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Struggling Utes sport ‘invisible’ star

Nicolette Sinagra might be the best softball player in New York City that few people have heard of.

Her high−school team, New Utrecht, finished 4−13 in PSAL Brooklyn A this spring. The Utes missed the playoffs and Sinagra missed out on many of the ink and headlines garnered by her travel−ball peers.

“She’s invisible there – put it that way,” said John Pisano, Sinagra’s coach on the NY Panthers Blue travel squad. “Never mind under the radar.”

This past season, she batted .472 with a .558 on−base percentage and an .861 slugging percentage. The rising senior was a FiveBoroSports.com All−Brooklyn honorable mention honoree.

But the summer is where Sinagra really shines.

She’s an outstanding defensive third baseman and bats cleanup for the Staten Island−based Panthers Blue, one of the top teams in the city. Two weeks ago, she was the only player from Brooklyn selected to the Team New Jersey National Recruiting Camp and one of only three from New York City, along with St. Joseph by the Sea’s Jackie Kelly and Jackie Bonamassa.

Pisano said she is getting interest from MAAC schools like Fairfield and Rider, as well as some Division II programs.

“She’s one of the top three players in New York City,” Pisano said at the Panthers Showcase on Saturday afternoon at Wagner College on Staten Island.

Sinagra doesn’t get recognized as such playing for New Utrecht, but that doesn’t bother her at all. Being a star athlete for the Utes is a family tradition. Her brother, Francesco, was the team’s star quarterback and was named to the Outback Steakhouse Empire Challenge city team his senior season. He now plays at Nassau Community College. Sinagra’s father, Pete, was a football player at New Utrecht and went on to compete at Rhode Island.

“It’s a great school,” Sinagra said. “I love my teachers and friends.”

The losing this year didn’t get to her. After all, New Utrecht was 9−7 last year and 12−5 her freshman season. Sinagra could have gone to places like Fontbonne Hall, Bishop Kearney or James Madison, but she’s content with the Bensonhurst school.

“I try to get a good example for people who are beginners at [softball],” she said. “I try to shake it off – like a bad play.”

Her Utes teammates could certainly learn a lot from her, especially how to play the hot corner. She’s a vacuum at third base, making tough plays look easy. She turns searing line drives down the left−field line into double plays.

“I feel so confident when the ball is hit to her,” said Poly Prep’s Victoria Capozucca, who pitchers for the Panthers Blue. “The ball is hit so hard down there, just being able to stop it is amazing itself and she almost always gets an out of it.”

The high−school season also doesn’t matter as much, because she can get her top−notch softball fix with the Panthers.

“It’s just a different atmosphere,” Sinagra said. “It’s quicker, more intense. It’s like two steps ahead of what we do in high school.”

Like her high−school choice, Sinagra isn’t going to be thinking about softball much when she decides on a college. Division I or Division II doesn’t mean much to her. She’s just looking for the best situation.

“Academics are important,” Sinagra said. “Student−athlete. It’s a clichÉ thing, kind of corny, but softball can only take you so far. But I love it, don’t get me wrong. I wish I could play it everyday.”

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