By Gary Anderson

A new women's baseball league has been launched in Newcastle, New South Wales in Australia ©WBSCWomen's baseball in Australia has been boosted by the launch of the Newcastle Women's Baseball League (NWBL) which will see four teams taking part in a six-week competition.

The four teams will represent Toronto, Belmont, University and the All-Stars - a team made up of players from Tamworth, Kempsey, the Central Coast and Hunter clubs in the Newcastle region in New South Wales - and will see players taking part in an all-female competition that organisers claim has been set-up in response to growing demand for more opportunities for young girls and women to participate in sport.

"The World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) fully commends Newcastle Women's Baseball League and Baseball Australia on this major development," said WBSC President Riccardo Fraccari.

"This is a key indicator that the reach of baseball and softball disciplines continues to expand globally and break new barriers, particularly among young people and women.

"Baseball and softball's global stakeholders are heavily invested in not only expanding our sport's global footprint but deepening it to build more accessible and attractive pathways to drive young people and women to our sport."

Three members of the Australian women's national baseball side, the Emeralds, hail from Newcastle - Brittany Hepburn, Stephanie Gaynor and Mindy Latimer.

The NWBL will see four teams taking part in competition over a six-week period ©WBSCThe NWBL will see four teams taking part in competition over a six-week period ©WBSC

Although they will not be taking part in the competition which is open to all players, due to other playing commitments, Hepburn welcomed the launch of the new league.

"It's a fantastic opportunity for the girls who have never played baseball or want to continue to develop their games," said Hepburn.

"I would have loved it as a kid.

''Women's baseball is getting more noticed and it's a credit to the older girls who paved the way for us.

"It's one small step in the right direction, and hopefully baseball can be one of the top sports in Newcastle."

Baseball Australia hope, that as well as providing more opportunities for women to get involved in baseball, the new league will also serve as a potential launch pad for girls in the region to strive towards following in the footsteps of Hepburn, Gaynor and Latimer and represent Australia.

The Emeralds are one of eight teams set to take part in the Women's Baseball World Cup in Miyazaki, Japan, due to take place from September 1 to 8.

Australia claimed the bronze medal at the 2010 edition in Maracay, Venezuela, and finished fourth last time out in Edmonton, Canada, in 2012.

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