The Maidenhead Royals began their quest for the 2018 Diamond Series championship over the weekend of May 19th and 20th. Following the disappointment of relegation from NSL 2 last year, the Diamond series represents the first steps in trying to gain promotion back this year.
The Diamond series runs over 3 weekends during the summer. Teams compete for the individual event titles, but also the series championship. The Royals are back in the “B” Grade competition and are looking for a high finish in the series.
The “B” Competition this season consists of 16 teams who are divided each event into two groups of 8. The teams play each other once to determine places and who progresses to the Cup and Plate competitions. The Royals were drawn in Group 1, along with Spitting Camels, TV Typhoons, Bristol Monkeys, Nottingham Pyros, OAPs, Dodgers East and London Flames.
The day didn’t start as well as the Royals had hopped. In a very tight game, they fell just short 9-7 against the Spitting Camels. Game two was a local derby as the Royals faced the Typhoons. Both teams had just meet in the opening week of WMSL League season, and this encounter was their 3rd so far, having also played in the WMSL First Ball competition. The Royals ran out 22-2 winners. That doesn’t tell the story, the Typhoons had the misfortune early on as they lost their right fielder, Sam Croft to what turned out to be a broken hand. We wish Sam well and speedy return to the diamond. The Royals were making hard work of their group games, and OAPs, didn’t make it any easier. This game went right to the final minutes of the game and a Home Run by Dom Shepherd drove in the winning run as the Royals came from behind to win 9-8.
The Royals weekend was series of outstanding batting games followed by a drought. Against Bristol Monkeys, the runs poured off the bat. The 24-5 win was the third in a row and set up the final game of the day against the Nottingham Pyros. Late on Saturday, the Royals wished they could have some of the runs from the previous game as a dogged Pyros teams kept edging in front every time the Royals seemed to have got ahead. In an almost identical finish to game 3, it was the last hit of the game that sealed it, unfortunately it was a Pyros hit and they edged the game 9-8.
The Royals started very early on Sunday against Dodgers East. Both teams starting the day 3-2 following Saturdays games. It was the Dodgers who woke first raced into an early lead, the Royals rallied and won their fourth game of the competition 10-5. The last group game was against a familiar foe, the London Flames. The two teams have met in some epic encounters over the years in the Diamond tournaments. This latest encounter will be added to the list. A back and forth encounter again went to the wire, with the Royals coming out on top 13-11 as the Flames just feel short in the last inning.
Their 5-2 record put the Royals in the Cup competition following a 3rd place finish and encounter with Ducky Fuzz in the Quarter final. Ducky Fuzz came into the game as the higher seed, but from the off the Royals demonstrated how potent their offense had been at it’s best on Saturday. Two huge innings against a fading opponent saw the Royals into the Cup Semi final with a 24-4 win.
The Semi-final was a rematch with Pavs Knicks, a team the Royals beat twice in the WMSL First Ball competition, including victory in the final. The game was the mirror opposite of the Ducky Fuzz game, with the Knicks on the front foot from the start and the Royals could not get anything going at all. As with Saturday, the batting deluge in one game was followed by the drought in the next. So, the day belonged to the Knicks who ended the Royals quest for a Diamond Cup title, with a 15-7 win. The Knicks would go on to win the Cup themselves and will be a force to be reckoned with over the summer.
A top 4 finish was a very good return to the Diamond series. In Diamond 3 last year the Royals fail to win a game, so 6 wins and 3 defeats over the weekend was a real morale boost and keeps them right in the hunt for the series championship. The Royals now look forward to Diamond 2, which starts on June 9th, with real optimism.