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Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball 2016: Nicole Bates Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball 2016: Nicole Bates
Ceres’ senior shortstop becomes the Sac-Joaquin Section’s first Ms. Softball in more than a decade.  By Mark Tennis | Cal-Hi Sports    Ceres High... Cal-Hi Sports Ms. Softball 2016: Nicole Bates

Ceres’ senior shortstop becomes the Sac-Joaquin Section’s first Ms. Softball in more than a decade. 

By Mark Tennis | Cal-Hi Sports

   Ceres High infielder Nicole Bates nudged Gatorade National Player of the Year Madilyn Nickles of Merced for top local honor in Stanislaus/Merced County and did the same for the state’s highest, longest-running individual softball selection. It’s another tough choice in a sport that has seen several of them in recent years.

   In some years, the area known in the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section as the Stanislaus District does not even get one player in softball up onto the 30-player list of the Cal-Hi Sports Super Elite All-State Team. This year, however, it’s not a stretch whatsoever to say the final top two players on the board to be the 2016 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year were both from the Stanislaus District, which basically covers Stanislaus and Merced counties and is the main coverage area of the Modesto Bee.

   When one of those two players, Merced infielder/pitcher Madilyn Nickles, was chosen as the Gatorade National Player of the Year, thoughts immediately turned to Bates. Nickles also was the popular choice on a Cal-Hi Sports twitter poll among nine statewide finalists, but the Modesto Bee voted Bates as its player of the year.

   In the end, we agree with the Bee. Bates not only edged Nickles for the local honor, but she also edges out several other finalists “” primarily Etiwanda senior Vanessa Taukeiaho and Mission Viejo junior Camryn Ybarra “” and is the 2016 Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.

   “Thank you so much,” Bates said on a late June evening while having dinner with her club team, the Rico Firecrackers, after playing two games at a tournament in Colorado. “It’s hard to believe.”

   Bates is not the first-ever Ms. Softball winner from the SJS, but she’s the first from Stanislaus County. The last State Player of the Year from the section was Katie Cotta of Linden in 2005. Others have been Anjelica Selden of Vanden-Fairfield in (2004), Alicia Hollowell-Fairfield (2002), Andrea Vidlund of Casa Roble-Orangevale (1999), Karen Jackson of Roseville (1990) and Shawn Andaya of Lodi (1983).

   The key for Bates, who will next play at Washington, is that she led Ceres to a section title in combination with being one of the top 10 national recruits in her class, according to She also put her name into the state record book in numerous career and season categories.

   In the team’s final series against Benicia for the SJS Division III title, Bates went 6-for-7 with two doubles and helped turn a double play that ended the deciding game. Ceres (23-5, No. 2 in final Div. III state rankings and No. 31 overall) won its first section title in 21 years and won in a bracket that included two other teams, East Union-Manteca and Oakdale, that were in the State Top 20 for most of the season. 

   “The whole thing (for being Ms. Softball) is because of our team,” Bates said. “It was a big accomplishment for us to win that title, and it was a lot of fun. A lot of the girls I’ve been playing with since we were a very young age. Our chemistry was really good and that really helped us out.”

   For the season, Bates racked up a career-best batting average (.571) on 60 hits (a total that gets her into the record book). She also had 33 RBI, five homers and struck out just five times in 113 plate appearances.

   It’s Bates’ career totals, however, that made more of a difference. Her career batting average in 114 games (.512) plus her number of career hits (205), doubles (31), triples (22) and runs (171) all gain entry into the state record book. Her runs total also ranks in the top five in state history while her hits total is in the top 10.

   Nickles made a strong case as well, leading a young Merced team that also only had one other senior with travel ball experience to the SJS Div. I semifinals. She also pitched for the Bears and despite splitting time as the starter in her freshman and sophomore seasons still had more than 800 career strikeouts. Nickles also had more doubles (56) and homers (25) in her career than Bates. Last summer, she was the only high school junior on the U.S.A. Junior National Team.

   “Madilyn has been fun to play with when that’s happened,” said Bates, who played on a team with Nickles when they both were 10 and sometimes works out alongside Nickles at Bonsu Elite Athletics. “She’s a great player. She can do it all.”

   The duo will meet again in Pac-12 games with Nickles at UCLA and Bates at Washington.

   “I’m just trying to work on perfecting the little things,” Bates said of her goals for the rest of the summer. “I’d just like to go in there (to Washington) and help out in any way I can.”

   While she’s doing that, Bates might just have a little extra bounce in her step as the Ms. Softball State Player of the Year.

   This article previously appeared on Be sure to visit the site throughout July as it releases it’s All-State Baseball and Softball selections.


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