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Athlete of the Week is Eastport-South Manor softball pitcher Nikki Caesar

She has opened the season with 90 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 46 innings to lead Eastport-South Manor.

Starting pitcher Nikki Caesar of Eastport-South Manor delivers

Starting pitcher Nikki Caesar of Eastport-South Manor delivers the ball against host Kings Park on Wednesday. Photo Credit: Daniel De Mato

At 5-2, Nikki Caesar is used to getting overlooked, but she’s not to be underestimated.

The Eastport-South Manor star pitcher understands she’ll never come off as the most physically intimidating person on the field. She’s OK with that. But that doesn’t mean she’s not to be feared when she gets in the circle.

“My whole life, I’ve been told ‘You’re not big enough, not tall enough,’ and it’s been something that’s motivated me my whole life.”

Those naysayers are left scratching their heads when seeing Caesar pitch. She has opened the season with 90 strikeouts and just 14 walks in 46 innings to lead Eastport-South Manor. She struck out 17 batters in an 8-1 win over Rocky Point on Monday, then struck out 14 and held a tough Kings Park team to two runs in a 2-0 loss Wednesday to be named Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

“I think she’s really put a lot of those ideas of her size behind her,” coach Laura Ward said. “She steps into the circle and she’s just a pitcher and it doesn’t matter that she’s not as tall or as big as other pitches she faces. She steps into the circle with confidence and believes in the pitches she can throw.”

For Caesar, that confidence comes from believing in the work she put in. She has some of the toughest pitches to hit on Long Island, based on the way the ball moves. This, combined with a tireless work ethic, has led to her success.

Last season, Caesar had 246 strikeouts, 42 walks and a 2.48 ERA in 22 games, including a 20-strikeout game against Sachem North in a 1-0 win. But even with her ability to start and end the play herself, she gets the most confidence from her teammates in the field.

“Once I get into rhythm of striking batters out, I feel great,” Caesar said. “But then I realize how much trust I have in my team and knowing everyone out there has my back.”

The power the junior hurler feels in the circle can’t be compared to anything else. Much like any other successful pitcher, the mental aspect of pitching is nearly just as important as the execution on each pitch. Caesar, entering her third season as the varsity starter, excels there.

“Being a pitcher, you automatically think how you dominate the game, all eyes are on you,” she said. “I just love the control of being a pitcher and helping my teammates as much as possible.”

And regardless of her height, when batters step into the box, they quickly realize the 5-2 pitcher will be as tough as anybody they’ve faced in the past.

“My whole life, it was always the stereotype that I’m not a strong athlete and it’s something I’ve had to fight my whole life,” Caesar said. “It’s something I’ve worked very hard to overcome.”

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