One can only imagine what was going through Nicole Busso’s mind when, two games into the 2010 high school softball season, she was thrust right into Southold/Greenport’s starting lineup as a freshman first baseman alongside another freshman at the time, second baseman Kim Bracken. Surely, they must have felt some trepidation upon making their varsity debuts in that game.
“It would have been a lot scarier for the both of us if we weren’t together,” said Bracken, who has played on the same team with Busso ever since they were teammates on an all-star team as sixth graders.
The two seniors have remained on the scene ever since, playing side by side. They are entering their fourth season as varsity starters.
“It doesn’t seem like that long ago, honestly, at all,” Busso said after she was reminded of her entrance to the varsity scene. “… It all seems like yesterday.”
One thing Busso and Bracken didn’t forget was what it felt like to be the youngest players on the team. That has affected their leadership roles this year as the team’s most senior members, the only two remaining players from that 2010 team.
“Since me and Nicole were the youngest on the team, we both understand that,” Bracken said. “Nicole always gives back to the younger girls. She says: ‘Hi, I’m Nicole. If you have any questions, ask me.’ ”
Busso said: “The freshmen, specifically, are so open with me, and I love that. I’m not trying to be a big, scary senior. That’s not the mentality behind us. We want them to be able to come up to us and to ask us questions.”
That’s just one of the qualities Southold/Greenport coach Lori Marra likes in Busso, who has been a regular, consistent contributor for the Clippers.
“She knows first base,” Marra said. “She’s been playing first base for a long time. She’s not just good at it, she has experience with it. It’s a spot she’s really confident in. She also has a good bat. She’s a pretty well-rounded player.”
Busso was introduced to softball at a young age. She played T-ball and Little League. Her instinct and quick reactions made first base a natural position for her.
“I always had a love for softball,” she said during an interview before Tuesday’s indoor practice at Southold High School. “Honestly, it’s just kind of natural. I’ve grown up playing sports. I can’t imagine my life next year without any of them.”
The Clippers may be reluctant to ponder what life will be like without Busso, who is known for giving all her effort all the time.
Busso said her junior high school coach, Bev Sage, praised her for being the best first baseman she ever coached.
Busso never sat out a softball game for the Clippers because of injury. In her sophomore season she missed some games while she went on a school trip to Europe. Other than that, she has been a regular in Southold/Greenport’s lineup.
Although Southold/Greenport had a rough season last year, going 1-15, Busso played well. “I had a pretty good season,” she said. “We didn’t have the bats last year, either, but I had some nice hits. I had a home run. I hit a triple against Mattituck. I had some hits that were pretty helpful during the season.”
Last season, Busso typically batted third or fourth in the order.
“She’s around there,” Marra said. “She’s also fast, so I have to keep that in mind. She runs the bases well. She has that aggressive, smart running mentality.”
During games, Busso said, she can be loud when she has to be. “I’m vocal and very loud and, I don’t know, I’m just always that voice behind everyone, cheering, just positive energy, trying to keep everyone up,” she said.
But it is Busso’s attitude off the field as well that has been noticed and appreciated.
“Nicole is a very generous player,” Bracken said. “She’s very humble as an athlete. She doesn’t expect the praise at the end, and when she doesn’t get the most recognition, she’s never upset by that because she’s such a team player, and I think that’s a great asset to the team.”
Busso recognizes that she is fortunate to have so many high school games under her belt. She prefers not to consider the end of that playing career, which is just beyond the horizon.
“That’s crazy to think about,” she said. “I don’t even like thinking about it. I don’t want it to end any time soon, so I’m hoping we can pick it up, get to the playoffs and see how well we can do.”