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Bulldog star, travel team to play on TV
Rico Firecrackers to face Texas Glory on TV
Ceres Highs Nicole Bates and her Rico Firecrackers 18-and-under travel ball teammates will play against the Texas Glory today in Colorado. The game will be televised on CBS at 3 p.m. - photo by EDDIE RUIZ/The Courier

A standout in varsity softball and basketball at Ceres High since her freshman year, Nicole Bates has grown accustomed to high-pressure situations.

Bates and her Rico Firecrackers 18-and-under travel softball teammates will compete in the prestigious Triple Crown Sports Sparkler Tournament this week in Colorado.

Wednesday's game against the Texas Glory will be televised on CBS sports network at 3 p.m.

"My parents weren't able to make the trip so they'll be able to watch it from home," Nicole said. "We just have to focus on playing our game and not worry about what's around us."

The Sparkler tournament got underway on Tuesday and will end on Sunday. Bracket play will begin on Thursday.

"We haven't had any big tournaments like this this summer," Bates said. "The competition is really good here. There are teams from all over the country. Hopefully, we make it to the finals. We placed second last year."

A utility player, Bates could see action at shortstop, third base or in the outfield.

"Last year, I was a little nervous," Bates said. "But I got over it. It's fun to be able to experience something like this. It's a good opportunity. My parents will record the game. I'll get to watch it when I get home."

Based out of Huntington Beach, the Rico Firecrackers compete with a roster loaded with elite talent.

Two of Bates' teammates from last season, Florida's Nicole DeWitt and Michigan's Tera Blanco, played in the 2015 NCAA Division-I Women's College World Series finals.

"There are girls that are better than you," Bates said. "They really push you."

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 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 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.

"We have girls going to Arizona, Stanford, Oregon, Michigan, UCLA, Cal, Washington and Oregon," Bates said while talking about her Rico Firecracker teammates.