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Bates earns invitation to All-American prep contest
Nicole Bates - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Ceres' Nicole Bates has been selected to play in the Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American Game on July 29 at Deanna Manning Stadium in Irvine.

The contest will be televised on ESPNU at 7:30 p.m.

"I'm super excited for the game," said Bates, a four-year standout with the Bulldogs. "It's always extra fun to play on TV. I'm so thankful for the opportunity."

The PGF All-American Game will feature 36 of the top players in the nation that have earned scholarships to major NCAA Division-I schools.

Bates will suit up for the West team, along with Madilyn Nickles (UCLA), Mia Camuso (Oregon), Amanda Doyle (LSU), Dejah Mulipola (Arizona), Montana Dixon (Stanford), Tristen Edwards (Nebraska), Jessica Harper (Arizona), Bradie Fillmore (Cal), Mackenzie Boesel (South Carolina), Madison Uden (Michigan), Nerissa Eason (Oregon State), Mariah Lopez (Oklahoma), Alyssa Loza (Arizona State), Aaliyah Jordan (UCLA), Jenna Holcomb (Tennessee), Kelsie Whitmore (Cal State Fullerton) and Alyssa Barrera (Utah).

The East roster features Nicole Mendes (Oklahoma), Caroline Hedgcock (Arkansas), Kendyl Lindaman (Minnesota), Kayla Konwent (Wisconsin), Shannon Rhodes (Oregon), Taylor Ellis (Baylor), Claire Jenkins (Alabama), Madison Naujokas (James Madison), Alissa Dalton (Oklahoma), Miranda Elish (Oregon), Katie Chronister (Florida), Maggie Balint (Oregon), Jacqui Switzer (Florida), Ciara Bryan (Georgia), Elissa Brown (Alabama), Hannah Edwards (Pitt), Morgan McCallum (Kentucky) and Jordan Roberts (Florida).

The participants, 36 total, were chosen from PGF Regional All-American teams announced on June 3. Game Directors Derek and Joann Allister of OnDeck Softball finalized the rosters after receiving input from softball correspondents at Gatorade, USA Today, FloSoftball and PGF.

Bates and her West teammates will be coached by Jennie Finch, Toni Mascarenas and Crystal Bustos.

A standout pitcher during her playing days, Finch helped lead Team USA to a first-place finish at the 2004 Summer Olympics. She guided the University of Arizona to the NCAA Division-I National Championship in 2001.

Bustos was a member of the U.S. Olympic Softball teams that claimed gold medals in 2004, 2000 and 1996. She won two NJCAA National Championships at Palm Beach Community College.

Mascarenas led Arizona to a first-place finish at the 2001 College World Series. The 2006 University of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame inductee also played for the USA Elite Team.

"I'm so excited to get the opportunity to learn from such great players and now coaches," Nicole said. "I'm going to soak everything in."

Bates will also reunite with Nickles, a standout hitter/pitcher from Merced who earned a scholarship to UCLA.

Nicole and Madilyn were teammates at the youth level with the Ceres-based Tri-County Smash organization.

They train together at Bonsu Elite Athletics in Ceres.

"We haven't played together since we were little," Bates said. "We were kids just having fun. Now, we're going to big college programs. It's pretty cool to see both of us evolve into great players."

Bates, a top-10 national recruit, will continue her softball career at the University of Washington.

She won the Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year award on June 28.

She was named Cal-Hi Sports All-State Medium Schools Player of the Year on July 13.

She was also selected to the FloSoftball All-American First Team and PGF West Region All-American Team.
"To see her get these kinds of honors, it's hard for me to wrap my mind around it," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "It's been a fun ride so far. She works hard and loves the game."