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SA Women ready to tackle the best
South Australia returns to Women's National Championships
04/12/2017 10:48 PM ET
Julie Wadham and Sarah McMahon during a trial match ahead of the Women's National Championships.
Julie Wadham and Sarah McMahon during a trial match ahead of the Women's National Championships. (Baseball SA)

South Australia returns to the Women's National Championships after a two year absence, where the Open side will take on the best of the best in Australia.

The roster brings a mixture of experience and youth, however there are plenty of familiar faces on the team from previous tournaments. Leading the group is a new face, though, in former Adelaide Bite player, Landon Hernandez, who has been involved in the SA Women's Baseball League from day one.

"It's been really good to see the improvement of the girls from starting from scratch in a new league to putting together a state team and just teaching them new plays they had never played, whether coming in new to the game or from softball," Hernandez said.

In the team, one of the most experienced is Julie Wadham. She has witnessed the highs and lows of women's baseball and praised the dedication to getting this team together again.

"We have had a few state teams in the past and in the past few years we have seen a push to dedicating resources to the team and having our own league and that's been the real difference compared to ten years ago," Wadham said.

"We've got some coaches that are really dedicated and want to see us make a successful league. A part of that is making sure people keep coming back and are developing."

One of the youngest is 16-year-old Sarah McMahon, who moved to South Australia from New South Wales where she played growing up.

"There's a lot of opportunities there [New South Wales], South Australia's slowly getting there and it will get better," McMahon said.

"I know some of the girls on the New South Wales teams' too so that'll be interesting, it's always good to verse your friends."

Behind the scenes, Baseball SA has passionately been working to get the local competition and state team into a strong position, and one of the main women behind that, Bianca Smith, was also rewarded with a spot on the team after returning to the sport from softball.

"I started playing baseball in Primary School but being a girl I got pushed into playing softball so I've played softball most of my life," she said.

"But now that South Australia has the Women's League together I'm back playing baseball and excited to be going on my first State trip. That's been really good to work with baseball and play as well, it's just a dream job and I love it."

There has been plenty of love inside the team as women, and girls, of all abilities have come together to rebuild the pathway to representative baseball. Hernandez is confident of success.

"The challenge is just staying within ourselves," he said.

"We have some talented girls, we just have to take care of the baseball; field the ball and throw the ball. As long as you execute you'll be fine and as long as we throw strikes without giving up extra bases, or even free bases, that's all we need."

The team is remaining grounded ahead of the tournament with many thankful on another chance to play at this level, including Kylie Marshall, who has also seen the Women's League grow from four to six teams.

"I'm an older statesperson on the team so to be able to get the opportunity to have a crack at something I enjoy playing, and who knows how long I have left, is really exciting," Marshall said.

"There's definitely been a massive improvement in the quality. We increased the number of teams to start with and a whole new bunch of people came in with some great skills."

"It was a big change to go from teaching people what a ball was to actually having people coming in who had played before and the quality and skills of the league were significantly higher."

Facing the experienced powerhouses of New South Wales, Western Australia and Victoria will be a welcomed challenge for all, and Hernandez is crossing his fingers so he can guide the team to a strong finish.

"I know we can compete with them all but being my first year at Women's Nationals I'm not too sure how we're going to stack up - hopefully we don't finish last," he said (with a laugh).

With an eye on the future, Wadham is also excited about the next chapter of Women's baseball and she knows, regardless of results, this is a step towards a brighter future.

"It's really good this year to see a bunch of new girls that haven't played before," she said.

"That's what really excites me… It fills me with hope that in the coming years we will strengthen and this is just the first year of consistent participation in the National Championships."

You can keep up with the team on Facebook or Instagram (@sawomenbaseball) or follow the live scoring at Baseball Australia. South Australia's campaign begins on Saturday morning against New South Wales.

This story was not subject to the approval of the Australian Baseball League or its clubs.