Former Ceres High softball star Nicole "Sis" Bates has wasted no time making an impact at the University of Washington.
Bates, a freshman infielder, was named a finalist for the 2017 Schutt Sports/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division-I Freshman of the Year award this past month.
"I found out when we were at batting practice in Alabama," said Bates, whose team improved to 34-10 on the year after beating the Crimson Tide twice and the University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers once this past week. "My catcher told me. It's really humbling."
Bates has started all 44 of the Huskies' games this season.
She's split playing time at second and third base.
"I didn't know what to expect going into college," Nicole said. "I'm so grateful to be on the team I'm on. I love every single one of the girls. The leadership we have on our team is unbelievable. The upperclassmen have taken me under their wings."
Bates had a batting average of .351 with three home runs, four triples, eight doubles, 28 RBIs and 29 runs as of April 20.
"You don't face a pitcher that is not good," Bates said. "You can't take a pitch off. You have to focus on winning every pitch."
On May 11, the list of 25 finalists will be trimmed down to the top 10.
The top three finalists will be selected and announced on May 24.
The trophy will be presented to the winner during a live ceremony on May 31.
"It's an honor for Nicole and our program to have her recognized as a finalist for freshman of the year," Washington head coach Heather Tarr said. "She's not surprised us (with her performance), as we knew she'd fit right in on our team. What has surprised everyone is her ability to connect with any and all of her teammates and coaches. She's got a magnetic personality and a lot of natural influencing qualities."
"It's such an honor to be nominated for the award," Bates said. "A lot of my friends got nominated, too. It's really cool."
Washington climbed to No. 8 in the USA Today/NFCA Coaches Poll.
The Huskies ranked third in the latest NCAA Division-I Women's Softball Ratings Percentage Index.
"We really take pride in our preparation," Nicole said. "We trust in each other. That's helped me a lot this year. My personal and team goal is to win the College World Series."
Bates has enjoyed the grind of being a student-athlete.
"It's so much fun," Bates said. "There's no added pressure. You can't really think like that."
"Nicole is a mentally tough competitor who has grown up in a competitive environment," Tarr said. "The combination of her upbringing playing multiple sports, or her time playing competitively on the NorCal Firecrackers and with the Firecrackers in Southern California, she's been coached by some of the best and played with some of the best players."