Two young Bundaberg softball players are heading to Canada in the Australian Diamonds team with the international competition opening pathways to Olympic selection.
Brothers United’s Chelsea Zunker, 17, and Across the Waves’ Hannah Leggett, 18, were both named in the Under 18 Aussie Diamonds development team when it was announced by Softball Australia earlier this year.
The athletes selected in the Under 18 team will participate in the Canada Cup, alongside the Aussie Spirit team and the Spirit Development team.
The Bundy duo were selected following after their team won the National Championships undefeated.
The Aussie Diamonds Development Tours provide emerging softballers aged 12 to 19 with an insight into what to expect at an elite level.
This month the Aussie Diamonds head overseas to compete at the Canada Cup Futures Tournament from June 20-26.
While they’ve both represented their state, this is the highest level of selection for both girls and Hannah said it meant the world to her.
“I literally was lost for words, I think I was crying for like an hour when I found out,” Hannah said.
“It's really important to me because my goal is the Olympic team.
“And now that all this new program has come in with Softball Australia … my hopes are high.”
A skilled outfielder, Hannah recently transitioned from right-handed to left-handed batting which she said had already made her more confident around the diamond.
“I hope to aim for the next [Olympics], but I have a lot of work to do because I've just transitioned to left-handed.
“I still have one-two years before I actually like start hitting properly left-handed, so it feels natural.”
Aussie Diamonds softball experience a first
Chelsea, who is a pitcher, is looking forward to the experience she will gain at the Canada Cup – including her first overseas flight!
“I think I have a pretty good rise ball, which is pretty effective when it's working well and my speeds kind of differ, which can throw batters off,” Chelsea said.
“I just want to learn a heap of new stuff and kind of get closer with all the other girls from the other states.”
Hannah was also looking forward to observing a higher level of game play at the Aussie Diamonds international softball event.
“In America, softball is really big and I'm hoping to study the game in a more technical way over there,” Hannah said.
“It's just amazing knowing you're going over there and there's all these like USA coaches and athletes and Olympic players that we're going to be versing, let alone, like, playing with, which it just blows my mind every time I think about it.”
Both girls have participated in different sporting codes throughout their lives.
For Chelsea, a strong family connection led her to softball.
“My whole family has played, they play softball on my mum's side,” she said.
“I've played a heap of other sports before I came to softball and I don't know why, because I didn't stick with any of them.
“But for some reason I stuck with softball.
“And maybe it's just in my blood, I guess.”
Hannah and Chelsea agreed that the local softball community played a role in seeing them both play locally for more than 10 years.
“I think everyone's just very supportive, very understanding of everything,” Chelsea said.
“And even with getting us over there, we've had raffles and fundraisers and everyone's just been so helpful to help us get over there.”
Hannah said she’d played other sports but nothing beat the atmosphere of softball.
“It's a more accepting community here, which I fell in love with at like ten years old.
“And that's probably why I kept playing.”
It’s that supportive atmosphere which made the transition from opponents to teammates easy for the pair.
“We were always teammates for rep teams like leading up to club so I think it's actually more weird playing against each other than it is playing together,” Chelsea laughed.
“I can stand in the batter's box and Chelsea can be pitching to me and I could just literally just give her a smile and she smiles straight back,” Hannah added.
“[Even then] we're not ‘versing’ each other, we're playing with each other.”
They’re not the only Bundaberg names to make the selection list, with local police inspector Anne Vogler named as the Under 18 Aussie Diamonds softball coach for the Canada Cup.
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