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Former Bulldog Bates in running for OAA award
Nicole Bates had a memorable four-year career with Ceres Highs varsity softball program. She helped lead the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown and their third straight Western Athletic Conference title this past spring. - photo by DALE BUTLER/The Courier

Nicole Bates will have more than a dozen family members in attendance at the Sportsmen of Stanislaus Club's 50th Outstanding Athlete Awards banquet tonight in Modesto.

The 2016 Ceres High grad/University of Washington freshman softball standout will be absent due to a conflicting schedule.

"Unfortunately, she won't be able to make it," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "Her team will be playing at Cal this week. We'll be there on her behalf."

Bates is one of five finalists in the High School Girls Division.

"I'm really excited," Nicole said. "I wish it was at a different time so I could be there for it. I'm just honored to be nominated for the award. I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't win. All of these athletes are so awesome."

Nicole filled a major role in leading Ceres High's varsity softball program to 85 victories, one section championship, three Western Athletic Conference titles and four playoff appearances from 2013-2016.

Bates helped guide the Bulldogs to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III crown this past spring.

Nicole batted .571 from the plate with five homers, four triples, nine doubles, 33 RBIs, 45 runs and 14 stolen bases while striking out just five times in 113 plate appearances with Ceres High in 2016.

She made just one error on defense.

Bates posted an impressive batting average of .625 with three home runs, three doubles, seven RBIs and eight runs as third-seeded Ceres High won five of six playoff games.

She blasted a three-run homer and solo shot in the Bulldogs' 5-3 win against No. 2 Oakdale in the quarterfinals.

Nicole doubled once, singled twice and scored once as Ceres High edged No. 5 Benicia 3-2 in the championship game. Bates secured the victory with an unassisted double play.

In 114 career games, 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.

Bates won the 2016 Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball State and Medium Schools Player of the Year awards.

She was named to the Cal-Hi Sports All-State Super Elite First Team and All-State Medium Schools First Team.

She received FloSoftball All-American First-Team honors and Premier Girls Fastpitch West Regional All-American Team accolades.

She was selected to the Louisville Slugger Hit Club, which recognized 11 of the nation's top hitters.

She participated in the PGF High School All-American Game. Nicole singled twice and scored once as the West prevailed 4-3 while battling the East.

Bates and the Huntington Beach-based Firecrackers-Rico 18-and-under travel softball team captured the Premier Girls Fastpitch National Championship. Competing in the Premier Division, Firecrackers-Rico edged California Cruisers-Sievers 2-0 for the National crown. Nicole accounted for two of her team's three hits.

Bates also earned a roster spot on the 2017 USA Softball Junior Women's National Training Team.

"All of these honors are great and humbling," John said. "You don't expect any of them. It's been fun watching her compete. God-given talent only gets you so far. She's always tried to make herself better. I've never had to drag her anywhere. She put in the work. Her teams have been good. Without teammates, none of this stuff would have happened. She's stayed humble through all of this. That's what I'm most proud of."