Just 1.7 percent of all high school softball players earn Division-I scholarships according to a report released by the NCAA in April.
Nicole “Sis” Bates accomplished a pair of childhood dreams when she signed a national letter of intent with the University of Washington in 2015.
Bates always envisioned suiting up for the Huskies.
Nicole was just 11 when she pledged her allegiance to Washington following its run to the 2009 Women’s College World Series National Championship.
"I wouldn’t be here without the support of my parents and family.”Nicole Bates
“It’s still hard to believe,” Bates said while talking about her transition from fan to star player with the Huskies. “But I keep things in perspective. I wouldn’t be here without the support of my parents and family.”
A sophomore infielder, Nicole started every game for the Huskies for the second year in a row this past spring.
She posted the highest single-season fielding percentage (.985) for a shortstop in the 26-year history of Washington’s softball program.
She also became just the fifth Husky player to collect 140-plus hits in their first two seasons.
“I’ve always strived to be the best player I could be,” Bates said. “I’m committed fully to getting better every day.”
Bates and Washington fell two wins shy of winning the 2018 NCAA Division-I Women’s College World Series title.
Florida State swept the best-of-three championship matchup en route to claiming its first national crown this past June in Oklahoma City.
Washington beat top-seeded Oregon once and reigning two-time national champion Oklahoma twice on its way to advancing to the finals.
Bates was selected to the WCWS All-Tournament Team.
Nicole collected two doubles, one single, two RBIs, two runs and one stolen base while batting second for the Huskies.
Bates’ spectacular play on defense drew praise from ESPN commentators during the course of the tournament.
Nicole enjoyed the ride but not the end result.
“It’s never a good feeling to be runner-up,” she said. “We never doubted ourselves. We weren’t scared to play any team. They played so great. Their bats were hot.”
Bates batted .389 from the plate with five homers, three triples, 16 doubles, 37 RBIs, 53 runs, 25 walks and nine stolen bases on the year.
She committed just four errors and turned 12 double plays.
Nicole was a finalist for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award.
She was named to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division All-American and All-Region first teams.
She was voted Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.
She was selected to the conference’s All-Defensive and First teams.
She also earned Pac-12 All-Academic Honorable Mention recognition.
Bates became just the third player from Washington to win the conference’s top defensive player award.
She followed in the footsteps of Jenn Salling (2011) and Shawna Wright (2013).
Salling was the starting shortstop on the Huskies’ 2009 National Championship team.
“She (Jenn) was my idol growing up,” Nicole said. “I still have her photo on my mom’s fridge.”
Washington spent a lengthy part of the year ranked No. 1 in the 2018 USA Today/NFCA Division-I Coaches Poll. The Huskies also climbed to the No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll.
Washington amassed a 52-10 overall record, finished fourth in the Pac-12 Conference (15-8) and claimed Super Regional and Regional titles.
“Coach (Heather Tarr) is a great leader,” Bates said. She’s really passionate. We really love playing for her. We’re going to do great next year, too.”
Nicole will add to her already-impressive resume next spring.
A fan favorite because of her bubbly personality, Bates routinely signs autographs for Washington supporters.
“That’s pretty cool,” she said. “I was that little girl that looked up to players.”
When asked if she welcomed all the attention that comes with being the face of Washington softball, Bates said: “I don’t really think about that at all. Nobody is bigger than anybody on the team. We’re all about each other.”