HERMISTON — Hermiston’s Bailee and Wyatt Noland have always been competitive.
Whether it’s with teammates, a parent’s legacy or themselves, the catchers ruled the plate this last year with the Hermiston softball and baseball teams. Only a year apart, the pair have grown up together in their respective sport and in competition.
Over what exactly?
“Over everything,” Bailee said.
The hyper-competitiveness these two exude has served them well as they orchestrated the defense in some battle-tested wins and even heartbreaking losses. The softball team returned to its winning ways for the first time since the 2015-16 season, and made it all the way to the quarterfinals before falling 11-8 to Lebanon. The baseball team, under first-year head coach Kevin Moore, showed potential despite finishing 7-17. Leading the group of promising Bulldogs were the Nolands.
Bailee, finishing her sophomore campaign, was named to the first team all-conference for the second consecutive year, and recently picked up second team all-state honors as a utility player. Wyatt, who will be entering his final year as a Bulldog, was also awarded a spot on the first team all-conference and second team all-state as a catcher.
Not only playing catcher, Bailee would also spend time in the circle pitching when Hermiston needed her to and would even take the infield for an inning or two — helping out whenever necessary. Her efforts on defense translated into a high-powered offense that moved her from the middle of the pack to either leading the team or closely following another teammate.
Bailee went 39-for-88 (.443), which was second behind team leader Sydney Stefani (.571) and one of only three batters above .400 on the season. She notched 39 hits and scored 25 runs, again following Stefani, and finished with a team-best 42 RBIs. Bailee also had one of the highest on base percentages (.469) and slugging percentages (.830).
“This season at practice I focused more on making myself better and hitting — I’d keep hitting and hitting until I’d get it right,” Noland said of her vast improvements, “and I just had more motivation this season than ever because I wanted to beat what I had done last year; that’s really my motivation for getting better.”
Bailee is one of the top players on a young squad that will return nearly their entire roster. It was the team’s youth that also lit a fire under Bailee.
“It did light a fire because freshman year I didn’t expect going in that I was going to get first team, but as soon as I did (I knew) next year I wanted to get the same exact thing or better,” she said.
Bailee succeed at that, and Wyatt followed. He had played catcher all of his life, along with Bailee, but last year found an open spot in the outfield as his cousin manned the plate. This season, it was Wyatt’s chance to get back into a position he loved and he took full advantage.
Wyatt was a calming force while Hermiston would cycle through pitchers, fighting pitch counts and some explosive opposing offenses. For Wyatt, it was all about focusing in and that served him well when it was his turn to hover the plate instead of squatting behind.
“Really, I just focused in,” he said. “I’m with Jordan (Ramirez) mostly every day and we compete against each other and try to make each other better. A lot to do with it was coach (John) Christy, I could really do any of it without him, he taught me a lot. I just want to thank him for that.”
That competitive drive and help from the coaching staff helped Wyatt to his best season in purple and white. Wyatt led the team with .447 average, on base percentage of .488 and slugging percentage of .645. He tied for team-best 14 RBIs with Ramirez and had the second-most runs (14), one behind Ramirez with a team-high 39 runs scored.
This summer, the two will be able to hone in their skills before preparing to face even tougher competition in the WIAA. But for the brother-sister duo it’s simply about enjoying the game they love, that they grew up on.
“I really started doing it because my dad always talked about how he played baseball and how he was really good at it and I always wanted to be as good as him out there doing it,” Bailee said, “and I just love the sport.”
Wyatt added, “I love it with all my heart and put everything into it.”