Chelsea Evans and Madilyn Nickles were interchangeable for the Merced High softball team this year.
On the days Evans pitched, Nickles played shortstop. When Nickles pitched, Evans moved to shortstop.
The two stars hit back-to-back in the middle of the Bears' potent lineup.
"It made life easier having both of them," said Merced coach Bart McAfee. "I knew one could pitch and the other could play shortstop. If didn't have one or the other, I would have had to move my third baseman to shortstop. There would have been changes to the lineup. It's great having both of them."
When it came time to pick an MVP, McAfee couldn't decide. So he picked both. Evans and Nickles were named Co-MVPs for the Central California Conference.
Evans and Nickles have also been named the Sun-Star Softball Co-Players of the Year.
"They are both so important to the team it's hard to choose between the two of them," McAfee said. "They were both so good. They play the same positions and they were both key components of our offense and defense.
"We could win with either one pitching."
For Evans, it's the second straight year she's been named the Sun-Star Player of the Year.
The junior hit .404 this season and led the team with 27 runs and 14 doubles to go along with three homers and 24 RBIs.
Evans also went 5-0 in the circle for Merced during CCC play with a 0.96 ERA.
Evans enjoyed the addition of Nickles this year.
"It was a relief to be honest," said Evans, who has already verbally committed to Stony Brook University. "I love playing shortstop. It's my true position. Pitching is kind of my second thing. It was good to be able to split time with her.
"It definitely helped having Maddy hitting behind me. I knew if I grounded out or struck out, Maddy could pick me up. If I got on base she could knock me in or get me to third base."
On a team with only a few seniors, Evans stepped into more of a leadership role.
"I definitely tried to keep the tone up," she said. "I didn't want to see our energy level drop. If we didn't have a good inning or somebody made an error, I wanted to do my best to keep everyone up."
One of the first things Evans did this year was text Nickles to let her know if she needed anything she could count on her.
Nickles definitely lived up to expectations. Before she played her first high school game Nickles had scholarship offers from three Pac-12 schools and verbally committed to UCLA in November.
"This season was really fun," Nickles said. "I was a little bit nervous, but I had confidence in myself. I've done so much as far as playing with older girls in travel ball.
"I've been playing with older girls since I was 12 years old. Still, I was little anxious because I've never played high school softball before."
Nickles hit .426 with five homers and 36 RBIs.
During CCC play, Nickles went 9-1 with a 0.60 ERA with 79 strikeouts in 48 2/3 innings.
Nickles knew the news about UCLA would direct a lot of eyes her way.
"You've got to keep playing like it's a game," Nickles said. "The reason I play is to have fun. I'm not out to prove I'm the best player out there."
With both Evans and Nickles hitting back-to-back it was hard for opposing teams to navigate their way through the middle of Merced's order.
"It was like if one of them didn't get a hit, the other one would," Buhach Colony coach Michelle Osmer said. "They would at least make you work hard for an out. I know more than once Chelsea hit a double or triple against us and then Maddy scored her."
The scary part for Osmer and the rest of the CCC is both Evans and Nickles return next year.
Shyan Crutcher, Infield, Golden Valley
Ruby Quiralte, Infield, Merced
Aliyah Ricks, Pitcher, Atwater
Catrina Wilson, Infield, Buhach Colony
Shea Williams, Infield, Mariposa
Taylor Harris, Utility, Los Banos
Arianna Barton, Outfield, Pacheco
Serina Castillo, Outfield, Merced
Megan Kravec, Catcher, Merced
Marry Castillo, Pitcher, Buhach Colony
Grace Santistevan, Utility, Atwater
Marissa Belmontes, Infield, Le Grand
Cassidy Vlot, Pitcher, Chowchilla
Lauren Morris, Infield, Buhach Colony