By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary seniors Nadia Witt and Haley Ebner weren’t always good at softball.

According to the girls, they were actually quite bad.

McNary seniors Nadia Witt, above, and Haley Ebner (below), teammates since they were 13 years old with the Oregon Titans, will play on different college programs next year. (KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)

“I was so bad. It was rough,” Witt said, remembering her early playing days on the Oregon Titans as a nine-year-old. “Going up to bat, almost in tears because I knew I wouldn’t hit it. I didn’t play that much either. It was so sad. I don’t know why I didn’t quit but I didn’t.”

Ebner told a similar tale.

“I would walk up to the plate crying and dragging my bat every time because I just didn’t want to go up there,” Ebner said.

For Witt, the breakthrough came when she began hitting left-handed. Ebner just needed to open her eyes at the plate.

They both also had to mature.

“It’s a mental game so you can’t go up there already defeated,” Witt said.

Their coach with the Oregon Titans, Rick Muranaka, confirmed their story.

(KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)

“They were like the Bad News Bears,” Muranaka said. “There was times when they were crying and I had to console them and they’d come up and I’d give them a hug and say, ‘You can do it.’ I just kept building them up like I would my own daughter, and over time they started to get a lot better.”

On Wednesday, April 11, Witt and Ebner celebrated how far they’d come, announcing their college decisions to play softball at the University of California, Riverside and Eastern Oregon.

Ebner committed to Eastern Oregon in December of 2016.

Witt was originally going to play at Western Oregon but de-committed with the quest of joining a Division-I program. She signed her national letter of intent with Riverside in November.

“I just felt like I needed a change, a new environment, a new everything,” said Witt, who ultimately chose Riverside because of its location and the relationships she built with head coach Nikki Palmer and the current players she met.

McNary head softball coach Kevin Wise introduced the girls at the celebration in the school’s library.

“These two young ladies are two of the best that I’ve had the good fortune to coach and I’ve been doing this probably as long as they’ve been alive,” Wise said. “I’ve seen a lot of girls come through and they are not only the best athletes but two of the best kids that you will ever be around.”

Witt, who was voted Co-Greater Valley Conference Player of the Year last season as well as First Team All-State, hit .600 with four home runs, 14 doubles, 28 RBIs and 38 runs.

“It’s a treat to watch her,” Witt said. “She makes it look effortless.”

Ebner, who has played first base the past two seasons but will catch in college, was also voted to the All-GVC First Team last year after hitting .465 with two home runs, 30 RBIs and 33 runs.

“She is the smartest player that I’ve ever been around,” Wise said. “Anyway you can imagine, she knows the game and she’s like another coach on the field.”

Witt and Ebner won a conference championship as freshmen and then again last season as juniors.

Best friends, they’ve both enjoyed watching each other grow up and develop.

“Watching her (Witt) be the star of the show has been really fun for me,” Ebner said. “It’s just been a great journey and I’m excited to go on to the next level.”