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Multi-sport standouts Bussard, Bates garner special recognition for outstanding play
Brad, Nicole of Ceres High voted schools top athletes
Nicole Bates starred in softball and girls basketball her junior year with the Bulldogs. - photo by DALE BUTLER/Courier file photo

Senior Brad Bussard and junior Nicole Bates were named Ceres High's Male and Female Athletes of the Year, respectively, in a vote by the school's coaches last month.

Bulldog Athletic Director Shawna Nunes made the announcement at lunchtime on May 25.

"It's really humbling to receive the award again," Nicole said. "Last year, I got it with my brother (Jimmy). This year, I got it with my brother's best friend (Brad). It's cool to get the award together. We've grown up together."

"This couldn't have been done without my teammates and coaches," Brad said. "It's a great accomplishment. It shows all my hard work paid off. It means a lot."

Bates won the award for the second year in a row. A two-sport star, Bates earned varsity letters in both softball and girls basketball.

"It's fun to play with my friends," Nicole said.

Bates, a standout slugger and shortstop, earned the WAC Offensive Player of the Year award.

Nicole ranked first in the WAC in batting average (.521), slugging percentage (.875), on-base percentage (.558), doubles (7) and runs (24), second in homers (2), triples (2) and RBIs (17), and third in stolen bases (6).

Ceres High's softball team posted a 22-9 overall record, placed first in the WAC (10-2) for the second straight season and tied for fifth in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III playoff bracket.

Bates was selected to the WAC First Team for her outstanding play in hoops.

Nicole rarely rested while averaging a team-leading 19.4 points per game in conference play.

The Bulldogs compiled a 7-12 overall record and tied for fourth place in the WAC (4-8) with Los Banos.

Bates earned all-league honors for the third time in her career.

Nicole plans to continue her softball career at the college level.

Bates made a verbal commitment to the University of Washington prior to the start of the 2013 season.

Florida's Nicole DeWitt and Michigan's Tera Blanco, Nicole's Huntington Beach-based NorCal Firecrackers travel ball teammates, played in the NCAA Division-I Women's College World Series finals.

"I haven't put too much thought into it," Nicole said while talking about the possibility of winning the Ceres High Female Athlete of the Year award for the third time. "But it would be awesome to get it three years in a row. I'm just excited to get it again this year. It's really humbling."

Bussard played football, boys basketball and baseball his senior year.

"He dedicated the last four years of his life to Ceres High athletics," said John Bussard, Brad's father and baseball coach.

Brad threw for 4,394 yards with 37 touchdowns and 27 interceptions during his two-year career with Ceres High's football program. The Bulldogs posted a combined record of 5-15 with Bussard under center.

Bussard concluded his prep career in memorable fashion as Ceres High ended a seven-year losing streak versus crosstown-rival Central Valley with a 24-7 victory. The Bulldogs eliminated the Hawks from playoff consideration on the final day of the season. Brad threw for 186 yards with two TDs and no picks.

An honorable-mention pick on the gridiron, Bussard mustered 1,541 yards with 12 touchdowns and 11 picks in 10 games for 3-7 Ceres High this past fall. Brad lost his top two receivers to graduation heading into the 2014 campaign.

Bussard totaled 2,853 yards, 25 touchdowns and 16 interceptions his junior year. He had three 400-yard passing games. Brad tallied a program-record 437 yards and six TDs in his debut against Modesto High.

A reserve forward-guard in basketball, Bussard buried two clutch free throws with 1.5 seconds remaining to lead 18th-seeded Ceres High to a 58-54 upset of No. 15 El Dorado in a Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III out-bracket playoff game.

Bussard totaled six points and was a major contributor on defense for the Bulldogs, who compiled a 14-12 overall record and finished third in the WAC (7-5).

Ceres High last won in the postseason in 2000-01.

Brad was tabbed as the WAC's MVP in baseball.

Bussard, Ceres High's No. 3 hitter, ranked first in the WAC in triples (3), doubles (4), RBIs (19), runs (15), stolen bases (10) and slugging percentage (.700), third in fielding percentage (.953), fifth in batting average (.450) and ninth in on-base percentage (.457).

A standout pitcher, Brad ranked second in league play in wins (5-0) and complete games (3), and third in ERA (1.18) and strikeouts (34). Just six of the 12 runs Bussard allowed were earned.

The Bulldogs went 23-7 on the year, captured their second straight WAC crown (11-1) and participated in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

Bussard will continue his baseball career with Holy Names University of Oakland.

He earned a partial scholarship to the Division-II college.

"He's the most competitive kid I know," John Bussard said. "He's not going to stop until he's successful. He's always been that way."