The MK Diamonds started the tournament season with an eagerly awaited trip to Loughborough for East Midlands Firstball – and came home as semi-finalists after an excellent day out.
A number of the team travelled up the M1 in a 1970s VW camper, which got a number of admiring glances on the M1 as motorists overtook at 60mph. Unfortunately this bordered on the creepy at Leicester Services as Craig Holmes was forced to pull away quickly from a tourist who was staring through the window just a little too long.
Tournament organisers must’ve thought that we’d taken a wrong turn on the way to a hippie revival convention, but upon arrival the full squad met up and immediately started asking when the rain would stop. The team was led by Robyn Hillyard who did a great job as captain throughout the day.
The first match was against the Nottingham Brewers, but it was the Diamonds who started the tournament in top form – Sam Gibson’s great hit a real highlight. A good team performance led to a 15-5 victory, leaving the Brewers staggering around dazed, looking for the nearest alehouse. MVPs were Cathy Ford and Carl Billson, with pitcher Craig Holmes close behind. The game also saw the return to tournament action of Leah Holmes, who has recovered from a serious knee injury. Paul Severn was the lucky player to be next to her in the outfield as she threatened to spontaneously combust through excitement.
The second game against the Nottingham Rebels was a closer affair with Robyn Hillyard doing a great job pitching in blustery conditions. Cathy Ford made a tremendous catch in left field from the first pitch of the game. Chloe Love, who was designated hitter in game one, got into the action by having a ball ping off her helmet as she ran to first base. Pumped up for the game, she high-fived so hard it bruised Leah Holmes’ palm. The game turned on a huge flyball which was tracked down by Paul Severn in the outfield. He caught the ball with a full length dive, but came crashing down like a felled Californian Redwood and the ball agonisingly popped out. The Diamonds couldn’t fight back and the pesky Rebels won 8-4.
Next up was a must-win against the Leicester Royals. Again, it was a good performance by all – the highlight being some cheeky base-running by Richie Murray (what a surprise) and Chloe Love. The Diamonds won 15-11, with Chris Flynn getting MVP, along with DH Robyn Hillyard – her batting so impressive it didn't matter she spent most of the match sat in a camping chair. She’s that good.
The win meant that the Diamonds topped the group and faced B-Grade team, the Sheriffs of Nottingham in the semi final. Despite being underdogs, the Diamonds invoked the spirit of Kevin Costner, to leave the Sheriffs raging like Alan Rickman in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Paul Costello was giving everything for the cause, with at least two spectacular full-length slides on the bases to keep the Diamonds’ hopes alive. Leah Holmes made some great catches in the outfield and Cathy Ford was given a nasty leg bruise by an off-target throw – only later to be hit in the face by a junior softball thrown by James Reynolds on the sidelines.
The Sheriffs won 12-8 and the day was over for the Diamonds. Some really outstanding performances included Leanne Reynolds making a number of fine outs on second base, and Carl Billson who throws so far the ball goes into orbit before landing perfectly at home plate.
Finally, congratulations to Milton Keynes league players Rachael, Nikita and Sophie Shkurko who won the tournament playing for the Dodgers.
Well done all, a great day out – and if you want to take part in a future tournament, check out our full schedule.
From left to right:
Back row - Paul Severn, Richie Murray, Paul Costello, Craig Holmes, Chris Flynn, Carl Billson
Front row - Sam Gibson, Cathy Ford, Chloe Love, Leanne Reyolds, Robyn Hillyard, Leah Holmes