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CHS teammates suiting up for NorCal Firecrackers 14-and-under travel team
Bates, ONeal & Baisdon showcasing their skills during the summertime
Nicole Bates, Sabrina Baisdon and Mahlena ONeal play softball together year-round. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Nicole Bates, Mahlena O'Neal and Sabrina Baisdon, soon-to-be sophomores at Ceres High, were among the 13 players that earned roster spots on the NorCal Firecrackers 14-and-under competitive softball team's roster.

"We're preparing them for the next level," head coach Mike Baisdon said. "It's not about the trophy. It's about teaching and developing players. This sport is giving them an opportunity to get a college education. It teaches them success, failure and a lot of life skills."

The Firecrackers had a 27-3 overall record as of July 3.

NorCal played in tournaments in Hemet, Carlsbad, San Diego and Huntington Beach.

"We're showcasing our girls to college recruiters," coach Baisdon said.

Bates, O'Neal and Baisdon all start.

Nicole, who made a verbal commitment to University of Washington, plays shortstop.

"She's a great team leader," coach Baisdon said. "She's working hard to improve her skills."

Mahlena, a catcher/third baseman, plans to verbal to UCLA, Cal or Georgia within the next 60 days.

"The other girls look up to her," Mike Baisdon said. "She has a good handle and understanding of the game. She's very intelligent."

Sabrina plays in the outfield.

The Firecrackers qualified to compete at the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championships, July 20-26, in Huntington Beach. NorCal advanced by virtue of their fifth-place finish in the country last season.

Based out of Huntington Beach, NorCal fields teams in California, Utah, Arizona and Texas.

Coach Baisdon and eight of his Tri County Smash players, including Nicole, Mahlena and Sabrina, joined the NorCal Firecrackers organization after Nationals last season.

"It's competitive," Mike Baisdon said. "They want to win every time out. They play extremely hard. They love to be on the field together. They flat compete. Softball is their vehicle to get them to where they want to go."