The Henderson sisters are living the dream, playing key roles for California's No. 1-seeded softball team, which opened the Women's College World Series on Thursday afternoon with a 5-3 win over LSU at Hall of Fame Stadium.
Jolene, a junior right-hander who committed to the Bears when she was a freshman in high school and Danielle was in sixth grade, improved to 37-2 with the win on Thursday. She'll face Oklahoma ace Keilani Ricketts in a winners' bracket final Friday night.
Danielle, a freshman third baseman, has 15 home runs with 45 RBIs. She was 1-for-2 on Thursday.
“They're passionate,” said their mother, Mickey. “They've worked so hard. They've earned what they've always wanted to do. They've always protected each other's back.”
Danielle was in a group last year that drove from their Elk Grove, Calif., home to watch her older sister make her WCWS debut. The family trekked 26-straight hours back home after the Bears were eliminated.
“It was worth it to get to see her play in the World Series,” Danielle said. “I'm her biggest fan.”
Mickey said the sisters seldom squabble and have been bonded by softball since they were toddlers.
Their father, Joe, purchased a house with five acres when the girls were young. He constructed a family softball field at their home, which hosted dozens of practices he orchestrated as coach of Danielle's junior teams.
“All the Lady Magic's players' parents helped build the field,” Joe said. “It's super rewarding to see two sisters truly enjoy playing on the same team. Those years they weren't on the same team, they missed each other. They're so comfortable with each other and their teammates.”
A traveling softball family, the Hendersons spent summer after summer driving to tournaments around the country.
When Jolene and Danielle were teammates, everyone traveled together. When they played on separate teams, Mom went with Jolene while Dad coached Danielle's teams.
The Henderson girls found ways to break the monotony, too. With rain pelting down and the junior national softball tournament on hold, Jolene and Danielle Henderson were stuck in their hotel room. So they flipped the mattress on its side against the wall. They then moved a lamp to a corner and started playing Wiffle ball.
In another instance, Danielle caught Jolene on a Miami beach during a layoff at a national junior's tournament. Jolene then rolled Danielle grounders across the sand.
Sisters in the WCWS
Five pairs of sisters are participating in the Women's College World Series.
Kelse and Lindsey Chambers (Clayton Valley, Ore.) — Lifelong Ducks fans, the senior twins are living the dream by helping Oregon end a 23-year WCWS drought. Kelse, a shortstop, is hitting .303 and has scored 51 runs. Lindsey is a third baseman.
Ashlie and Courtney Goff (Tampa, Fla.) — Both are seniors. Ashli, an outfielder, is hitting .227. Courtney is a reserve pinch runner.
Danielle and Jolene Henderson (Elk Grove, Calf.) — Jolene, a junior, is the ace (35-2, 1.22 ERA) for the No. 1-seeded Bears. Danielle, a freshman third baseman, has 15 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Ella and Jamia Reid (Buena Park, Calif.) — Cal has two sister tandems. Jamia, the Bears' speedy center fielder, leads Cal in hitting (.385) and has 47 stolen bases. Ella is a reserve with seven stolen bases.
Ellen and Ivy Renfroe (Jackson, Tenn.) — Sister tandem are the Volunteers' aces in the circle. Ellen, a sophomore, is 27-4 with a 1.18 ERA and 276 strikeouts. Ivy, a junior, is 25-8 with a 1.73 ERA and 194 strikeouts.