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Local talent to compete at Nationals
Ceres Callie Nunes will suit up for the NorCal Batbusters-Gomes 18-and-under travel softball team at the July 23-29 PGF National Championships in Huntington Beach. Former Bulldog teammates Nicole Bates, Mahlena ONeal and Sabrina Baisdon will be playing for rival programs. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal, Sabrina Baisdon and Callie Nunes helped lead Ceres High School's varsity softball program to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III title in May.

Bates, O'Neal and Baisdon, and Nunes could face off when their respective travel teams compete at the PGF National Championships, July 23-29, in Huntington Beach.

"If we get to play each other, it would be very fun and competitive," said Nicole, a standout hitter/infielder on the Firecrackers-Rico 18-and-under squad who will continue her softball career at the University of Washington. "Those girls are so talented. I'm so proud of them."

Added O'Neal: "It would be fun for us and our parents."

Mahlena (catcher) and Sabrina (outfielder) are key members of NorCal Firecrackers-Baisdon.

Callie (pitcher) plays for NorCal Batbusters-Gomes.

"A bunch of people from Ceres will be there," said O'Neal, who earned a scholarship to Georgia. "Depending on how we do, we could all see each other. They have great teams. We'll try our best."

Nicole played for NorCal Firecrackers-Baisdon before joining Firecrackers-Rico three years ago.

Rico added Bates to his roster after talking with Mike Baisdon, head coach of the NorCal Firecrackers.

"We've never faced them (Firecrackers-Rico)," O'Neal said. "That would be a tough game. They have girls from all over."

"It would be weird playing against my former team," Bates said. "We played Callie's team when they were the Grapettes. Hopefully, we get to play them. It would be a great experience."

O'Neal and Nunes competed against each other for the first time at a tournament last summer.

"It would be a cool matchup if it happens again," O'Neal said. "She knows what I like as a hitter. I know what she brings as a pitcher."

Bates, O'Neal, Baisdon and Nunes reached the pinnacle of their sport together this past spring as Ceres High ended a 21-year drought between section titles.

"I'm really proud of the team that we became," Nicole said.

Bates, O'Neal, Baisdon and Nunes will represent different teams at PGF Nationals. "I hope we do play them," said Nunes, who made a verbal commitment with Concordia University. "I'd love to compete against my friends and former teammates."