A sibling duo leans on family support to guide them to new heights on separate mounds for Papillion-La Vista High School.
As the legend goes, the duo’s journey begins about eight years ago when Hayden Bahl was 10 years old and his sister, Jordyn Bahl, was 8.
Hayden took the mound for his youth baseball team with Jordyn watching from the stands. That’s when dreams and goals started to take root in the younger Bahl.
“I started pitching when I was 8 and watching the girls on television throw and that’s what I decided I wanted to do after watching my brother pitch,” Jordyn said. “That’s how I decided I wanted to play softball.”
“It’s probably one of the closer families I’ve been around,” Monarch softball coach Todd Petersen said. “I’ve been around a lot of great families at Papio, but they’re one of the closer ones. They’ve got each other’s back. It’s cool to see that unconditional love and support for each other. You don’t always see that with families, but they don’t just say it, they live it.”
Those family values have followed them their entire lives, and in the eight years since Hayden, who is wrapping up his high school career this summer, inspired his sister they have made their presences known.
“We definitely feed off each other a lot to keep each other motivated,” Hayden said. “It’s just to keep working and pursuing our goals. We feed off each other all the time that way.”
The two have been close from the beginning. There’s a total of four Bahl children in the household — they have two younger siblings, Broden, 14, and Bryson, 12 — but it was just Hayden and Jordyn before the younger two were born.
“Jordyn has grown up around guys her entire life, so it’s definitely made her tough. She’s taken that mentality to the mound too,” Hayden said. “I would treat her just like she was a brother. She’s what I had and I don’t treat her differently because she’s my sister. I treat her as just another sibling.”
The Bahl family has lived it by supporting one another. After realizing her passion was to be in the softball circle, her parents quickly helped Jordyn start to take her passion seriously. For the past eight years, she’s been training with Darren Dubsky, a local pitching coach.
Since 2010, Dubsky has trained more than 50 players who have received pitching scholarships, including more than 10 to NCAA Division I schools. Jordyn credits him for being the pitcher she is today.
As for Hayden, he grew up playing baseball, but his first passion was on the hardwood.
“Honestly, growing up I really enjoyed playing basketball more than baseball. I just loved the competition of basketball, just the back-and-forth battle. Then with pitching my sophomore year, I just took off with baseball and it worked out that way.”
Not only did Hayden’s career take off his sophomore year in 2017, but so did Jordyn’s.
Hayden played on Papio’s varsity basketball team in the 2016-17 season. The Monarchs lost in the Class A State Championship against Norfolk that March, right before he started his sophomore baseball season in the spring. Hayden said after the run to the state championship in basketball, he wasn’t even thinking much about baseball season.
“I wasn’t even expecting to be on varsity in the spring and then (Papio baseball) coach (Nate) McCabe said they would give me a shot. It just happened and clicked for me,” Hayden said.
Hayden ended the spring by pitching in nine games with five starts. He finished with a 3-1 record with a 1.89 earned run average with 20 strikeouts. McCabe said the Monarchs used Hayden as a stop-gap reliever, which meant he pitched to keep the game in hand.
Then in the summer, Hayden became a starting pitcher and formed a one-two punch with current Husker pitcher Caleb Feekin. He started all 12 games he appeared in to finish with a 9-1 record with a 2.12 ERA and six complete games.
“In the summer, each start he just got a little bit better and better,” McCabe said. “Then all of a sudden after playing all these teams I’m like, ‘He might be one of the best dudes around.’”
His performance helped guide Pinnacle Bank to be Nebraska Legion state champions. Even though his dream was to play basketball, his performance on the mound had him starting to lean towards his future on the diamond.
“As a sophomore, to just go out and set the tone for my team it was really good for us younger players to take on leadership roles,” Hayden said.
That fall, Jordyn started high school and made the varsity softball team. Splitting time with senior pitcher Courtney Wallace, Jordyn appeared on the mound in 26 games to finish with a 16-1 record and a 0.88 ERA.
She also played second base, appearing in 38 games. She finished with a .411 average at the plate with five homers and 26 RBIs. Her performance also helped the Monarchs win the Class A state championship.
“I knew we were going to have a really good team. There were a lot of seniors that contributed,” Jordyn said. “Going into high school, I really didn’t know what to expect. The goal was clear though. We knew we were working for a state championship. It was just awesome to see it come together.”
Coming into high school and immediately starting a varsity sport can be tough. Petersen said he’s had a lot of good club softball players come into the program and struggle adjusting to the high school scene.
Jordyn credits Wallace for helping her through her first season.
“She took me under her wing along with some other underclassmen and basically showed us how things work,” Jordyn said. “She helped with pitching and just getting used to what it’s like being in high school, too.”
Along with Jordyn and Hayden’s exploits, the two younger Bahl’s also won state baseball championships in 2017 on their respective teams for a total of four championships in the household that year.
“It was super cool for our family,” Hayden said.
In the winter, Hayden headed back to the varsity boy’s hardwood while Jordyn made the varsity girl’s basketball team. In just four months of high school, Jordyn made two varsity sports.
“I met a lot of really awesome upperclassmen,” Jordyn said. “That definitely matured me being the younger girl playing with these older girls.”
As Jordyn appeared in all 26 games for the Monarchs, averaging just over 14 minutes per game, Hayden’s career took a scary turn. Against Papillion-La Vista South, Hayden jumped up for a block attempt and injured his elbow on the backboard.
“It was really devastating. I had such high expectations for my next year and I had a lot of big goals, so it was a setback mentally,” Hayden said. “But Jordyn was huge for me. She kept me motivated and kept telling me I had goals still to work for and to stay positive.”
Hayden underwent Tommy John surgery in March of 2018, putting him out for the next spring and summer baseball seasons. The injury didn’t stop Hayden from being around baseball and the team.
McCabe said Hayden just wanted to be another guy on the team. He would keep the scoring book, encourage teammates and shag foul balls, while also improving his mental side of the game.
Hayden studied the mental side by reading books.
“I read a lot of books about the mental side of the game and talked to people who are really good at that,” Hayden said.
“Jordyn is really good at the mental side of the game. That’s one of her biggest strengths. Since I couldn’t get physically better, I took the time to get mental and it was really huge that way.”
As Hayden started light throwing in the middle of August, Jordyn entered her sophomore campaign in softball. With her dominance on the mound, the Monarchs entered the Class A State Championship against Lincoln Southwest with a 34-0 record.
The Monarchs had to be defeated twice and the Silver Hawks completed the feat by tagging Jordyn for a combined 16 runs in both games. It was an emotional time for Jordyn, but leaning on Hayden, she now sees the moment as a learning experience.
“I totally think it was an awesome thing for me because right after it happened, I didn’t know what to do. But with Hayden dealing with his arm, he got me going into the mental game more. We both just helped each other and built off that,” Jordyn said.
“Just sitting on that loss all winter and letting that fuel me physically and mentally. It just helped a lot.”
Her only two losses came in the state championship as she finished the season with a 25-2 record with an 1.42 ERA and 19 complete games, while batting .489 with 48 RBI.
“She’s a driven kid from everything I’ve seen with her work ethic and everything,” Petersen said. “She’s just took that to a whole other level. Sometimes when you have a little disappointment, it drives you to be better and without a doubt that’s the case with her. Not just physically but mentally.”
In the winter of 2018, Hayden decided to step away from basketball and focus on his rehab and baseball. He said he misses the game, but thinks he made the right decision.
Jordyn had debated the previous year if she wanted to play basketball, but the injury to Hayden led her to the decision to focus on softball.
“Softball was always my biggest passion and I was always debating if I wanted to play basketball,” Jordyn said. “Then we would get into the season and I would love it. It was more the one-on-one competition. I really liked defense and the physicality part of it.
“But I thought about that in previous years. What if I get hurt? But seeing how fast something can change in a second that definitely was the deciding factor.”
Hayden was cleared to start throwing off the mound in November and was able to focus on rehab.
This spring, Hayden was able to take the field in the beginning of the season. McCabe said the focus Hayden put in on his rehab can be rare for a high school athlete.
“He took that serious and with a major injury like that, if you don’t do that, chances are you’re probably not going to come back at all,” McCabe said. “I was so happy to see him out on the mound this spring.”
In eight games this spring, Hayden finished with a 3-2 record with a 2.94 ERA. It was a big step for the senior, but it has taken time to get back the feel of his pitches.
“I continue to tell him it’s such a process,” McCabe said. “Pitching is such a feel thing. It’s going to take time. It’s not like all of a sudden you get cleared and you’re old Hayden. You have to continue to get a feel for those pitches because you didn’t pitch for an entire year.”
As the end of the summer legion season is drawing near, Hayden sits with a 4-1 record in five games with a 2.90 ERA. McCabe said his most recent outing was his best yet.
“Pretty much for the entire spring, he didn’t have control of his breaking ball. Just couldn’t throw it for a strike, but we’re starting to see it,” McCabe said. “His last start, he threw all three pitches for strikes. He’ll do the two steps forward, one-step back and then two steps forward. He’s getting there.”
Even though he’s seen inconsistent results while making his way back to full recovery, Hayden understands that each outing is a positive one, especially after almost having his baseball career in jeopardy.
He said he hasn’t taken his last season for granted.
“Every single time I get on the mound and every single pitch is taken away from me, so every bit of this summer, I’ve really just enjoyed every single part of it,” Hayden said. “Even losing games, I’m just grateful to be on the mound doing what I love.
“It’s been a real up and down year for me, statistic wise. My stats aren’t as good as they were my sophomore year, but I don’t have any pain in my elbow. It’s just getting back in a rhythm and becoming consistent with my pitches.”
As serious as he’s taken rehab getting back to the mound, McCabe points toward his family’s structure for the reason he’s where he is today, including continuing to build the culture inside the Monarch dugout.
“There are a lot of things that can pull away from (putting focus on rehab). Once it was clear what he had to do, he had that clear path and stayed on that path the entire time,” McCabe said. “It takes a special breed. The dude teaches Sunday school and wants to be an elementary teacher. Those kind of kids don’t come around too often.
”He coached his little brothers’ team and then he would come to our games to stay around baseball. There would be a lot of kids that would be like, ‘Coach, I’ll see you in six months or whatever.’ He’s not like that.
“The other pitchers, especially the younger ones we have now, they look at him. So if he’s doing things the right way then those guys want to do that when they’re seniors. They want to be the dude.”
Hayden is on the path to becoming a teacher. He accepted a scholarship to pitch for the University of Nebraska at Omaha in May.
“I’m really grateful that (UNO head) coach (Evan) Porter trusts me, even after my surgery, to contribute at UNO,” Hayden said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity and am excited to get working in the fall.”
McCabe is thankful the Mavericks looked at the bigger picture when it comes to the 6-foot, 7-inch pitcher’s ceiling on the mound, calling it a little risk with a high reward.
“They know that there is something there. Even if he has to go there next year and redshirt, you’re still taking a shot on him. He’s a kid worth taking a shot on,” McCabe said. “Just because he’s going to work his butt off on his rehab, he’s going to work his butt off in the classroom. He’s going to do everything right, so he won’t be a problem kid.”
As for Jordyn, she’s spent most of her summer out of town playing in her club’s softball tournaments, so Hayden and Jordyn haven’t spent too much time together, especially on the weekends. But thanks to technology, they still find time to communicate.
“We FaceTime all the time on the weekends,” Jordyn said. “When I’m gone, you can expect a few FaceTime calls every day.”
Also, two weeks ago, the soon-to-be junior was tagged as the 18th overall prospect in the 2021 softball class.
”I will say this: I think that’s a significant under-rating of where she is. I would argue that she could be the top pitcher or top two or three pitchers in her class,” Petersen said. “I’ve been told that by several major college coaches. Then last week, she beat, supposedly, the best pitcher in that class. She had quite a pitchers duel and she ended up on top, so I think her stock is going to continue rising.”
College coaches are allowed to start talking to her on Sept. 1. It’s going to be a busy time, as just about every major college will be interested in the right-hander.
As she still has two seasons left for the Monarchs, her college choice will come in time, but Jordyn’s main focus is on enjoying the process.
“I’m just looking forward to the process. Just going to visit different schools in different parts of the country,” Jordyn said. “I just want to see the difference and see if I like it. Just what feels right.”
Wherever Jordyn and Hayden are the next two years, whether it’s Hayden playing throughout the college landscape or Jordyn traveling for club softball or taking college visits, they’ll find time to FaceTime.
And since Hayden and Jordyn’s relationship is a close one, that mindset has been passed down to their younger siblings as they all have formed a foursome of unconditional support.
“It’s definitely awesome. All four of us share the same pregame playlist and everything. It’s just helped us have each other’s backs and the support for each other,” Jordyn said. “We build each other up, confidence wise. It’s just helped all of us quite a bit, knowing you have three other siblings in your corner.”