Home run for the Australian Youth Championships
On Saturday 20th April 2019, Narrabundah Ballpark was abuzz with excitement. Down on diamond three, girls from the New South Wales and Queensland teams were throwing pitches and swinging bats in preparation for the finals.
It is the final day of the Australian Women’s Baseball Youth Championships in Canberra. Teams from New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia and Indonesia are all competing for the title. Players in the teams are all under the age of 15, which is quite astonishing when you see the skills the players possess. The Youth Championships have been going since 2012, and New South Wales have won six titles, having lost last years championship game.
The week-long event sees the teams play every day, some even twice a day, as they gain crucial match experiences while aiming to make it to the gold medal match.
But for these young athletes, it’s more than just about clinching the title.
“I believe it is important for any youth athlete to be able to compete at a youth National tournament. It is probably the first exposure the players will have to competing at this level against the best players across the country. I think it is possibly even more important for our youth women to get to play on the national stage,” tournament director Matt Hosie said.
For the Indonesian team, it was their first time competing at the Youth Championships. Indonesian assistant coach Dharjanto Trisno stressed the importance of being able to compete, and the benefits the teams get out of a tournament like this.
“The game isn’t all about winning, it’s also about how to learn sportsmanship and how to learn the skills. Some might say that baseball is only for men, but here we get the chance to show that baseball can also be played by girls. This is important because it shows girls that they can have the same opportunities as boys and maybe an even better future than them.”
Judging by the final, the future of women’s baseball looks bright indeed. New South Wales were ahead 11-5 with one innings to play before Queensland staged a mighty comeback. They fell just short, with NSW prevailing 11-10.
New South Wales pitcher Emma Wallace was proud of her team’s efforts.
“It was a tough match against Queensland, kudos to them for coming back but just great work from the girls and everyone, keeping calm even though it was touch and go there,” she said.
“This is my last year, so it’s great to finish like this. It’s a great bunch of girls we’ve got and they are just lovely people. This tournament is so important and baseball is a great sport. Girls, boys, combine them both and we are good!”
For some of the girls, like Wallace, this is the last year they are able to compete in the Youth Championships. But as one door closes, another opens. Coinciding with the Youth Women’s event during the week was the Open Women’s Championships event, which attracts the best female baseball players in Australia. By having another national event open to any age, it provides further opportunities for younger girls to continue playing baseball and compete with the best.
Tournament director Hosie believes having these tournaments are vital for baseball to continue to grow and provide opportunities.
“As far as I am concerned baseball is the best game in the world. Females have been playing baseball for many years, so I am not sure it is emerging, rather continuing to grow. I believe this National event attracts players that want to excel in their chosen sport and to send the message about how great the game is.
“I thought the youth event was a fantastic spectacle. The game was played in a great spirit and all teams should be proud of their achievements. I am proud to have been involved in the running of the youth event.”