CAPTAIN CLUTCH: Ludkin wins national champs for Queensland
SOFTBALL: Gladstone's Michael Ludkin is the toast of Queensland softball after guiding his Under-19s side to the Nox Bailey Shield at the National Softball Championships in Sydney.
Ludkin stood up for his state when it mattered the most, belting a home run in the seventh and final innings to see Queensland come from behind to defeat New South Wales 6-5 at the Blacktown International Sportspark on Sunday night.
The final featured the two best teams of the competition and Ludkin played a key role to get Queensland to second spot on the ladder after an epic battle against NSW in the major second-semi final.
Scores couldn't be separated at the end of the eighth innings, which meant a ninth was played and Queensland scored five runs to shut NSW out of the game in the ninth innings.
That win propelled Queensland into the final, although more drama would await Ludkin's side in the decider.
Scores were locked at 0-0 after two innings, but NSW began to target Ludkin's pitching and subsequently opened up a 3-0 lead after three innings.
Queensland scored in the fourth, only to see NSW score a further two runs in the fifth, giving them a four-run lead heading into the final innings after both teams went scoreless in the sixth.
Needing to score four runs to tie or five to claim victory in its final innings, Queensland had its back against the wall.
"When it was 5-1 everybody was a little anxious and worried," Ludkin said.
Queensland started the seventh with Jeremy Waters reaching first base on a NSW error, but lost Owen Thompson for its first out after he was struck out.
Shannon Goffer stepped up and was walked, moving Waters to second base and Goffer to first.
Then it was Sheldon Waller's turn, who struck his second ball over the right-field fence, which saw three Queensland batters cross home plate, taking the score to 5-4 NSW.
"When Sheldon put one over the fence we started getting really hyped up," Ludkin said.
"Ryschan (Thompson) then hit a safe hit to centre-field and I was up."
Facing Australian U19 pitcher Shaun Lanaghan, who was Ludkin's Aussie teammate last year, the Queensland skipper knew what to expect from the NSW pitcher.
"I was feeling calm and relaxed but always thinking in my head I'm going to turn hard on the first pitch and lucky enough he threw me an outside drop ball and I just went with it," he said.
"I just thought 'I'm going to swing hard at this first pitch' and I was lucky enough to make contact.
"It felt good off the bat, but I was also thinking if it's not going over I'm still sprinting.
"When everybody started cheering I thought 'oh thank God' - I didn't actually realise we'd won and thought we had another innings to go.
"Everyone was waiting at home plate and there was a huge celebration ... At the time it was an unreal feeling."
Gladstone has produced yet another national champion.
Michael Ludkin led Queensland to the Under-19 Softball National Championship for the second consecutive year with a thrilling 6-5 win against New South Wales.
Talking post match to Softball Australia, Ludkin was understandably ecstatic after a brilliant three-run shot in the seventh innings that secured victory.
See interview by clicking:
"It was just awesome hitting the runs and a beautiful moment," an emotional Ludkin said on the Softball Australia website.
"I came back in the last innings and that was amazing."
Earlier in the game, Ludkin had an ordinary start as the pitcher before the coach took him off the pitching mound.
But nerves turned to veins of ice when Ludkin was required to fulfill a childhood dream.
"I can't describe what I feel going through right now," Ludkin said.
"Just awesome, awesome feeling, awesome moment and won't forget this moment."
(Below is Ludkin's home run in the previous game against NSW)
Earlier in the championships, Ludkin played a key role to get Queensland to second spot on the ladder after an epic battle against NSW in the major second-semi final.
Scores couldn't be separated at the end of the eighth innings which meant a ninth was played.
Queensland scored five runs and shut NSW out of the game in the ninth innings.
Ludkin scored two runs and two RBI's and said that he will be pitching in the grand final which is something he has not done in the lead-up games.
Queensland's U19 women also took out the championships.
All scores can be found on Softball Australia website.