For the more than 30 years, Gatorade has honored the nation’s most elite high school athletes for their athletic excellence, academic achievement and exemplary character with the Gatorade Player of the Year award. On July 13, the 12 Gatorade National Players of the Year from the 2015-16 season will gather in Hollywood, where the 13th annual Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year award will be presented to the best overall male and female athlete.
In the days leading to the presentation, USA TODAY High School Sports will profile each of the 12 candidates — six boys and six girls.
This installment features National Softball Player of the Year Madilyn Nickles from Merced High (Calif.).
Merced High (Merced, Calif.) senior Madilyn ‘Bubba’ Nickles was named the 2015-16 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year. The 5-foot-8 right-handed pitcher and shortstop compiled a 20-5 record in the circle along with a 0.63 ERA this past season, leading the Bears (22-7) to the semifinals of the Sac-Joaquin Division I Tournament in the knockout bracket. Nickles struck out 308 batters in 167.1 innings pitched. At the plate, Nickles batted .552 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 27 RBI to finish with a 1.126 slugging percentage and zero strikeouts in 104 plate appearances.
Nickles, a UCLA signee, mistakenly believed the 20-pound trophy Finch handed her last month was the Gatorade California Player of the Year award. A full five minutes elapsed before the teen grasped the fact she is Gatorade’s 2015-16 Gatorade National Softball Player of the Year.
I was thinking, ‘this is a big deal for state. I had no idea. Even after I talked with Jennie and stood there for all these photos. I can’t believe a secret like this was kept. I usually know everything in this town. Am I still dreaming?
At the plate, Nickles batted .552 with 20 doubles, eight home runs and 27 RBI to finish with a 1.126 slugging percentage and zero strikeouts in 104 plate appearances. She was the only junior on the 2015 USA Junior National Team that won the WBSC Junior Women’s World Championship last summer and she was the only high school-age player invited to train with the 2016 USA Softball Women’s Elite Team.
MORE: Q&A with Nickles
The Gatorade Player of the Year award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the softball diamond. Nickles is now a finalist for the Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award. USA TODAY High School Sports administrates the nationwide selection process in collaboration with Gatorade.
Nickles has maintained a 3.97 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally as part of multiple community-service initiatives through her school’s Rotary International Interact Club. Nickles has also donated her time generously to youth players, serving as a volunteer assistant for the past four years with both ASA Development Camps as well as Nike Softball Camps. In addition, she has coached and advised area U-12 to U-14 players on an individual basis and served as an instructor at USA Softball Youth Camps.