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CHS grads Bates, ONeal in NCAA Regional softball tourney
Duo led Bulldogs to D-III section crown last spring
Former Ceres High teammates Nicole Bates (pictured right) and Mahlena ONeal both competed in the NCAA Division-I Championship Tournament this past week. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

A year ago at this time, Nicole "Sis" Bates and Mahlena "Mo" O'Neal helped lead Ceres High's varsity softball program to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III championship.

Nicole (Washington) and Mahlena (Georgia) both competed in the NCAA Division-I Championship Tournament this past week.

Games were televised on ESPN.

"I'm extremely proud of both of them," said Angela Durossette, who coached Bates and O'Neal during their junior and sophomore years. "Everybody is rooting for them. I've seen both of them play live this year. It was a cool experience. It was a lot of fun."

"I watched both of them play on TV and in person this season," said Sabrina Baisdon, who teamed up with Bates and O'Neal in high school, travel ball and recreational play. "I was completely into the games. It was different seeing them in new uniforms."

"A year ago, they were playing for Ceres High," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "Now, they're in the NCAA Tournament. It's pretty awesome."

Bates and sixth-seeded Huskies claimed the Seattle Regional title.

Washington (46-11) won all three of its games.

John returned home from Seattle Sunday night.

"Being there live, feeling that energy in the stadium is like nothing else," he said. "It was pretty sweet."

Nicole, Washington's starting second baseman, batted 3-for-7 from the plate with one double, two RBIs, one run and three walks at Regionals.
"I've known Sis her whole life," Durossette said. "This is what she lives for. She's a huge competitor. She wants to win. It's been fun to watch her season."

"It was obvious at a young age Nicole was going to be a star," Baisdon said. "She's always been so competitive in everything she does. She's worked hard her whole life."

Georgia (35-23) finished in second place in the Tallahassee Regional.

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

Mahlena batted 3-for-11 from the plate with one double, two RBIs, one run and two walks during Regional play.

She started all four games at catcher.

"She's always been a big hitter," Baisdon said.

Bates and Washington will host Utah (36-14) in a best-of-three NCAA Super Regional this week at Husky Softball Stadium.

"I want my friends to have the best opportunities they can to show off their talent," Baisdon said. "It's so exciting. I really hope Nicole and Washington make it to the World Series. That would be amazing."

"It's exciting for our younger kids to see," Durossette said while talking about the success of her two former players. "They love Sis and Mo."