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Washington Star Sis Bates Grateful For Opportunity To Play

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(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Sis Bates didn’t blink.

When the 2020 NCAA softball season was unexpectedly canceled last March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, players throughout the nation were certainly shocked.

Bates—a superstar senior shortstop for the Washington Huskies—definitely didn’t want her career to end like that, but she had to wait for the NCAA to rule on additional eligibility.

There were no guarantees, though, but Bates already had her mind set on a return to Husky Softball Stadium.

“I didn’t really have to put much thought into the decision,” said Bates during Washington's preseason press conference via Zoom. “I knew that if I had another opportunity that I was absolutely going to take it. It was like the most heartbreaking thing when the season came to an end last year.

“We were so excited and super hopeful for the decision that the NCAA was going to make … I knew no matter what that I wanted to play with this group of girls again.”

After a few weeks, the NCAA decided on March 30 that all student-athletes would receive an additional season of eligibility. With that news, the nation, and especially Washington fans, rejoiced.

Washington senior catcher Morganne Flores had the same mindset with her decision to return as Bates did, wanting an opportunity to finish what could have been last season.

“I knew the world would not be right, if we had to end our season like that and just not come back,” Flores said. “Same as Sis, if I had another opportunity, I was for sure going to take it. ... I was so happy when we heard that we could come back, and I am super grateful.”

Washington coach Heather Tarr had every player decide to return as Bates and Flores would be joined by Taryn Atlee and Kaija Gibson on the “super-senior list” for the Huskies in 2021. With an extra season, Flores added that she has a greater appreciation for the time she has with her teammates and this program.

“No matter what setting that it is, even just in the locker room or at practice,” Flores said. “It just feels so good to be back with them and have another chance at this thing.”

When asked specifically what Bates and Flores have meant to this program, Tarr uttered an audible, “Whew.”

“Oh my gosh,” Tarr said. “Well, if you look at the All-American wall, you see storied players and players that have had amazing accolades in their time with us. If Morganne and Sis were done last season, you would be saying the same thing.

“But because they get that extra year, that fifth year from a maturity standpoint, it is just amazing to know that we have these plaques on our wall (of players) that are still on our team.”

Since Bates arrived in Seattle, she has displayed her talent, passion and fun personality with a bright smile. Bates quickly gained national recognition for her seemingly effortless highlight defensive plays from the shortstop position.

Bates is a magician with her glove in the infield. Whether it is a bad hop, a bouncing ball or a screamer right toward her, Bates makes plays look easy.

When asked about her defense, Bates immediately laughed and said, “Defense is super fun.”

“It sounds so funny for me to say that,” Bates said. “But, seriously, I do love it. I love it so much. It is genuinely fun for me.”

As someone who has accomplished so much, Bates understands her popularity in the sport, but doesn't focus on it too much.

“I am doing things for my teammates, and focusing on yourself is the most detrimental thing you could ever do,” Bates said. “I have also been vocal with my teammates about it, just working through it and literally just loving the game and playing the game for them.”

Tarr put a different spin on the attention Bates gets.

“We want that,” Tarr said. “We want that attention. How cool for the University of Washington? People will be like, ‘What is that W?’ They know now what that W is, and that is our mission, which is to bring awareness to our school and our university to show how awesome it is.”

With everyone back in 2021, Bates and the Huskies are poised for a deep run into the postseason. And according to Tarr, this Washington squad may just be the most talented team in program history.

“We do have the benefit of being able to retain those four extra seniors,” Tarr said. “... We are so grateful to our administration for supporting that this year because that definitely didn’t have to happen.”

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