Nicole Bates, a 2016 graduate of Ceres High and current freshman at the University of Washington, has earned a roster spot on the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women's National Training Team.
The announcement was made on Jan. 3.
"I saw it online," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "I was shocked more than anything. The last time I felt like that was when she committed to Washington. She's going to be representing our country. To see her wear red, white and blue, it's hard to put into words how I feel."
Bates and 23 other players survived the selection process, which consisted of a two-day tryout (Dec. 31 and Jan. 1) in Clearwater, Florida.
"When I received the news, I was so overwhelmed," she said. "I am so excited to be able to compete with these talented women while representing our country. The two-day selection camp was definitely a challenge but was totally worth it. The experience was one that I will never forget."
Nicole participated in a total of six scrimmages.
Bates was invited to the selection camp after impressing on Dec. 30 at an open tryout attended by more than 160 athletes.
"This is a huge step for her future," John said. "I'm just so proud of her. What she's done is not easy. And it's not supposed to be easy. It's amazing the doors she's been able to open with her competitiveness. It's gratifying to see her reach her goals. She's had a lot of great people around her to help her on this journey."
Bates will attend training camp, and compete in exhibition games and at the World Cup of Softball XII in Oklahoma City this summer.
Team USA will play in the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) Junior Women's World Championship, July 24-30, in Clearwater.
"It is hard for me to even put into words how excited I am to represent our country," she said. "It is truly a dream come true."
Nicole vacationed with her family in San Diego prior to flying to Clearwater for tryouts.
She returned to Seattle Tuesday morning.
"It was a long, grinding weekend," John said. "She's pretty wiped out right now. She was worried. As much as she wanted to make this team, she didn't want to let her college team down. She was encouraged by her coach to go."
Bates didn't want to risk doing further damage to an injury.
"She's always dreamed about wearing red, white and blue," John said. "She didn't know if this was her time because of her body. She's not 100 percent healthy. Her hamstring has been bothering her."
"I prepared my hamstring best as possible going into the tryout," Nicole said. "I just tried to keep a positive mindset throughout the experience."
Nicole starred on Ceres High's varsity softball team for four seasons.
A standout shortstop and left-handed hitter, Bates was named Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State and Medium Schools Player of the Year. She was selected to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Super Elite and Medium Schools First Teams. Bates earned FloSoftball All-American First-Team honors and PGF West Regional All-American Team accolades. She earned membership to the Louisville Slugger Hit Club, which recognized 11 of the nation's top hitters. She also participated in the Premier Girls Fastpitch High School All-American Game.
In 114 career games with the Bulldogs, Bates batted .512 (205-for-400) with 14 homers, 22 triples, 31 doubles, 102 RBIs, 171 runs, 52 stolen bases and 32 walks with just 13 strikeouts. She had an on-base plus slugging percentage of 1.356.
Nicole helped lead Ceres High to 85 victories, one section championship, three WAC titles and four playoff appearances from 2013-2016.
"When I sit back and think about it, Ceres isn't that big of a town," John said. "For her to do what she's done is amazing. Nothing she does surprises me anymore. But the level at what she's doing it surprises me. When the stakes are high, that's when she's at her best. She likes that pressure and competition."