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Stepping up to the plate

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Fleta Page

Kate Russell is the first ACT woman to represent Australia in baseball and is heading to the Phoenix Cup with the under 19 team.

Kate Russell is the first ACT woman to represent Australia in baseball and is heading to the Phoenix Cup with the under 19 team. Photo: Colleen Petch

Kate Russell resisted baseball for years, but having finally made the switch from softball four years ago, she is now the ACT's first representative on an Australian women's baseball team.

Russell, who plays for the Ainslie Gungahlin Bears, is in Hong Kong with the Australian under-19 team, contesting the Phoenix Cup which starts on Friday.

''My whole family's played baseball for as long as I can remember, but I played softball,'' the 18-year-old said.

''I think I just wanted to be different and softball is seen more as a girls' sport and baseball's more a boys' sport and I sort of wanted to play a girls' sport.

''Then I got injured [and], just as a bit of a comeback, I tried baseball on my sister's team and fell in love with the sport.''

Her sister, Eliza, is in the Australia under-23 squad along with Tuggeranong Vikings player Mikaela Eldridge, a promising sign for the local women's league, which they are helping to build.

''The Queensland, NSW women's leagues have been going on like 30 years - a long time … helping develop women's baseball in Canberra is really important to me,'' Russell said.

''To be so young and have a few girls already at the Australian level; it shows we have promise and potential with the league.''

Her selection in the Australian side came as a surprise, chosen on the back of her performance at the national championships last Easter.

''I honestly didn't even know there was going to be an 18 and under team chosen from it, so when I got an email in November it was a big surprise, saying I'd made the squad and that was awesome - let alone to make the final team.''

A utility player, Russell doesn't know where she'll fit in to the Australian line-up for the Phoenix Cup, this year being contested by seven teams from around Asia.

''I can play in any position on the field, I sort of float around,'' she said.

''I love playing everywhere - you get to try out something new every game and every training, not just doing the same thing over and over, so it's a new challenge.''

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