This year, the Central California Conference softball coaches didn’t throw any curveballs when they selected the league’s MVP.
The honor went to Merced High School senior Madilyn Nickles, who last week was named the Gatorade California Player of the Year.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Nickles said of the CCC honor. “I was happy they thought I was deserving of the award. I really worked hard to help my team win. I’m glad they were able to recognize my hard work.”
Nickles was selected the CCC MVP her freshman and sophomore seasons, but in a surprise last year, the coaches picked Golden Valley slugger Shyan Crutcher. Nickles was named a first-team All-American by FloSoftball.com and a second-team All-American by USA Today.
The UCLA-bound Nickles helped the Bears win four CCC championships, which extended their league title streak to six.
“I think that’s pretty amazing,” Nickles said of Merced’s championship run. “Coming into Merced, I thought it was a good softball program. To help them keep winning consecutive league titles is exciting. Hopefully, they can continue it on in the future.”
This season, Nickles went 20-5 with a 0.63 ERA. She finished with 308 strikeouts in 167 1/3 innings and threw three no-hitters, including one perfect game.
Nickles also batted .552 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 27 RBIs. She didn’t strike out in 104 plate appearances.
This month, Nickles will join the USA Women’s National Elite Team for summertime play. Last summer, she hit .400 with the Junior National Team.
Pitman junior Alanah Laupau was named the CCC Offensive Player of the Year. She batted .484 with four homers, nine doubles, one triple and 29 RBIs.
Atwater junior Cheyenne Mahy was named the Pitcher of the Year. She went 15-4 with a 0.33 ERA and 180 strikeouts in 128 innings.
Nickles had high praise for Mahy.
“She’s a really good pitcher,” Nickles said. “She has good speed on her ball and she can hit her spots. I’ve faced some of the best pitchers in the world, and it was a challenge going up against her. I have a lot of respect for her as a pitcher.”
Merced also landed four players on the All-CCC first team: Rheanne Lewis, Monique Collins, Alazaya Landeros and Phoebe Arista. They were joined by Atwater’s Brittany Massa, Eileen Martinez and Melanie Valencia.
Also named to the first team was Buhach Colony’s Selena Sandoval, Golden Valley’s Marissa Bertuccio, Turlock’s Jessie Miranda and Pitman’s Lehua DeLeon and Morgan Aguiniga.
The second team comprised Liliana Ramirez (Merced), Ashlynn Chatham (Merced), Claire Fountain (Pitman), Siyra Munoz (Golden Valley), Maritza Iglesias (Atwater), Megan Escobar (Atwater), Shelby Frutoz (Turlock), Tyra Hampton (Turlock), Sarah Clarot (Buhach Colony) and Julia Pinasco (Buhach Colony).
All-CCC baseball – After winning the league title, Turlock earned two major awards with Jon Temple being named MVP and Blaine Weber being selected Pitcher of the Year.
Temple, who recently signed with Utah, hit .395 with five home runs and 32 RBIs. Weber finished 8-1 with a 1.58 ERA.
Pitman’s Colton Evans was named Offensive Player of the Year after hitting .412 with 31 runs scored.
Merced and Buhach Colony had four players each on the first team: from the Bears, pitcher Kyle Moniz, second baseman Jacob Alarcon, third baseman Tanner Pellissier and outfielder Josh May; and from the Thunder, pitcher Nick Singer, shortstop Ubaldo Romo, outfielder Logan Lemas and designated hitter Logan Coe.
Also selected to the first team were catcher Brandon Booz (Turlock), first baseman Tate Soderstrom (Turlock), outfielder Caleb Lopez (Golden Valley) and utility player Anthony Encalade (Pitman).
The second team comprised Brett Hagen (Pitman), Damon Treadwell (Turlock), Wyatt Pimentel (Atwater), Trevor Phillips (Merced), Mike Casso (Buhach Colony), Nick Jones (Pitman), Matt Carrigg (Pitman), Christian Witt (Buhach Colony), Peyton Dunseth (Turlock), Mitch Pryschuk (Turlock), Bryce West (Merced) and Chris Steeley (Turlock).
All-Star games on tap – The seventh annual Merced County All-Star Baseball Game will be held Saturday at Merced College at 7:15 p.m. The North leads the series 4-2.
The North will feature all-league players from Hilmar, Buhach Colony, Atwater, Livingston, Los Banos, Gustine, Pacheco and Delhi. Los Banos’ Pat Fuentes will coach the North.
The South will feature all-league players from El Capitan, Dos Palos, Merced, Golden Valley, Le Grand, Sonora and Mariposa. Coaching the South will be Le Grand’s Joel Salcido.
Some of the top softball players from the CCC and Western Athletic Conference will meet in the Paul Leonardo WAC vs. CCC All-Star Game on Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Livingston High. In the inaugural game last year, the WAC won 7-6 with two runs in the ninth inning.
The CCC may be without two of its stars in Merced’s Nickles (rib injury) and Atwater’s Mahy (out of town).