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Former Bulldogs to participate in NCAA Tournament
Bates, ONeal will play in Regionals
Mahlena ONeal and Georgia will face visiting Harvard in NCAA Division-I Regional play this Friday. - photo by Photo courtesy of Georgia Athletics

Former Ceres High varsity softball teammates Nicole "Sis" Bates and Mahlena O'Neal will compete in the NCAA Division-I Championship Tournament for the second year in a row.

"I'll message them this week and wish them good luck," said Angela Durossette, Bates' and O'Neal's head coach at the prep level.

Bates and fifth-seeded Washington and O'Neal and seventh-seeded Georgia will host Regional games this Friday.

"We have family obligations the next couple of weekends," said John Bates, Nicole's father. "If Washington makes it to the World Series, we'll go."

"I like their draws," Durossette added. "I was trying to figure out how Bret (Angela's husband) and I can fly to Seattle to watch Sis play this week. But I'd rather it be in Oklahoma."

Bates and Washington (44-8) will face Boise State (40-14) at Husky Softball Stadium.

The game will be televised on ESPNU at 8:30 p.m.

O'Neal and Georgia (43-11) will battle Harvard (24-16) at Jack Turner Stadium.

The contest will be broadcast on the SEC Network at 2:30 p.m.

"I'll be watching on TV for sure," Durossette said. "But it's a lot more fun watching it live."

John has attended 15 of Nicole's games this season.

The round-trip from Ceres to Oregon State covered 1,400 miles.

"The competition is unbelievable," John said. "It's so fun to watch. It feels like a playoff atmosphere when you're there."

Bates, a sophomore shortstop, leads Washington in batting average (.400), hits (66), triples (3) and on-base percentage (.490).

She ranks second in runs (47) and doubles (13), third in stolen bases (7), fourth in RBIs (32) and slugging percentage (.606), and fifth in homers (5).

Nicole has committed just two errors.

O'Neal, a sophomore catcher, has started 48 games for Georgia.

She collected eight homers, four doubles, 30 RBIs and 10 runs during the regular season.

Mahlena has a 1.000 fielding percentage.

She has thrown out 53 percent of would-be base stealers.

Bates and O'Neal helped lead Ceres High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III championship in 2016.

Nicole and Mahlena now play for two of the top college softball programs in the nation.

"It's awesome to see local kids do well," John said. "They won't understand what they're doing until they're away from the game for a couple years. It's amazing."

"I'm not surprised their both successful," Durossette added. "They're both talented. They both work hard. I miss being out there with them. We made a lot of great memories. I'm a fan now."