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2018 Regular Season Review - by Jon Reynolds

With just two games of the regular season remaining and the final standings all but confirmed, it seems like a good time to reflect on some of the highlights and stories of the season so far. We’ll also preview the exciting climax to the season that is the Milton Keynes Softball League playoffs!

The 2018 season has been played in a seemingly endless heatwave that’s had the elder members of the league reminiscing of the fabled Summer of ’76 and our Aussie players feeling a little more at home! It’s been so hot and dry for the past three months that it’s hard to believe that the MKSL season started with a waterlogged pitch and players rummaging through their wardrobes for thermal layers and waterproofs rather than sunglasses and sunscreen!

To say we’ve been blessed with some great softball weather would be an understatement and as the calendar flicks over into August, we’ve been treated to some great softball too with 19 games and over 500 runs already in the books. Records have been broken, milestones have been reached and we now know which three teams will battle it out to be crowned MKSL Champion for 2018.

Elsewhere in the league, the two remaining regular season games will coincidentally be a dress rehearsal for the placing games to be played on August 28th. The Double Ds take on the Praetorians next week with the winner securing a 6th place finish in the regular season standings and home advantage for the 6th place playoff game. The DDs got off to a tough start losing their first three games before finally snapping a 5-game losing streak that dated back to last season by roughing up the Lakers by a score of 26-6. The results don’t necessarily reflect the progress the Praetorians have made in their second season and they will hope to end their search for a win in 2018 with these two upcoming games against the DDs.

When the fixtures were first released in March, Rhinos vs Hornets was a game that many people immediately looked for, and not just in the Reynolds household! Being the final game of the season, many also assumed it would be an intriguing finale and critical to deciding the final makeup of the playoffs. Little did we know then that last year’s finalists would both struggle to make a real impact on the league this season.

The injury-ravaged Rhinos were still in the hunt until the Lakers beat the Oddsox this week, but relying on other results to go your way is never a position you want to be in. Now they face each other on the 14th with only pride at stake. The Hornets have never finished a season with a losing record, and the reigning champs would surely like to keep that record intact. For the Rhinos, defeat would mark a sharp decline from the 5-1 table-topping performance of 2017. That said, there have been some highlights for both teams along the way. The Hornets became the first team to reach 300 runs scored in regular season games and are currently tied with the Tigers as the only teams to have won 10 regular season games all-time. Meanwhile the Rhinos became the fastest team to reach 200 runs scored, doing so in only their 10th ever game.

Playoff Preview

The MK Oddsox have surprised everyone, including themselves, to take top spot in the regular season standings with a 5-1 record. The newly created team features a number of players who were new to softball for this season, and they’ve steadily grown in confidence as they put together a five-game winning streak that featured three consecutive one-run wins. That represents the longest winning streak in a single season in MKSL history and they became the first team to secure three one-run wins in the same season too. They go straight to the grand final on September 4th where they’ll have home field advantage against either Towcester Tigers or Willow Lakers and will seek to become the first 1st place team to win it all!

The Lakers secured their place in the playoffs with a narrow victory over the Oddsox this past week. One of the league’s original four teams, this is the first time the Lakers have qualified for the playoffs and means they have improved with each season finishing with a 4-2 record (they were 2-4 in 2016 and 3-3 in 2017). For the Tigers, it will be their 2nd consecutive appearance in the playoffs having narrowly lost out to the Hornets in a replay in 2017. They currently boast both the best offence and defence in the league and their recent draw with the Rhinos means they’ve been involved in all three tied games in MKSL history.

Whatever happens in these upcoming playoff games, it’s been another fantastic season of softball in Milton Keynes, and history will be made. The Hornets are currently the only team to have ever won a playoff game and of course, the only team to have lifted the MKSL trophy. A new champion will be crowned on September 4th!

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