Softball

Baylee Douglass and Jessica Heese rekindle childhood bond as Syracuse transfers

Allie Wahl | Staff Photographer

Syracuse's team has gained two new players with fantastic team chemistry.

Baylee Douglass stood in the circle and watched as her best friend, Jessica Heese, entered the batter’s box. Earlier in the game, Heese knocked a home run off the starting pitcher. When Douglas took the circle, Lynn, her father, told her to hit Heese with a changeup to avoid pitching to her. After Heese drew a full count, Douglass drilled Heese with a fastball.

“Jess turned around at me and looked at me and threw the bat at me,” Lynn said of the summer league game, “I was like ‘I told her to hit you with a changeup.’”

Douglass and Heese spark each other. And for the first time in two years, they’re teammates at Syracuse (6-3). Through seven games, Heese is batting .273 with two RBIs. Though Douglass has struggled, allowing nine earned runs in just over seven innings, she remains in the rotation. They are two of four transfers Syracuse head coach Mike Bosch signed this year.

Douglass played two years at Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, where she earned Ohio Valley Conference Freshman of the Year honors in 2015. As a sophomore, she won 18 games with a 1.85 earned run average. Heese, meanwhile, finished 2016 at Southern Illinois-Carbondale with 27 RBIs and third in the Missouri Valley Conference with 14 doubles.

The competition between the two in high school turned into motivation and brought them closer. Douglass would often stay with Heese for several days at a time after making the near three-hour drive to Kansas City. Heese’s mother, Stephanie, said she barely knew that they were there. She said they were always out playing softball.

“Baylee would pitch, and Jessica would hit,” she said. “And they’d bring whoever else they could with them.”

Stephanie Heese remembered a tournament in which the pair played during high school. One cold morning in Athens, Georgia, they were playing against a team with a lot of future Power 5 players.

Douglass shut the opposition down. Hitters didn’t figure her out until it was basically over. Offensively, Heese ripped a triple down the right field line against an Alabama-bound pitcher. Yet both Douglass and Heese landed in mid-majors, where they continued to face each other during the regular season.

Besides the annual matchup against each other, the competition of mid-majors wasn’t enough. Douglass ripped through batters en route to a 2.04 ERA and Heese finished second on the team in RBIs and fourth in SIU history in single-season doubles. But both players realized their only chance at legitimate competition was to leave, with Douglass saying she urged Hesse to transfer.

Heese and Douglass moved across the country and found a home in Syracuse, where Heese starts in the outfield and Douglass pitches. On and off the field, the roommates stick by each other’s sides, whether on trips to Wal-Mart or dinner dates.

“We go on more dates than her and her actual boyfriend do,” Heese said.

Still, their competitiveness shines through. At summer ball, Heese would take more attempts hitting off of Douglass than anyone else, and she brought that to college. The loser does dishes. As fierce as they may be, the two are each other’s strongest support systems.

“It’s just fun having my best friend playing with me again,” Heese said.

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