The 2023 WMSL season saw the two tightest finishes ever. Both divisions were decided by head-to-head records and across both divisions several of the placings were decided that way too, in Division 1, only 3rd and 4th place were decided on a clear points margin.
The weather also played a factor in extending Division 1 by 3 weeks, as teams worked hard fulfilling their programs, while for the second year in a row Division 2 escape the whole season unaffected.
The season also saw the league grow for the second season in a row. The newly formed Farnham Falcons entered Division 1, while the Bracknell Scorchers Yellow returned to the league in Division 2 after a year away. That brought the league up to 16 teams for the first time since 2018 and require a minor adjustment over the winter to balance the divisions to 8 teams each.
The main protagonists in Division 2 going into the season were the Rattlesnakes, relegated in 2021, and one of the leagues original founders, the Wildcats. However, it would be one of the divisions dark horses that would come through the pack to steal the limelight.
Division 2 started with strong showings from Rattlesnakes, Wildcats as well as Maidenhead Gladiators and Bracknell Scorchers Red. At the same time the division did unfortunately loose a team for the season as the BA Flyers found it impossible to field a regular team and pulled out the 2023 season.
The season very early on turned into a four-horse race. As we entered the last 5 games, that race became three as the Gladiators fell away, loosing 3 of those last 5. The Rattlesnakes and Wildcats trialed the Scorchers Red by a game entering the business end of the season and when both lost at the start of July to leave themselves 2 back with 4 to play, the title looked to have a new home. Things never run to form; the Scorchers Red chose the last month of the season to go on the worst run of the season. Defeat against the Rattlesnakes was a dent to their title hopes, but when that was followed by defeat to their sibling team, Scorchers Yellow, everyone dived into the results to look at the possibility of a head-to-head record finish. The Wildcats, meanwhile, had also closed the gap on the top. Their season ended when they also lost on the same night as the Scorchers Red. An inferior head-to-head against the Scorchers Red meant they needed the Reading Blue Bolts to do them a favour, however as the Rattlesnakes last game was schedule to be against the Flyers, they could not overtake them. The title would come down to the Blue Bolts v Scorchers game. Defeat for the Scorchers Red would have handed the title to the Rattlesnakes, but they triumphed to take the title by just 2 runs, the difference in the runs against between their two meetings. Elsewhere, the team that ended the season the strongest in either division was the Scorchers Yellow, losing only 1 of their last 8 games and one to watch for in 2024 for sure. That run propelled them up the table and on the final day pip the Gladiators by, you guessed it, head-to-head record. With the Flyers bottom, 7th place was taken by the Blue Bolts just behind the TV Hurricanes to complete out the 2023 division.
The Division 1 season saw the dominate teams from the last 5 years take second stage to two other teams. By the 3rd week of the season the table has a very surreal look with the top two from 2022, Reading Blue Sox and Maidenhead Titans, facing each other but as 7th and 8th placed teams. That slow start by the pair would eventually cost both and they would play each other in the last game of the season fighting for 3rd and 4th. The season overall was dominated by the Farnham Falcons and the Bracknell Scorchers Orange. Ironically the season would be decided by the first game of the season when they first met. After that meeting on May 2nd, both teams rolled through the league unbeaten until their reverse meeting in late June. That game ended in a draw and left the two teams just a single game apart. That was wiped out the following week as the Falcon blinked first and lost their first game. The Scorchers matched them until late July when they lost to the Jets to restore the Falcons lead. Going into the extended part of the season the Falcons held a game and head-to-head advantage over the Scorchers. That game disappeared on the last day of the scheduled season when the Falcons lost and the Scorchers won. It now was a case of who could hold their nerve. The rain affected part of the season meant the Scorchers had 1 game to make up while the Falcons had 3. When the Scorchers finished their campaign with a victory over Reading Blue Jays, the Falcons had to win all three of those games. Facing the top two from last season it wasn’t the kindest schedule you could have wished for. The Falcons eased past the Blue Sox in game 1. For the Blue Sox that result set up a possible decider for 3rd with the Titans should they lose to the Falcons, which in a very tight game they did. A final game against the Spartans turned into a championship party for the Falcons as they took that game and the title on their first season by 6 runs on runs against. The Blue Sox did face and beat the Titans to 3rd on points. Elsewhere, the Reading Blue Jay and Maidenhead Spartans had spent the season battling to avoid 8th. Both matched, bettered and lost out to each other in a ding-dong affair that saw both teams end the season with 3 wins in 5, only bettered by the top two in the same period. The result of that match was both made up ground on the BA Jets and overtake them to finish 6th and 7th respectively. The TV Typhoons first season back in the topflight was also a memorable one, having not won in 2021, they started the season with an away win at the Blue Sox, one of a double they did over them and 1 of 5 wins that saw them sit in 5th courtesy of their head-to-head record over the Blue Jay.
The 2023 season is in the books and if we get anything like this in 2024 it’s going to be another exciting WMSL Season.