During these days, Australian softball has reached the point of the season, when the champions are determined. Women's National Championship was scheduled for the beginning of January, but adjustments had to be done because of rain.

Thanks to four outstanding players, European softball also has its representatives in the Championship “down under”. Australian Capital Territory Diamonds accepted two players from Italy; Greta Cecchetti and Ilaria Pino. Both have been a long-time members of the Italian national team. Two more European stars also took part in the Australian competition - Netherland's national team players Saskia Kosterink and Britt Vonk. Saskia plays for Western Australia Flames and Britt for Queensland Heat.

Ilaria Pino had spent 15 years playing for team Italy and she played for Legnano in the Italian league. Her Australian experience has started four years ago, when she first came to play for ACT. She got the offer to play there after some of the Australian players had came to Legnano to step up the competition. Ilaria was very kind to share even more about her Australian experience: „I have also had the opportunity the last two years to be able to work for softball ACT in a development position“.

(photo from Ilaria's archive)

If you followed this year’s European Championship, you must agree that inviting Greta Cecchetti to pitch for the ACT Diamonds was a reasonable choice. Greta has been a national team regular for years, but this year, she pitched a tournament of a lifetime and led her national team to the absolute European top. We spoke to her briefly about the experience: "This wasn't my first time in Australia, I came over in 2013 and played my first Australian National Championship in 2014. I've always wanted to visit Australia and after four years of college in the USA I was contacted by Bob Harrow (former coach and Softball legend) to come play for ACT. I knew a lot of Australian girls who played in Italy before, so that made it easier. Last year I was meant to come over but had some issues with my visa so I couldn't come, and this year I was asked to come again by Softball ACT. Playing nationals in Australia is an amazing experience - there are a lot of differences from the Italian league, I think the biggest one is the level of the competition which is a lot better in Australia. This kind of experience allows players like me to play against some of the best players in the world and learn from them. In the Australian championship there aren't any weak team as there are in European competitions; any team can beat you here, so you always have to be on top of your game, you can never relax and waste a pitch or waste an at bat an this is what makes you improve."

(photo by Dirk Steffen)

Western Australia Flames looked for their relief player in the Netherlands - Saskia Kosterink was their choice. We asked her about her experience in Australia, that has actually started four years ago: „In 2012 I received an email from Carine Cats if I wanted to come out and help their first team. I always wanted to go to Australia so the decision was made pretty quickly. The regional competition is pretty much the same as the hoofdklasse in the Netherlands, but the National competition is a whole different level. In this competition, the best players from each state compete against each other. I love this week of Softball because you will play and see lots of good softball.“  

(photo by Dirk Steffen)

Another player from the Netherlands, national team’s shortstop and second baseman – Britt Vonk –  came to Australia to help out the team from Queensland, the Heat. Britt spent her university years in the United States and played for California Golden Bears. This year, it was the first season she’s spent playing in Australia.

(photo by Dirk Steffen)

In the end, Britt was the one who celebrated the most important win in the Australian Women’s Championship and won the Gilley's Shield and took the title. Vonk's performance earned her the Best Batter Award and she was named the All-tournament Team shortstop, as well. The Championship was streamed live and the video is available here

Now it is the youth championship's turn and the last title will be given out in the beginning of March to one of the men's teams.

-Helena Novotná-