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Ex-teammates Bates, ONeal taste success at college level
Nicole, Mahlena participate in NCAA softball tourney
Ceres High grads Mahlena ONeal (pictured left) and Nicole Bates played for Georgia and Washington, respectively, this spring. - photo by Contributed to the Courier

Former Ceres High teammates and longtime friends Nicole "Sis" Bates and Mahlena "Mo" O'Neal both competed in the NCAA Division-I Women's Softball Championship Tournament this spring.

Bates and O'Neal suited up for Washington and Georgia, respectively.

Their games were televised on ESPN.

"Sis and Mo are like my daughters," said Mike Baisdon, who coached Bates and O'Neal when they played for the NorCal Firecrackers and Tri-County Smash organizations. "I started coaching them when they were eight or nine years old. We have a bond. It's more than just softball. I'm so excited for them. They've dreamed of this since they were very young."

"I'm a fan of all sports," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "When you know the kids, it's a lot different. To have two kids from a little town like Ceres in the tournament was extremely special. They've worked so hard."

"We were all rooting for Sis and Mo," said Angela Durossette, who coached Bates and O'Neal during their junior and sophomore years at Ceres High. "It was pretty exciting."

Bates and the sixth-seeded Huskies claimed Regional and Super Regional titles en route to advancing to the Women's College World Series (WCWS).

Washington lost 5-2 to runner-up/top-seeded Florida in the semifinals of the WCWS.

The Huskies fell two victories shy of securing a berth to the finals.

Nicole, Washington's starting second baseman, batted .337 from the plate on the year with three homers, six triples, 10 doubles, 42 runs, 33 RBIs, 15 walks and three stolen bases.

Bates helped lead Washington (50-14) to its first 50-win campaign since 2010.

"She didn't know if she was going to start this season," John Bates said. "She was just happy to be in the lineup."

The Bulldogs compiled a 2-2 record while finishing second overall in the Tallahassee Regional.

Georgia lost 8-5 to No. 4 Florida State in the championship game.

O'Neal started at catcher.
Mahlena batted .235 on the season with one homer, six doubles, 13 RBIs, seven runs, eight walks and one stolen base for the 35-23 Bulldogs.

O'Neal played in 31 of her team's 58 games.

"She had to battle through some injuries," Mike Baisdon said. "If she continues to work hard, she'll get better each year. There's a reason Georgia wants her behind the plate. She's incredible."

Nicole and Mahlena filled major roles in leading Ceres High's varsity softball program to 85 victories, one section championship, three Western Athletic Conference titles and four playoff appearances from 2013-2016.