momentum starting to swing in their favour. The 6th inning summed up the best of the Royals season, relentless offense and tight defence and they turned the game as they ran in 11 runs that took the them from 10 behind to 1 in front and while the Blue Sox still had a bat in hand, the belief that an extraordinary win was possible was all with the Royals. The Blue Sox were spent after a long season chasing the Knights, and in fading light a third shutout inning gave the Royals the most dramatic and unlikely win to seal the runners-up spot.
Come and Try Softball
We run sessions on Friday’s throughout the year to enable anyone interested to try Softball. If you think you would like to give Softball a try, or to learn more about Maidenhead Softball Club and to get involved in Softball, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.