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Cal-Hi Sports recognizes Ceres standouts Bates, ONeal
Ceres Nicole Bates (22) and Mahlena ONeal (11) were both recognized by Cal-Hi Sports this past week. Bates was named Medium Schools Player of the Year. Bates and ONeal both earned first-team honors as well. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Honors keep pouring in for Nicole Bates and Mahlena O'Neal, four-year stars on Ceres High School's varsity softball team.

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

Bates and O'Neal both earned first-team recognition as well.

"It's such a great honor to be chosen for something like that," said Nicole, a standout shortstop. "Our team performed so well."

"It's reassurance," added Mahlena, a power-hitting catcher. "It shows our hard work paid off."

Bates and O'Neal wrapped up their prep softball careers with the Bulldogs in May.

Nicole and Mahlena filled key roles while leading Ceres High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown.

"I exceeded my expectations," O'Neal. "All I wanted to do was win sections. All of this extra stuff is icing on the cake."

Mahlena was named to the FloSoftball All-American Second Team this past month.

She was voted Western Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player in May.

O'Neal batted .479 from the plate with nine homers, 12 doubles, 43 RBIs and nine runs during her final season with Ceres High.

Nicole was selected to the FloSoftball All-American First Team for the second year in a row.

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

She was selected to the PGF West Region All-American Team.

She also earned first-team, all-conference honors.

Bates batted .571 with five homers, four triples, nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 stolen bases this past year.

Longtime teammates, Nicole and Mahlena led Ceres High's varsity softball program to 85 victories, one section championship, three WAC titles and four playoff appearances.

The Bulldogs compiled a 23-5 overall record and won 11 of 12 games on their way to a first-place finish in the 2016 WAC standings.

Ceres High claimed its second section title, ending a 21-year drought between championships.

"We faced really good teams and pushed through," Mahlena said.

Bates and O'Neal earned scholarships to Washington and Georgia, respectively.

"It's still hard to believe sometimes," Mahlena said.