Close friends DeeAnn (Hetzel) Henderson and Teena Shull Nelson led a powerhouse Forest Grove softball program to all sorts of honors in the 1980s

When DeeAnn “PeeWee” (Hetzel) Henderson and Teena Shull were growing up just down the street from each other in Cornelius, Forest Grove High School did not yet have a softball program.

That seemed to little deter the girls from playing the sport with a passion while growing up. They, along with several other Cornelius girls, got their start like many players still do today — in age group summer ball, where they experienced a lot of success, even winning a class B state title one year.

“There was a handful of us that had started when we were younger, and then we just basically stayed together until I graduated,” recalled Henderson, who recently moved to Forest Grove after living in Yamhill County. “It wasn’t like we were teammates, we were more family. It was so amazing.”

As the players approached high school, the group’s parents lobbied for a team at Forest Grove, and the school board granted the request. The program began in the spring of 1983, when Henderson was a freshman and Shull was a year in the wings in eighth grade.

The group had to lobby for Henderson too. District freshmen still attended junior high back then, but Henderson’s services were desperately needed at the high school level.

“(Inaugural head coach) Chet (Mannen) and (pitching coach) Owen (Goans) argued and said, ‘Well, we have one pitcher in the program, and she’s a freshman,’” said Ron Thompson, who succeeded Mannen in 1986, Henderson’s senior year. “’So if we’re going to start a program, we need her to pitch.’”

The school board agreed to that too, and both decisions proved wise. With Henderson on the mound, the program started with a bang, posting a winning record in its first season, making the state quarterfinals in its second, and winning a league championship in its third.

From those beginnings that Henderson, Hull and their teammates helped establish, the program has remained perennially one of the school’s strongest, a regular playoff contender that advanced to the championship game in 1992 and won it all in 2007 — the school’s first team state title.

Henderson, the program’s first dynamite pitcher, and Shull, a mighty center fielder, had plenty to do with that early success — both players earned multiple all-league and all-state awards — and beginning the team’s legacy. And for their contributions, Shull and Henderson have been selected to this year’s class of Forest Grove’s Athletic Hall of Fame.

Along with the rest of the class, the duo will be recognized at halftime of the Vikings’ home football game on Oct. 3 and formally inducted in a banquet ceremony at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in North Plains on Oct. 4.

“PeeWee” predates the girls’ high school years, but Shull was the one to give Henderson the nickname she still answers to. Shull took up youth softball before Henderson did, and when Henderson turned out, another Dee was already on the team.

“So Teena said, ‘Why don’t we call you PeeWee,’” Henderson recalled.

Henderson grew only to about 5-foot-4, so the moniker was perhaps an apt one. Of course, Shull, who wound up a statuesque 6-footer, could have said that about almost anyone.

While Henderson was not tall, she was driven and competitive, and she ushered the program to an amazing start in 1983. The Vikings went 11-5 playing a nonleague schedule and Henderson went 9-3.

She never backed off that pace, either, posting 12 shutouts and more than 50 career wins, leading the Vikings to league crowns in 1985 and 1986.

Henderson could throw fast-, rise and drop balls, and hit her spots, but her biggest weapon was her changeup, the pitch she “could knock them out of the park with,” she said.

That changeup fooled many an opponent, and Goans recalled one in particular, a hard-hitting third baseman from Canby.

“She swung so hard that she spun clear around, and the batter then took her bat and just slammed her bat on the ground,” Goans said.

But Henderson was more than just her team’s primary arm. She played third base when not pitching, she was the leadoff hitter, and she was a savvy base runner. She was a first team all-league pick her final three seasons and earned all-state honors those years as well, including third team status in 1984 and 1985.

“It was just a great group of kids, but yeah, PeeWee was the one that you had to have,” Thompson said. “She was that missing link. You have to have that pitcher.”

As for Shull, whom Henderson called “the best friend-sister you could have,” she played significant roles in those two league titles as well as runs to four consecutive state quarterfinals appearances. Thompson described her as the “Willie Mays of Viking softball,” a player who could run down almost any ball.

She also had a cannon for an arm.

“(Shull) literally could throw a person out from home standing flatfooted,” said Debbie (Mannen) Haugen, Chet Mannen’s daughter and Shull and Henderson’s longtime teammate. “She didn’t have to take a run at her throw, nothing. She just had an amazing arm, and it would go sizzling by your ear and you could hear it.

“I was her cutoff person but rarely did she have to use me because her arm was so good. … If she threw over my head, I knew it was going in for a one-hop to the catcher and the person was probably going to be out anyway.”

Shull also was a prodigious hitter, batting .423 as a freshman and .420 as a senior to bookend her career with first team all-state honors. She was an honorable mention selection in 1985 and a second teamer in 1986.

“If I was going to put somebody in center field, it would be Teena,” Thompson said. “No doubt in my mind, I think the best outfielder that ever played (at Forest Grove).”

After graduating, both Henderson and Shull played a year each at Pacific before stepping away from softball. Henderson now has three adult daughters and two grandsons. She is married to David Henderson, who works on the same construction crew with her at Five Star Builders in Banks.

Shull joined the U.S. Army after her time at Pacific. Several years after she graduated from Forest Grove, she was involved in a serious vehicular accident that had a long-lasting impact on her health. She now resides in Beaverton, and hall officials said that she is greatly excited that she has been selected to join the Athletic Hall of Fame.

Fittingly, she gets to do so with her good friend Henderson.

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