Captaincy role steps Ludkin up to the plate
SOFTBALL: He bats, he pitches and he's team captain but Gladstone's Michael Ludkin is taking it all in his stride as he prepares for next week's Under-19 National Softball Championships in Blacktown.
The championships, which run from January 20-28, will be Ludkin's final major tournament on Australian soil at junior level.
Ludkin played for Queensland U19s at last year's championships, with the side aiming to defend its title after defeating New South Wales 8-2.
Queensland has kept the majority of its line-up from 2017 intact, although Ludkin said most teams had been able to do the same.
"It's probably the same majority of people who went last year so we'll be playing them plus younger fellas," he said.
"NSW is almost exactly the same. I reckon our team will go pretty good - when I went down for Queensland camp we trained, played games and won, which is the main thing."
Ludkin's responsibilities have increased this year with the 18-year-old taking on the captaincy duties alongside his already heavy workload.
"It's the first time I've captained U19s. I found out at the last training camp about two months ago," he said.
"I didn't expect it but it was definitely a good feeling.
"I'll definitely encourage the boys more but I'll just play how I play.
"I don't reckon it will be that much pressure but I'll see how I go and hopefully I play good."
A naturally gifted athlete with a genuine softballer's brain, Ludkin will bat at number four and is likely to open the pitching for the Queenslanders.
Being the number-four batter allows Ludkin to come in with batters already on base.
"The first couple of batters are the ones that usually get on base and three, four and five are usually the ones that score or try to score them," he said.
"I'm more of a safe hitter hitting into the holes but I usually get on base more than often and score the runs and not hit home runs."
Ludkin also has a large responsibility with the ball after Queensland's top pitcher was ruled out by injury.
"Usually there's two pitchers in one game - one starts and one closes," he said.
"Talking to my coach I think I'm going to be starting and then someone will come in and end it depending on how we're going in the game.
"If it's close I might stay on but it's up to the coaches what they want to do."
A place in the Australian side is up for grabs at the tournament, with the side set to travel to Canada in July for the World Championships.