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PREP SOFTBALL: BEAUTIES ON THE DIAMOND ANTELOPE VALLEY SOFTBALL PLAYERS A HIT AT PAGEANTS.

Byline: Aaron Levine Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Regardless of how the Antelope Valley District 51 All-Stars fare this week in the Big League (18-under) Softball World Series in Kalamazoo, Mich., a couple of players have given a new meaning to being ``Queens of the Diamond.''

Second baseman Traci Nolte, senior-to-be at Highland High, is the reigning Miss Eastside Community and earned the title of Miss Photogenic at this year's Miss Antelope Valley pageant. In 1999, starting pitcher Mandy Ricker won the Miss Teen High Desert crown, a preliminary pageant to the Miss USA competition. Ricker was also Junior Miss Antelope Valley in 1997 when she was 15.

``It's been a really positive experience because it gets me involved with my community,'' said the 17-year-old Nolte, who was also Little Miss Eastside when she was 7. ``It's something that's important to me to be a representative for this area.''

But how are the two viewed when they trade their high socks for high heels?

``My softball friends laugh when they see that I'm in these pageants,'' said Ricker, 18.

``But it's the other way around, too. My pageant friends feel the same way when I play softball. Softball and pageants are completely separate things for me.''

Yet, as different as the two past times are, Ricker's reason for doing them is the same: the drive to win.

Ricker doesn't lose her competitiveness when she addresses a large audience for a pageant interview or when she takes to the pitching circle. And when softball took center stage last week, the Quartz Hill graduate threw a no-hitter in the first game and then allowed two runs in the second.

And Nolte hardly looked the stereotypical beauty queen when she dived to her right to make a catch, preventing a run from scoring.

Being a beauty queen title holder also has its perks. Nolte has attended the 49ers parade in Lake Hughes three weeks ago and gets to meet the music group Destiny's Child at the Antelope Valley Fair.

Although Nolte said her duties as Miss Eastside do not conflict with playing softball, they come close. Recently, she competed in the Miss Antelope Valley pageant from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., ending just in time for her to make it to a softball game the next day at Northern California Pinole.

``It was quite a busy weekend, but she always handles a lot, and I'm proud of her for that,'' said Nolte's mother, Carol.

Nolte, who has a 4.0 grade-point average, also juggles a job at a restaurant, where she works 20 hours a week. She said softball is her priority and she wants to play at UC Santa Barbara after graduating next year. She's also trying to keep up with her brother, Corey, who is a left fielder for Antelope Valley College. Corey Nolte batted .400 with a .630 slugging percentage last year and will be a sophomore this year.

``They've got that whole brother/sister competition thing going,'' said Nolte's father, Tom.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 14, 2001
Words:502
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