By Jeremy McDonald
DALLAS, Ore.– There were only two Seniors playing on the Dallas softball team this year. Two friends who would come into the Dragon softball program and saw it come together as it did.
Zoe Whitlow remembers her and Madi Friesen’s freshman year with Dallas when Friesen slide into home against Silverton and Friesen chipping her tooth in the process. Friesen remembers hanging out with the Whitlow’s on Friday’s, having dinner with the family and the State Championship send-offs.
The duo had two such send-offs, their freshman and junior seasons as members of the Dallas softball team. The sport had brought the two friends together.
“We’ve been friends since middle but that really changed once we started playing softball together freshman year. We became pretty much inseparable during and after season and for the years to come. She’s definitely my best friend and I’m so grateful that softball brought us together,” said Friesen.
Coming into the program freshman year, the Dragon program had just came off an 19-9 season and reached the 5A Quarterfinals. Over the next three seasons, Dallas went 74-13 overall and 51-2 in the Mid-Willamtte Conference with back-to-back undefeated league seasons. 28-straight league wins during those 51 wins.
It was great softball said Whitlow.
“Not because we were so successful, but because of the players. We had it all, great defense, great hitting, and great pitching. (Head Coach) Brandi (Jackson) and all the assistant coaches really pushed us to become better every day in practice and in school,” said Whitlow. “They held us accountable for our mistakes, and encouraged us as a team which is something that made the Dallas softball program so successful. Seeing the program become what it is now is amazing.
“I’m disappointed about this year because I had some individual and team goals I wanted to accomplish. Knowing that Madi and I helped in a way to make Dallas Softball the program it is now is a pretty good feeling.”
The Dragons were mere days away from their season opener with Sherwood when the season first was halted and then came to an end all too soon.
For Friesen, she was coming off a broke bone that had knock her out of her Junior Season and was looking to get back to it as a Senior this Spring. The time in the dugout last year however, taught her what the sport meant to her while she stayed involved with the program in the meantime.
“It made me realize how much softball meant to me when I wasn’t able to be out there with my team. It was very mentally challenging all season but I knew that I had to be there for them and I wanted to still be a part of everything that I could,” Friesen started. “When I wasn’t able to be in the dugout after my surgery, I was still on the bleachers cheering them on and talking to them through the fence.
“I tried to be at every practice I could and helped load balls onto tees or into pitching machines and just tried to be involved and help out in everything I could. I think it mostly helped me realize that overcoming obstacles in life can be easier when you have people in your life that can take your mind off the bad things, and in this case, it was my team.”
Friday. May 22, 2020. It was supposed to be their Senior Night against Crescent Valley in what was suppose to be a promising year with the new faces in the circle, behind the dish and in the outfield.
It wasn’t meant to be sadly. But for the duo, the two friends, they know how much the last three years meant to them in helping putting the Dragons softball program on the map as they prepare for their next journey beyond High School.
“It’s incredible, knowing that we helped Dallas softball get on the map, it’s really quite an honor. I think the best part is that we did it individually, and together as a team. It wasn’t just one of us putting in all the work we did it together,” said Whitlow.
“Playing for Dallas was a very challenging but rewarding experience. From day one coming in as freshmen, the coaching staff told us their expectations and accepted nothing less no matter what grade level we were,” said Friesen. “Every season our coaches pushed us to be better than we were the season before and really focused on breaking things down and working through issues step by step with us.”
The energy in the dugout. Striving for each other for the goal of winning a softball game. The duo won’t forget the journey the program had brought them on and the hard work, determination and passion that they had in the meantime.
“I’m definitely going to miss Dallas softball and everyone involved, but it’s been incredible to see how much hard work, determination, and passion can do,” said Friesen.
“My favorite moment from playing at Dallas is really all of it, everything about it was just so fun and exciting, getting to play with the best group of girls and coaches, was amazing,” adds Whitlow.