Pioneers start where they left off as the 2019 NSL season begins

Mon 20 May 2019

The first weekend of National Softball League play in 2019 took place at the Diamond Series 1 Tournament at Farnham Park on 18-19 May, and there was a familiar team sitting at the top of the NSL 1 standings when play finished on Sunday evening.

Pioneers, the reigning National Champions, NSL winners and European Slowpitch Cup gold medallists, finished the weekend with a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of Legends by a score of 7-6 in the last game of the day on Saturday.

There were some less familiar names at the top of the NSL 2 standings after the weekend, however, with Blitz Bombers and Tempest (formerly Drizzle) both on 5-2 records and separated only by a wafer-thin head-to-head result in which the Bombers beat Tempest by a score of 11-10.

As usual, there are 12 teams competing in both NSL 1 and NSL 2, and eight of them will qualify for National Championships at the end of the season after two more weekends of play.

Results on the first weekend suggest there could be a lot of volatility in the standings over the summer, with parity the order of the day and a lot of teams bunched tightly behind the leaders in both competitions.

In addition, teams have yet to play all of their opposition, and match-ups yet to come could also trigger movement in the league tables.


NSL 1

For Pioneers, it was partly business at usual at Diamond 1, as they were comfortable winners over LNZ, Blue Steel, Mavericks and the Travelling Dodgers, one of the teams expected to challenge for the NSL 1 title this season.

But Pioneers had to struggle to beat the Knights by 10-9 and the Greensox 9-7, and were upended 7-6 by Legends -- and Pioneers have yet to play long-standing rivals Chromies and H2O, so more challenges lie ahead.

Nor have Pioneers managed to open anything like a gap on the chasing pack.  The Knights, Travelling Dodgers and H2O all sit just a game behind the current champions with a 5-2 record, and just behind that group are Chromies and Legends on 4-3.

Meanwhile, those teams will be looking over their shoulder at four more teams on 3-4: the Greensox and the newly-promoted Mavericks from Manchester plus Blue Steel and the KKs.  Altogether, nine teams chasing the Pioneers are separated by just two games in the standings.

Only the Bristol Tigers, at 1-6, and traditional relegation battlers LNZ, on 0-7, look genuinely out of the title race after the first weekend of play.

Here are the NSL 1 standings after Diamond 1:


NSL 2

Only one of the teams that finished in the top four in the NSL 2 standings in 2018 is in the top four after the first weekend of NSL play in 2019.

That will be the Warriors, who finished fourth last season and sit in fourth place again after this year’s Diamond 1. 

And of course the Mavericks, who finished first and won the NSL 2 Nationals last year, are now plying their trade in NSL 1.

But even so, the NSL 2 table has an unfamiliar look, with new teams at the top, including the Misfits and Tempest, both newly-promoted from NSL 3, in second and third place respectively.  Misfits might have been even higher had they not been edged out by Blitz Bombers in a 20-19 nail-biter and drawn their games with the Warriors and Naturals.

Meanwhile, usually strong teams like SPAM, Ninos Privados and Bristol Bees are languishing further down the order, though SPAM lost a tight 7-5 game to Blitz Bombers and Ninos Privados handled the Misfits 17-8.

But as with NSL 1, anything can happen over the rest of the summer, with the top nine teams in NSL 2 separated by just two games in the standings, and two more teams just a further game behind.

Only Blitz Havoc, who were 1-6 over the weekend, look like the rest of the season could be a relegation struggle.

Here are the NSL 2 standings after Diamond 1:

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