NUMBER 33: Josh Routledge has been selected for the Australian Under-17 Softball team.
NUMBER 33: Josh Routledge has been selected for the Australian Under-17 Softball team. Cordell Richardson

Queensland didn't want him, so Josh made hay with WA

JOSH Routledge scrolls through images on his phone and pauses at a blurry video.

It's difficult to make out exactly what he's looking at, but Josh promises it's his softball bat - considered a top of the line model, and one which cost his parents a pretty penny.

There's a crack running through the centre. It's hard to pick out, because he's done a good job restoring it. But the crack is there.

These bats are meant to last for years. This one didn't make it 18 months.

But just like his mitt and his cleats - both showing signs of considerable wear and tear - Josh's bat has done the job he needed it to.

It's the price you pay to stay at the top of the junior game. And right now, Josh is at the pinnacle.

The Redbank Plains teenager will represent Australia on a tour of New Zealand in April, after helping Queensland to an Under-17 National Championships Title in Adelaide at the beginning of January.

The 17-year-old has previously pulled on the green and gold of Australia, but that was as part of a development squad.

This time, the stakes are higher. Perform well across the ditch, and a place in the squad for the Junior World Cup in March 2020 is there for the taking.

"Unreal” was all Josh could muster when reflecting on his selection.

Not because he was too overwhelmed by the news, but because he preferred to talk about something else.

About his non-selection for Queensland at the Under-19 National Championships and, more specifically, how he made his home state regret that decision.

Admittedly not expecting to crack the U19 Queensland side as a bottom-age player, Josh was still left disappointed when the news came through he would be a last-minute cut.

That news was tempered somewhat when he was told Western Australia needed a utility and he was their first call.

"It was weird. Playing for Queensland became normal, but being picked for another state it's like . . . damn,” Josh said.

"Queensland isn't win at all costs, but it's: 'you must execute, if you want to win you have to do this, this and this properly' whereas WA was, 'you're young, just do your best and enjoy it'. It was a lot more relaxed.”

Fast-forward to late January at the Blacktown International Sportspark, when an under-appreciated WA defeated Queensland 10-3 to rock the U19 carnival.

Josh accounted for six of those 10 runs.

Queensland returned the favour when the two sides next met, in an incredible 32-run match. But for Josh, winning was never the be-all takeway from his first foray into the U19 format.

"Try my best, and don't get out to Queensland,” he said of his two goals heading into the championships.

"I wanted to play for Queensland, but I was playing for WA.

"I had 12 at-bats against them and didn't get out once, which I was pretty happy about. I even pitched against them.

"I pitched against my own state at a national tournament, and I'm not even a pitcher.”

It was a watershed moment for Josh, who made even his biggest supporters at Softball Queensland see him in a different light. There was no bad blood for not being selected. But the talented teenager made certain to prove he was good enough to be there.

With all the highs of January, Josh has still stayed grounded.

He will turn out for Tigers in the Ipswich Softball Association A-Grade final this weekend.

After that, his attention turns to New Zealand - and a chance at further national honours.

What can Josh do to improve his chances of a Junior World Cup berth?

”Hit harder. The harder you hit, the harder it is to field," he said.

That poor bat.