Nicole Bates' individual and team success led to last Tuesday's announcement that she is Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.
The University of Washington-signee put up impressive numbers while leading Ceres High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III championship in May.
"It's exciting getting that recognition," said Nicole, leadoff hitter and shortstop for the Bulldogs. "But I couldn't have done it without my team or family."
Bates posted a batting average of .625 with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs as third-seeded Ceres High won five of six playoff games.
She blasted a three-run homer and solo shot during the Bulldogs' 5-3 triumph over Oakdale in the quarterfinals.
Nicole doubled once, singled twice and scored once as Ceres High edged No. 5 Benicia 3-2 in the championship game. Bates secured the victory with an unassisted double play.
She batted .571 from the plate with five homers, four triples, nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 stolen bases while striking out just five times in 113 plate appearances during her final season with the Bulldogs.
She collected 60 hits.
She committed just one error on defense.
"I'm very excited for her," said Angela Durossette, Bates' head coach at Ceres High for the past two seasons. "It's a great accomplishment. She works really hard to be the best. She's very competitive. She doesn't like to lose. She's got the right mindset. That separates her from some of the other people."
Added Bates: "Hard work pays off. My main goal was to win a section title."
Nicole became the first player from the Stanislaus District to be named Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.
She ranks in the top five with 171 career runs scored in the state record book.
She ranks in the top 10 in both career hits (205) and triples (22).
"This stuff is mind blowing," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "I still think of her as a little blonde girl from Ceres. She's so humble and unassuming. When she gets on the field, she transforms into a competitor. She just wants to win. She'll do whatever it takes to make it happen. She works hard and loves the game."
Bates was one of nine finalists for Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year, along with Madilyn Nickles (Merced), Holly Azevedo (Pioneer), Jordan Fines (Sheldon), Melanie Olmos (Grand Terrace), Jessica Seely (Foothill), Karlee Sparacino (Alhambra), Vanessa Taukeiaho (Etiwanda) and Camryn Ybarra (Mission Viejo).
Nickles was recently named Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year.
Bates and Ceres High shut out Nickles and Merced 4-0 in non-conference play on March 1.
Nicole and Madilyn were teammates for one season at the youth level with the Tri-County Smash.
They train together at Bonsu Elite Athletics in Ceres.
"It was very close like I mentioned it would be," said Mark Tennis, co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com. "Nicole's considered a top-10 national recruit. That's pretty high praise. It's a big deal. Not all the finalists were on teams that won (section titles) in the end."
"It's still hard to believe," Nicole Bates said. "All of the girls that were nominated are studs."
Ceres High posted a 23-5 overall record and captured its third consecutive WAC championship this past spring.
The Bulldogs won their second section crown, ending a 21-year drought between titles.
Ceres High climbed to No. 2 in the final D-III state rankings.
"Nicole's gotten a lot of media attention," John Bates said. "She's stayed extremely humble through it all. That's what I'm most proud of."