Nicole Bates has been nominated for Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.
The 2016 Ceres High grad starred on both offense and defense while leading the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown on May 26.
"It's very humbling to be in the running for an award like that," Nicole said. "I'm really excited. My parents are proud of me."
Bates is one of nine finalists for the prestigious honor, 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).
"The talent level is always insanely great in California," said Mark Tennis, co-founder and publisher of CalHiSports.com.
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.
"That year, we went to Florida," Bates said. "We did well. It's pretty crazy. When we were 10, we talked about playing softball at the next level. Now, we're going off to college."
Bates and Nickles will continue their softball careers at Washington and UCLA, respectively.
"We're good friends," Nicole said. "We still keep in touch. Sometimes, we work out together at Bonsu Elite Athletics."
Bates, Ceres High's leadoff hitter and shortstop, batted .571 from the plate with five homers, four triples, nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 stolen bases her senior year.
She collected 60 hits.
Nicole committed just one error on defense.
Bates elevated her level of play on the biggest stage.
Nicole posted a batting average of .625 with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs as the third-seeded Bulldogs won five of six playoff games.
Bates blasted a three-run homer and solo shot in Ceres High's 5-3 triumph over No. 2 Oakdale.
The Mustangs defeated the Bulldogs twice during the regular season.
Nicole earned first-team all-WAC honors.
"She (Bates) has a strong case to be player of the year," Tennis said. "Her stats are really impressive. People around the country know who she is. The Division-III playoffs had really good teams in it. Ceres won the title. That's huge."
Tennis will announce the winner of the Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State Player of the Year award later this month.
"It's a very tough choice," he said. "There's a lot of talent. We'll collect opinions from other people. I'll probably do an online vote to see what the community thinks. But that doesn't decide it. Everything counts."
"I would be a little disappointed if I didn't win," Bates said. "But I wouldn't be heartbroken. All of the girls on the list are amazing softball players. It's cool to get recognized with them."