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Bulldog standout helps lead Firecrackers to second-place finish
Bates collects two singles during championship game
Ceres Highs Nicole Bates played in the Triple Crown Sports Sparkler Tournament in Colorado this past week. - photo by Courier file photo

Nicole Bates returned home from Colorado earlier this week.
The soon-to-be senior at Ceres High played for the Huntington Beach-based Firecrackers-Rico 18-and-under travel softball team at the June 29-July 5 Triple Crown Sports Sparkler Tournament.
“It’s exciting to be able to play against girls you’re going to face in college,” Bates said. “It’s really good experience.”
The Firecrackers won three of four games en route to a runner-up finish in the Super 64 Championship Single-Elimination Bracket at Aurora Sports Park.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Bates said. “It’s unfortunate we came up a little short. It happens.”
The Firecrackers lost 11-2 to Sudden Impact Gold-Dutton of Texas in the title game on Sunday.
“We were focused on getting pretty good pitches to hit,” Nicole said. “We just didn’t get the results we wanted.”
Bates started at shortstop and batted second.
She finished 2-for-3 from the plate with a pair of singles.
Bates collected hits in the first and fifth innings.
She grounded out to shortstop in the third inning.
Sudden Impact Gold-Dutton broke the contest open with a nine-run outburst in the fourth inning.
The Firecrackers defeated the TC Stars Gold of Colorado 9-3 in the semifinals earlier in the day.
The Firecrackers collected wins against Louisville Lady Sluggers-Dobina of Kentucky (14-0) and Diamond Sports Hotshots of Texas (6-3) on Saturday.
The Firecrackers and Texas Glory battled during Wednesday’s Triple Crown Sports National Powers Showdown exhibition game at the Sparkler Tournament.
The Firecrackers overcame a six-run deficit on their way to posting a 14-9 victory over the Texas Glory in front of more than 1,000 fans.
“It’s really important to not get down when you’re losing,” Bates said. “You just have to play to your ability.”
The game was televised on CBS Sports Network at 3 p.m.
“My parents recorded it but I haven’t watched it yet,” Nicole said.
Bates batted 1-for-4 with one RBI and one run on offense.
The Firecrackers advanced to the finals of the Sparkler Tournament for the sixth time in the last eight years. The Firecrackers also finished second overall in 2014, losing 3-1 to the Texas Glory in the championship game.
Nicole was named Ceres High’s Female Athlete of the Year for the second time this past spring.
Bates earned varsity letters in both softball and girls basketball for the third year in a row.
Bates, a standout slugger and shortstop with the Bulldogs, won the Western Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year award.
Nicole ranked first in the WAC in batting average (.521), slugging percentage (.875), on-base percentage (.558), doubles (7) and runs (24), second in homers (2), triples (2) and RBIs (17), and third in stolen bases (6).
Ceres High’s softball team compiled a 22-9 overall record, finished first in the WAC (10-2) for the second straight season and tied for fifth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff bracket.
Bates was selected to the WAC First Team for her outstanding play in girls hoops. She averaged a team-leading 19.4 points per game in conference play.
Nicole plans to continue her softball career at the college level. She made a verbal commitment to the University of Washington prior to the start of the 2013 season.