Five members of the Ceres-based 2009 Tri County Smash 10-and-under travel softball team have reached the pinnacle of their sport.
Nicole “Sis” Bates, Mahlena O’Neal, Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles, Kindra Hackbarth and Maddi Hackbarth will reunite in Oklahoma City at the 2018 NCAA Division-I Women’s College World Series (WCWS).
The WCWS will get underway this Thursday.
“We never thought or even dreamed that all five of us were going to go at the same time. It’s so surreal and just shows the type of talent that the Central Valley produces.”Mahlena O’Neal
“When we were all on Smash, all we were worrying about was playing,” O’Neal said. “We never thought or even dreamed that all five of us were going to go at the same time. It’s so surreal and just shows the type of talent that the Central Valley produces.”
“It’s the biggest stage in college softball and they’re there,” said Donnie Donaldson, Smash founder and Ceres High’s former head coach. “They absolutely deserve everything that’s coming to them. They’ve put in the work.”
Bates and O’Neal are longtime friends.
Nicole and Mahlena were rivals in youth softball and soccer prior to becoming teammates with the Smash, NorCal Firecrackers and Ceres High Bulldogs.
The duo led Ceres High to the Sac-Joaquin Section Division-III title in 2016.
Bates (Washington) and O’Neal (Georgia) start at shortstop and catcher, respectively, for their college teams.
“She has an incredible bat,” Selfridge said. “She drives hard through the ball. We’ve been working on making her even more formidable by working on hitting into the gaps more. When she hits there, there is definitely some power behind the ball.”
“I scout teams during warmups,” Lloyd said. “I see what their weak points are and attack those areas.”
Scarlett compiled a 2-7 record at pitcher with a league-leading 86 strikeouts.
Pacheco’s Autumn Randles (56 Ks) ranked second behind Lloyd.
Scarlett had 47 strikeouts in 2017.
“I have surprised myself,” Lloyd said. “I’ve improved a lot from freshman to sophomore year. I’ve gotten mentally stronger. I’ve really focused on my mechanics.”
Quiroz also earned first-team, all-conference honors.
The junior third baseman batted .485 with three doubles, two RBIs, seven runs and one stolen base.
“Brianna is one of those unique athletes that is very gifted, but works hard at improving on her own skills,” Selfridge said. “She is uncomfortable with being called a leader, but the girls look to her as one of their leaders. She leads by example. She works hard every practice, every game, and expects the same from her teammates and her coaches. She wants to be challenged and learn to perfect her craft.”
Quiroz was a second-team pick as a sophomore.
“Bri was much more confident this season,” Selfridge said.
Pelayo received second-team all-league honors for the fourth time.
“One of the things I really love about Ny is her knowledge,” Selfridge said. “She calls the pitches for Scarlett and has the last two years. She knows the batter, takes into consideration where they are in the box, the length of their bat, their stance, and how they hit the last time against us. Then calls the right pitch to get the quick out. Ny is going to be tough to replace and will be missed immensely.”
“Nayeli will be missed tremendously,” Lloyd said. “We had a great relationship. When we played, we were on the same page. I trusted her calling my pitches. She knew what I liked to throw.”
Nayeli, a senior catcher, batted .300 with two doubles, four RBIs, one run and one stolen base.
“Ny is extremely comfortable and confident behind the plate, which is why she is so successful,” Selfridge said. “She is the best catcher in the league in my opinion. She is excellent at framing the ball for the pitcher. Very few balls get by her. She has made some incredible plays over her four years on varsity.
Central Valley placed fourth in the WAC standings. The Hawks compiled a 3-7 record.