Nicole “Sis” Bates always envisioned playing softball for the University of Washington.
She watched the Huskies win the NCAA Division-I Women’s College World Series on television in 2009.
Nicole currently bats second and plays shortstop for Washington, which advanced to the finals of the 2018 WCWS.
The Huskies are vying for their second national championship in program history this week in Oklahoma City.
Bates, a 2016 Ceres High grad, could fulfill another one of her childhood goals.
“I’m Nicole’s biggest fan,” said John Bates, Sis’ father. “I couldn’t even envision this for her. She did. She’s always wanted to be one of the best. I don’t think anybody really knows how much work she put in and how much she’s sacrificed. She gave up her extra time to perfect her craft.”
“She has every ounce of what you need to be successful,” said Angela Durossette, Bates’ high school coach during her junior and senior years. “Work ethic. Ability. Athleticism. She has a passion for the game. Her ability to deal with pressure is one of her best attributes.”
Washington reeled off three straight wins on its way to advancing to the best-of-three championship series of the WCWS.
The fifth-seeded Huskies beat top-seeded Oregon once and two-time defending national champion Oklahoma twice.
“We’re on the biggest stage ever for softball,” Nicole said while being interviewed by the Pac-12 Network. “It’s so much fun. It’s a dream come true, honestly. We’re just trying to compete.”
Bates earned praise from head coach Heather Tarr and teammate Taran Alvelo following Washington’s 2-0 shutout of fourth-seeded Oklahoma on Thursday.
“Her energy is unmatched,” Tarr said while talking about her standout sophomore. “We rally behind it. It gives us confidence.”
Bates doubled, knocked in one run and turned a 6-3 double play against Oklahoma.
“Sis made some unbelievable stops,” said Alvelo, a junior pitcher. “That helped me keep my cool.”
Washington knocked Oregon into the elimination bracket with a 6-2 win on Friday.
Bates batted 1-for-3 with one double and one RBI.
Washington lost 7-2, 4-2 and 5-3 to Oregon during Pac-12 play.
Washington blanked Oklahoma 3-0 in the semifinals on Sunday.
Bates batted 1-for-2 with one run and one stolen base.
Nicole scored what proved to be the game’s winning run.
She reached on a bunt single, stole second and raced home from third on an infield hit.
“It’s been exciting to watch,” Bulldogs’ athletic director Shawna Nunes said. “I’m really proud of her. She’s done such a great job of representing Ceres High School. She makes it look easy. It’s not. She’s worked very hard to get where she is. She sacrificed a lot.”
Bates started at second base during her freshman year with Washington.
The Huskies placed third at the 2017 WCWS.
Nicole moved to shortstop after Ali Aguilar was lost to graduation.
Bates has committed just nine errors in two seasons, including four in 2018.
“We pride ourselves in our defense and we’re pretty lucky to have these types of players that can come to Washington,” Tarr said. “Sis Bates leads the way.”
Bates’ energetic and elite play has inspired others to follow their dreams.
“She’s still the same,” Durossette said. “She’s smiling all the time and having fun. Kids in Ceres and across the country look up to her. They’re rooting for her.”
“It’s amazing watching her play,” said Vianney Perez, Ceres High’s shortstop for the past two seasons. “She’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of player. You can tell she has a strong passion for the game. She’s always humble in her interviews. I’m doing my best to follow in her footsteps.”