Good Sports: Merced High School's Maddie Nickles

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Merced High School junior Maddie Nickles is batting over .500 this season while serving as the Bears' number one pitcher. (KFSN)

Softball season is in full swing across our Valley, and one of the best high school softball players in the country calls Merced home.
Merced High School junior Maddie Nickles is batting over .500 this season while serving as the Bears' number one pitcher, and she's also considered one of the best infielders in the country. Anywhere she is on the diamond, it's clear: this Merced High junior is the real deal.

"The drive to get better. She practices really hard. It tends to make a player better is by practicing a lot. She just wants to win. She's a winner," Merced High School softball coach Bart McAfee said.

"I just beam with pride. She loves playing with these girls. She loves playing with all of her teammates. She's always been that I want to beat my teammates type of kid," said Ted Nickles, Maddie's father.

A talented player on her club teams since she was a little girl, Maddie combined her ability on the diamond with an unrivaled work ethic and soon began getting invitations to elite camps -- none bigger than the ASA/USA Junior National Team tryout in early January.

"I was just trying to be relaxed as best as possible because I knew that whenever I have fun, I play the best. And out of all those girls, they were all nervous too; we were all in the same boat," Maddie Nickles said.

But Maddie pushed her nerves aside and put her natural talent on display as a utility infielder -- selected as the only high school junior on the 17 player roster that will compete across the country this summer.

"They sent out a text and I read it and was like, 'Oh, my gosh! Mom, look at this!' Every little girl dreams of playing for their country one day," Maddie said.

And even though she only turned 17 last week, Maddie has already committed to play softball at UCLA. A straight-A student in the classroom, she looks forward to getting her degree and playing softball for as long as she can.

"My main goal is to be happy in life," Maddie said. "I don't have any specific goal to be wealthy, or to be the most famous person in the world. I just want to be happy with my life, and I'm going in the right direction. I'm completely happy right now."

"She's capable of playing for the national team as well. But I think the way she works and how she goes about it, it will pay off," McAfee said.

Current Bear, future Bruin -- a star the Central Valley is lucky to call its own.

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