The Diamond Softball Series marked the start of its fifth anniversary season on the weekend of May 14-15 at Farnham Park near Slough with a record 51 teams competing in three divisions, including the first National Softball League event of the year at A-grade.
Diamond 1 was blessed with decent weather (sun, clouds, wind and the odd sprinkle of rain), a great party on Saturday night and mini-clinics run on Saturday and Sunday morning by the touring Combat coaches for teams on game breaks.
So popular were these clinics that two teams actually got up early to have a session with the Combat coaches at 9.00 am before playing their first game at 10.00!
Game photos by Jake Bailey and presentation photos by Phil Masters
A Grade (National Softball League)
For the first time ever, the Diamond A-grade competition had 16 teams take to the field -- 15 National Softball League teams plus the Irish National Team.
The NSL has some new additions this year in SPAM and Blue Steel, but the honours went to last year's series winners the Chromies, who edged out previous winners H2O in a hard-fought final on Sunday afternoon.
Mariners and Munster finished third and fourth respectively, above some of the usual NSL frontrunners such as the Dragons and Pioneers, suggesting that things may be changing in the NSL this season.
Success for underdogs continued in the B-grade competition, with newly-promoted Manchester Fish reaching the final in their first attempt at this level. Unfortunately for the Fish, the more experienced Solent Stingrays team took the honours in a one-sided title game.
Another eye-catching team was the GB Under-19 Fastpitch Squad, composed mainly of players from the GB Under-19 Girls' and Boys' Teams, also making their debut at B-grade. They finished a creditable sixth out of 14 teams and played some excellent softball -- though questions were raised as to whether their pitcher was, in fact, under 19 or over 91!
Twenty-one teams took part in the C-grade competition, and many teams still had chances for honours going into Sunday's elimination round.
However, it was the Mezcalitoes Ninos and Oxford Spirit who contested the final, with the Mezcalitoes taking top honours.
Results from all three grades were as follows:
A GRADE (NSL)
Cup Winner: Chromies
Cup Runner-up: H20
Plate Winner: Manchester Maniacs
Plate Runner-up: Irish National Team
Cup Winner: Solent Stingrays
Cup Runner-up: Manchester Fish
Plate Winner: Chalfont Phoenix
Plate Runner-up: Clapham Thunder
Cup Winner: Mezcalitoes Ninos
Cup Runner-up: Oxford Spirits
Plate Winner: Rhythm
Plate Runner-up: Vampire Batters
Spoon Winner: Richings Park Ospreys
Spoon Runner-up: Chalfont Flames
Those teams that have not yet entered Diamond 2 have until Wednesday, May 25 to guarantee a place. An entry form can be downloaded from www.diamond-softball.co.uk.
Making their debut at Diamond 2 will be the fantastic KIK, who will be performing live from 21.30 in the main clubhouse on Saturday evening.
Dave King says: "This band is not to be missed!"