Ceres High grad Nicole “Sis” Bates and the University of Washington softball team fell two wins shy of winning the 2018 NCAA Division-I Women’s College World Series title.
Florida State swept the best-of-three championship matchup en route to claiming its first national crown this past week in Oklahoma City.
“It’s sad right now,” Bates said following the fifth-seeded Huskies’ season-ending 8-3 loss to the sixth-seeded Seminoles on June 5. “But we’re going to come back next year.”
Washington beat top-seeded Oregon once and reigning two-time national champion Oklahoma twice on its way to advancing to the finals.
Bates, a sophomore shortstop, was selected to the WCWS All-Tournament Team.
Nicole collected two doubles, one single, two RBIs, two runs and one stolen base while batting second for the Huskies.
She made difficult plays look routine on defense.
Bates’ popularity increased thanks to her smile, demeanor and positive energy.
She had 14,300 Instagram followers as of Tuesday.
“It was a cool feeling playing for a national championship,” said Nicole, who did interviews with ESPN, espnW and the Pac-12 Network during the WCWS. “Every team that came to this tournament was great.”
The Huskies compiled a 52-10 overall record, and claimed Super Regional and Regional titles this season.
Washington spent a lengthy part of the year ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/NFCA Division-I Coaches Poll. The Huskies also climbed to the No. 1 spot in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll.
Washington broke the school record for most consecutive victories to start a season.
The Huskies’ winning streak reached 28 games.
“This journey has been a dream come true for all of us,” Bates said. “Competing for a national championship has been awesome. The seniors left behind a legacy that will live on forever.”
Nicole will fill an even bigger leadership role on next year’s team as six upperclassmen will be lost to graduation.
Bates and senior third baseman Taylor Van Zee, Washington’s left side of the infield, combined to make just six errors in 62 games.
Bates and Van Zee have been teammates for the past five years, including three with the Huntington Beach-based Tony-Rico led Firecrackers travel squad.
“Taylor and I have been playing together since my sophomore year of high school,” said Bates, who shed tears while talking about Van Zee. “She’s been one of the most competitive people I’ve known in my life. Playing with her has been a blessing just like playing with every other senior on the team. I’m still going to see her. We just won’t take the field again.”
“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” Van Zee said. “Sis is more than a softball player. She’s a great human being. I learned more from her every day than I ever thought I would. Amazing shortstop. Some of the plays that she makes fires me up so much. She’s so good.”