By Jeremy McDonald
DAYTON, Ore.– It’s weird to think that this upcoming weekend would have been State Championship Weekend.
For Dayton, the only thing that had stopped them seeking their sixth-straight 3A State Championship appearance and tenth since 2002 was COVID-19. But even the virus couldn’t stop the Pirates from honoring five of their own Wednesday.
Dressed in their uniforms, the Pirate freshmen, sophomores and juniors created a half-circle in the infield. Around a home plate along the first base-line.
“We were always hyper in the dugout, we were always close friends. When we were on the field, no matter what happened off-the-field, we came together as a team and always supported each other and helped each other out in every way,” said Sofia Cicerone. “We put in a lot of hard work in practice. Three hours after school every single day and I think that hard work that other people may not see when it comes on the field, we look like a solid unit together.
“We played as one team and we don’t play as individuals.”
Well-oiled machine that had the Pirates knocking on State Finalist on an yearly basis. They saw the Rainier’s, the Clatskaine’s, the Scio’s come their way and they faced them with confidence that their hard work in practice will pay-off on game day.
One-by-one they came out. To their walk-up songs they had if they were walking up to the batter’s box.
Gracie Wauters came back from Sacramento. Zoe West followed as did Kennedy Shilhanek.
Shilhanek, one of the hero’s of Dayton’s 3-2 3A State Championship win against Rainier in 2018 with two run-saving catches in the outfield, had returned this year after taking last year off from softball.
“That was one of my proudest moments of High School definitely. It’s like a feeling of accomplishment, you have a job to go out there and I feel like in sports it’s common to either be satisfied or let down with your performance. But in that game, I definitely felt proud of definitely not just myself but my teammates playing it like our game,” said Shilhanek of the game.
“I was super excited to be back out here because I think being away from it definitely made me miss it more. Honestly it made me appreciate more going out on that big win at that win. It makes me look back at all those moments that would have gotten us here. That’s what made me think why it would’ve been important to play this year and it made me thankful for the journey rather than the destination.”
Anna Mullins was after Shilhanek Wednesday. For Mullins, being apart of this journey and being apart of a State Championship game meant everything for her after seeing it with her tournament team leading into it.
“It was everything to me, I’m so glad that I got to experience with a State Championship. Our tournament team got to watch each year so to be apart of the actual State Championship was like the best experience. I love all these girls so much, they’re all family to me,” said Mullins, who went 1-for-2 in her lone State Championship appearance last Spring.
Cicerone was the last Senior to be recognized. The four-year Varsity catcher had saw the joys of success and agony of defeat in the State game the last three years, growing as a person on-and-off the field and being a good leader through the program.
“Playing for Dayton is one of the best experiences. I love my tournament team, but this High School team is different,” said Cicerone. “All of us were like best friends on-and-off the field and we all connected at a deeper level than softball. I think that’s what made us a good team.
“I love that when we’re down in an inning, we’ll go back out there and we’ll fight the next inning. Rally our bats and our defense was always super strong. I really grew throughout High School and I felt like last year, not knowing it was going to be my last game, experiencing that with my team.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald