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Savanna's Fennell twins make their mark on the diamond
Blink and risk forgetting which sister is which.
Shyanne and Sierra Fennell look so much alike, it’s nearly impossible to keep them straight at first meeting. The numbers on their softball jerseys help – Shyanne wears No. 21, Sierra wears No. 26 – along with remembering that Sierra is wearing a large bow through her visor.
The Fennells’ laugh is the same – low in tone and youthful. Their posture – legs crossed, arms intertwined, reserved – is, as well.
Their build, their hair, their complexion – all the same. The similarities are eerie, really.
The identical twins are the middle children of a quartet. They have an older sister and a younger brother, and baseball runs through their bloodline. Their father played decades ago, and the Fennell children inherited his love for the sport.
“People know our names already, which is crazy,” Sierra said.
“There’s never a dull moment,” Shyanne added.
The Fennells are battery mates; Sierra catches and Shyanne pitches.
They’ve spent years throwing to each other and sharing strategy. They made recreational all-star teams together and began playing travel ball three years ago, at age 12. Shyanne said their first team won a large tournament, triggering a desire to “see how much more we could win” together. They earned every roster spot on every team, Sierra said, and settled in comfortably among their peers.
“You’re more successful when you’re playing with girls who share your love for the sport,” Sierra said.
The Fennells live in Anaheim, near longtime Savanna coach Mike Willey. Before the sisters enrolled at Savanna, Willey said they attended one of his summer camps and saw a program steeped in tradition. They wanted to become part of it, Willey surmised.
Shyanne and Sierra made varsity last season – as did many of their classmates. Willey called the sisters “no-brainer” varsity selections.
Savanna in 2014 captured its 11th consecutive Orange League championship and went 26-3 overall, its best season in school history.
Shyanne pitched well behind Savanna ace Jezabelle Quintana, an All-CIF and a third-team All-Orange County honoree, while Sierra split time at catcher and first base, hitting .370 in 54 at-bats. They both earned second-team all-league laurels at season’s end.
“They’re driven,” said Willey, who in the spring graduated only one regular position player from his roster. “You don’t have to motivate them.”
Of all Willey’s compliments, perhaps the most flattering is that Shyanne and Sierra “look like college softball players,” even as sophomores.
They stand close to 6 feet tall in softball cleats and look strong. Their stature comes from their father, whose side of the family has comparable height and bulk. Willey said multiple high school coaches have told him they wished they had underclassmen that looked – and played – like the Fennells.
Shyanne and Sierra already are being recruited by major college softball programs. Shyanne said she wants to pursue a degree in biochemistry. Sierra says she wants to focus on sports medicine.
Willey lists UC Riverside and the University of Central Florida as their early frontrunners, though Willey thinks the sisters will be a package deal for whatever colleges ultimately offer them scholarships
“That’s a pretty good package,” he said.
The Fennells understand how far away college still is, though. For now, they remain focused on retaining Savanna’s No. 1 ranking in Division 6. The Rebels are unbeaten in 2015, landing just outside OCVarsity’s weekly ranking of the top 10 teams in Orange County.
“If we can be No. 1, then we can be last,” Shyanne said.
Willey said both girls have made leaps this season.
Shyanne spot started for Savanna her freshman year, and often recorded no decisions for her efforts. She pitched last season as though she had something to prove, Willey said, and began pitching defensively, afraid of making mistakes. She threw strikes, though, and worked fast. A reliable second arm.
Shyanne and Quintana pushed each other competitively last spring, competing for the same No. 1 spot. Quintana became an all-everything pitcher in 2014, but Shyanne held her own.
“We both proved ourselves last year,” Shyanne said. “We kept at it, and our relationship got stronger. We had something in common: pitching.”
Willey rarely has Sierra catch Shyanne, so in games last season when Shyanne pitched, Sierra either played first base or pinch hit.
This season, Sierra is playing regularly, primarily at first base, though she’s also splitting time with Delaia Valdez, Savanna’s starting catcher.
Willey has an embarrassment of riches this season, with Quintana, first-team all-league returners Celeste Rodriguez and Karlee Rivera and the Fennells anchoring a young, but experienced troupe.
Sierra called it “an honor” playing for Savanna. “I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”
“We’re keeping them grounded here,” Willey said. “High school softball shouldn’t be ignored with whatever else is going on. Shyanne and Sierra are fun, intelligent and communicate well. Their hard work is paying off.”
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