Prep softball: Eskelson sisters set pace for Olympus
Haylee Eskelson admits it's slightly irritating having her older sister, Niki, as a teammate.
But she readily acknowledges that nothing can beat the camaraderie and pure joy that comes from playing with a sibling.
"It's fun, but sometimes it gets annoying having to do what she says," Haylee said about her sister. "I always have someone I can talk to. It's going to be weird next year because there won't always be that person I can talk to or who understands the way she does. I like having her on my team."
The Eskelsons are a big reason why Olympus' softball team is making noise in Region 7 ahead of the state tournament. Haylee, a sophomore, was 4-2 in the circle entering the week, while Niki, a senior, was 2-2. Haylee had one double, while Niki had four doubles and a triple at the plate.
After a lackluster preseason, Olympus opened region with a 4-1 victory over rival Murray then outscored West Jordan and Skyline 21-1. The Titans were just 6-6 overall, but more importantly, 2-1 in region play entering the week.
"It's been a little up and down, but I feel we're starting to gel together now," Titans coach Cyndee Bennett said. "We're making good strides now in getting used to playing with each other. We're putting it all together."
Meanwhile, the Eskelsons are beginning their second high school season together. Niki is a four-year varsity player, while Haylee is coming off a solid freshman campaign. Niki is a corner infielder when she doesn't pitch, while Haylee plays up the middle, providing a little extra sisterly support.
"It's super fun playing with her because we work very well together," Niki said. "When we have a problem, I know how she works and what type of player she is. She can come in for me [to pitch], and I can trust her. We talked about playing together all the time growing up. Now she'll be taking my spot next year."
Despite a two-year age difference, the sisters occasionally played on the same youth team when Haylee would be called up to fill a position on Niki's team. The experience of playing with older players made Haylee more comfortable once she arrived at Olympus and immediately stepped into the circle.
"When you come in as a freshman, you don't know what to expect," Bennett said. "There's always a big jump from your freshman to sophomore year."
Bennett says the Eskelsons act as the perfect coach for each other.
"They're great teammates and help each other out," Bennett said. "They know what the other person needs to be successful. If I get on them, the other one picks her up. They talk to each other before I have to. I have 100 percent confidence in both of them. I don't distinguish between the two. A lot of times it comes down to what combination of defense we put behind them."
While things aren't always peachy-keen between the sisters, Niki said they are determined to make their team successful on the diamond.
Both sisters also excel at the plate. Niki is the power hitter, leading the team in home runs last season, while Haylee hits for a high average. In the circle, both have solid control and hit their spots consistently, Bennett said.
Things indeed will be different next season, when Niki departs for Concordia University in Nebraska and Haylee returns for her junior year.
"I'm going to miss having her on the team," said Haylee, who aspires to play at Stanford or BYU. "It's going to be different."