Gianna Nicastro Calhoun pitcher delivers to the plate during the bottom...

Gianna Nicastro Calhoun pitcher delivers to the plate during the bottom of the third inning of a Nassau softball game against Massapequa on Thursday, April 11, 2024. Credit: James Escher

Gianna Nicastro knows softball is a mental game.

The Calhoun star third baseman/pitcher tries to visualize pitches before each at-bat while focusing on breathing and staying calm.

“Very mind over matter,” she said.

So when Nicastro dug into the batter’s box with the Colts trailing by two with runners on second and third with no outs in the bottom of the seventh inning against Mepham on Tuesday, her mindset was predetermined.

Nicastro, a St. John’s commit, crushed the first pitch of the at-bat to left-centerfield for a three-run walk-off homer in a 4-3 win.

“We were down, I knew that I needed to produce,” Nicastro said. “The team really needed me there. After that first pitch, it felt great. It didn’t even feel like the ball hit the bat. It was just a perfect spot.

“Just turning third base, coming home to my team excited about everything that just happened — you really felt the love right there. You felt the love of the game. That’s what it’s all about.”

Nicastro’s heroics, which lifted Calhoun to its third comeback win of the young season, earned her Newsday Athlete of the Week honors.

“The excitement from her and the crowd was fantastic,” Calhoun coach Mike Pisano said. “The girls charged the field, charged the plate. Well deserved for a person like that . . . It was a perfect ending to a game.”

She is batting .353 with a 1.127 OPS, two homers and six RBIs in six games for Calhoun (5-2). She has pitched just 12 innings thus far, with Johanna Esposito pitching 32.

Nicastro has been on varsity since she was an eighth-grader in 2020. Four years later, her teammates voted her as one of two captains alongside Gabriella Facciponti. She is not only a team leader, but she gets to set an example for her younger sister, Sophia, an eighth-grader and fellow pitcher/third baseman on varsity.

“I’ve always told my family that I always wish I had an older sibling to look up to,” Nicastro said. “So I always wanted to make sure that I was that role model for my younger sister.”

Pisano praised Nicastro’s work ethic, noting her nonstop hours in the batting cage, on the field and throwing the ball against the wall at home.

“She is a person that leads by example,” Pisano said. “ . . . She is not only a guiding force, but also a compassionate, helpful teammate who is always talking up the team.”

Nicastro committed to St. John’s in late August 2023 and said she feels like “family” already. In the interim, she and the “Comeback Colts” — as Pisano dubbed them — have goals to win everything from Nassau Conference I to the state championship.

Said Nicastro: “There’s definitely a sense of pride and a sense of excitement putting on that jersey, walking through the halls every day, knowing that everybody’s looking up to us and excited for us.”


Unlimited Digital AccessOnly 25¢for 5 months