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Firecrackers finish 13th at Nationals
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Ceres High's Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal and Sabrina Baisdon played key roles while leading the NorCal Firecrackers 14-and-under travel softball team to a 13th-place finish at the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships.

The 56-team event was staged, July 20-26, in Huntington Beach.

"We were a win away from being in the top six and two wins away from finishing in the top three," head coach Mike Baisdon said. "To finish 13th in the country, there's thousands of other teams that never got an opportunity to do this. I'm very proud of the girls. We competed at the highest level."

NorCal posted a 4-4 record at Nationals.

The Firecrackers beat the San Jose Lady Sharks 4-0, California Cruisers 3-1 and OC Impact 12-3 in double-elimination bracket play. NorCal lost 8-1 to Georgia Elite and 5-3 to Team Mizuno.

NorCal won one of three games while showcasing its talent to more than a dozen Division-I college recruiters during pool play, including Oregon, Arizona State, Stanford, UCLA, Cal, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Michigan State.

The Firecrackers posted a 12-0 win over the Virginia Crushers.

NorCal lost 9-3 to So Cal Choppers and 4-0 to Firecrackers Brashear.

"Just about every Pac-12 school was represented," coach Baisdon said. "It was incredible."

The Firecrackers compiled a 35-6 this year.

"We're competitors because we're always striving for the top of the mountain," he said. "We fell a little short of our goal. The girls played extremely hard."

Bates, O'Neal, Sabrina Baisdon and Mike Baisdon enjoyed success together with the Tri County Smash competitive softball organization the previous three seasons.
The Smash placed fifth in 2012 and 2011, and third in 2010 at Nationals.

Nicole, Mahlena and Sabrina suited up for Ceres High's varsity softball team last spring. The Bulldogs took fourth at the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-IV championships, finished 19-12 on the year and placed second (8-4) in the Western Athletic Conference standings.

Nicole and Mahlena have verbally committed to the University of Washington and the University of Georgia, respectively.