Friendships formed in face of rivalry
By Jennifer Halley
POLK COUNTY -- Throughout the summer, playing side-by-side in the West Valley Herricanes, they consider themselves family.
During spring softball season, the girls become competitive rivals from Dallas High School and Central High School.
Which makes those high school rivalry games all that more interesting.
The Herricanes is a club sport softball summer team that serves girls from the Willamette Valley, ages 6 through 18, most of whom are from the Dallas and Monmouth areas.
The team is a way to get girls involved in softball, and to grow the high school softball programs.
It also serves as a fast track for friendships – regardless of whether or not you’re on the rival team during the regular season. For the summer that they play together, the girls are a tight-knit group, their competition against one another forgotten. Instead, they compete side-by-side.
This year, five of the girls who have played on the Herricanes for multiple years are graduating from high school and moving on to college, two from Dallas and three from Central.
It’s bittersweet for these girls.
“We felt like family,” Peyton Shimanek said, one of the seniors graduating this year. She has only been on the Herricanes for a few years, but she said she formed fast friendships with all of the girls.
“It was a big family; we won a state championship in 16U,” Aunika Farley said, which is the 15-16 age group team. Farley has been playing on the team since she was 12 and will graduate in June.
Once the spring softball season comes around, that family dynamic the girls are a part of shifts.
“I think we’re still really competitive toward each other,” Shimanek said, “and you still wanna win no matter what, but it’s, like, when you see them get on base you wanna also cheer for them.”
Win or lose, the girls still support each other.
“It doesn’t change the relationship, but it feels worse of a loss to us when we’re losing against people we were so close with,” Farley said.
Erin Cole is also a senior who has played on the Herricanes since she was 12.
Emily May and Jayden Wynia, from Dallas, have also played on the team since their youth.
“It was just a way for us to build our program for high schools, and so we just started off small and worked our way up,” May said.
She said she has played with Shimanek and Cole for a long time, and that getting to play against them in the spring season was an interesting aspect to the relationships they all formed with one another.
Wynia said facing them like any other opponent is the easiest way to play the rivalry game without any emotions attached.
“You kinda wanna forget about it, and just play your hardest, and not act like you’re friends,” she said. But at the end of the day, there is always support for one another, Wynia said.
May added: “It’s always a little awkward towards the end, when we’re saying good game, but we’re friends in the end so whenever it’s done we still have closeness with each other.”
A home run in the final inning took the Dragons (19-0, Mid-Willamette Conference 25-0) from lagging behind to finishing out their third rivalry contest against the Panthers (15-4, MWC, 19-6) with a win, 4-3.
Dallas came away with five hits and one error, total, for the game. The Panthers had six hits and five errors.
The first inning of the Polk County rivalry saw zero runs for both teams, and in the second inning, the Dragons jumped ahead by their first run.
In the fifth inning, the Panthers posted two runs, and belted out one more in the seventh before the Dragons pulled up to finish the game with three runs in the final inning, including a home run from Emma Classen.
Mariah Hyre smacked a double and a triple, and had two RBIs. Kassidy Noon, Allison Wells and Erin Cole each laced a single.
The Panthers came out strong throughout the game, putting up a tough defensive side that kept the Panthers from scoring for most of the game.
So how does the No. 2 team prepare to go up against a team who is undefeated?
“You prepare to compete,” Central head coach Kendra George said. “(Dallas is) a very talented team (all around) so we knew we needed to bring our best game. Unfortunately, we made some mistakes that Dallas was able to capitalize on, especially in the seventh inning.”
Getting in the right mindset is important, too.
“Pitching (for Dallas) is a lot different than most the teams in our league, so that’s a little more to prepare for,” Hyre said. “She’s faster, she’s got a lot of spin on her ball but I think its more of a mental prep than anything, especially since we’re big rivals.”
This was the first rivalry game where the Panthers took the lead; whether or not this would be the Dragon’s first loss of the season was a question that hung palpably in the air throughout the game.
“I think we came out a little bit timid, playing on our toes,” Dallas head coach Brandi Jackson said. “We were on our heels in the sense that we didn’t play the way that we have the ability to play. However, on the flip side, I couldn’t have been more proud. All year we haven’t been in a situation to come back from, and I was kind of nervous about when that time would come, if we would be able to play under pressure and execute, and so it’s nice to be able to see.”
Wednesday, the Dragons play an endowment game on their home field against West Salem at 5 p.m.