Former Merced High and current UCLA sophomore Madilyn “Bubba” Nickles will suit up for Team USA one more time.
Nickles, 19, was one of 17 athletes selected to represent the United States at the Japan All-Star Series this summer and will compete as a second National Team in the World Cup of Softball in Irvine July 7-15.
“I’m excited to get to go to Japan,” said Nickles, who will spend her fourth consecutive summer playing for Team USA. “From what I’ve heard from all my older teammates, going to Japan is the coolest experience because the culture is so different.”
Nickles was one of about 60 players invited to a five-day tryout in Clearwater, Fla. this past weekend.
“It was windy, cold and rainy so we got a lot of breaks during the weekend,” Nickles said. “I was definitely nervous. I feel I’m never not going to be nervous, but it was fun trying out. I got along with everyone, which was cool. Even though I was one of the youngest ones there the older players didn’t treat me that way.”
Nickles said the original plan was for all the hitters to get two at-bats against 12 pitchers, but the weather limited the players to just 12 at-bats.
Seventeen players were chosen from the field for the National Team and another 17 were chosen for the team Nickles will compete with in Japan and the World Cup of Softball. Former Ceres star and current University of Washington sophomore Sis Bates will join Nickles on the team.
Nickles feels she didn’t stand out during the tryouts, but felt she held her own.
Nickles’ history with Team USA also helped maker her case for a spot on the team. She has played well during her three summers playing for Team USA, shining on the big stage in front of the Team USA coaches.
Playing for the Junior National Team last summer, Nickles set tournament records at the Under-19 Women’s World Softball Championships with a .690 batting average and six home runs to go with 30 RBIs.
Nickles went 20-for-29 at the plate during the tournament, leading Team USA to a gold medal.
“That’s a special one right there,” USA JWNT head coach Laura Berg told FastPitch News after the tournament. “Bubba Nickles is a special one. She’s obviously got international experience, playing in a tough conference at UCLA helps with her experience as well. Sometimes I just wanted to go up and check her pulse to see because in big moments she was just nice and calm and relaxed.”
Nickles says one the highlights of the tryouts for her was getting to hang out with a softball legend like Kelly Kretschman, who was a four-time All-American at Alabama from 1998-2001 and won a gold medal with Team USA at the Athens Olympics in 2004.
“She’s definitely an ‘OG,’” Nickles said. “I had a blast meeting her. I always looked up to her. My mom has pictures of me at a softball camp with her when I was 9 years old. It was funny seeing those pictures now and then being on the same field with her.”
Another pinch-me moment for Nickles was getting to hit against another softball legend in Monica Abbott, who set NCAA records for wins, strikeouts, shutouts, innings pitched and games started during her time at the University of Tennessee before playing in the Beijing Olympics in 2010.
How did Nickles do facing Abbott?
“Oh, I for sure struck out,” Nickles said. “I think I was so mesmerized she was throwing that I think I forgot to swing the bat. I did foul off one pitch.”
Nickles didn’t have much time to celebrate. After returning back to Merced from Florida, Nickles drove back to UCLA the next morning to begin her classes and softball practice at UCLA. Nickles and the Bruins reached the College World Series last year.
She knows she has another exciting summer waiting for her.
“It means everything to me,” Nickles said. “I’ve always said representing my country is always the No. 1 reason. The ability to keep it going, my last three years, I’ve always said it could be my last moment playing for Team USA. Nothing is given and the fact that I get to play for Team USA at least one more time is a blessing.
“I’m going to have fun, experience new adventures, meet new teammates and new people. I get one more shot.”