OTTUMWA – Jim Nickerson has seen two of his daughters sign with to play college basketball.
From an early age, however, Nickerson knew his youngest daughter was destined to shine in a different sport.
“I remember being over at the old Walsh Gymnasium shooting baskets with Jaime,” Nickerson said. “There was a softball that rolled over to Kacy. I told her to pitch it to Jaime and she did naturally underhanded without any instruction what-so-ever.
“I remember looking around thinking to myself that this kid should maybe be a pitcher. I think she was about 6-years-old at the time.”
On Wednesday, with both her father and sister joining her again this time at Ottumwa High School, Kacy Nickerson signed her National Letter of Intent to be a college softball pitcher. The OHS senior signed with NCAA Division II powerhouse Minnesota State, joining her older sisters Kelsey and Jaime who each signed and played college basketball after staring for the Bulldogs.
Nickerson is also preparing for her final season of high school basketball, having played and started at various times over the past three years. The four-sport OHS athlete, however, has truly stood out on the diamond earning all-state honors this past summer after pitching the Bulldogs to state in what proved to be the final season for legendary head coach Frank Huston.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’m looking forward to next year,” Kacy Nickerson said. “I still have to get ready for this final season of high school softball, then I’ll be off to college.
“It’s a special day knowing that I’m actually going to go to college to play softball, a sport I really enjoy.”
After the first pitch thrown in the Walsh Gym, Nickerson began with pitching lessons at the age of 7 and has never looked back. Over the past four years at Ottumwa, Nickerson has developed into a first-team all-state pitcher with over 600 career strikeouts and 57 career wins, including a career single-season best 17 wins in the circle as a junior.
All of this comes for Nickerson without focusing exclusively on softball. Besides starting for the Bulldog girls basketball team, Nickerson has been a four-year member of the OHS volleyball program and plans to compete in track and field this spring joining Anne Guest as the top two high jumpers on the Bulldogs.
“The other sports I play, I enjoy, but softball really is something I’ve loved from the first time I started playing,” Nickerson said. “It’s something I excelled at when I was younger, I kept with it and I’m really glad that I did.”
Besides being the ace starting pitcher for Ottumwa, Nickerson has also become one of the top hitters on the Bulldogs. This past season saw Nickerson break the school record with 21 doubles batting .416 and driving in 27 runs from the lead-off spot in the OHS batting order.
“It was only a matter of time for Kacy. We could see throughout the years there were big things ahead for her,” Huston said. “Anytime you take someone who has outstanding athletic ability like she does, showing what she can do all around in all these sports, and couple that with the excellent softball skill set she’s developed over the years, you’ve got quite a player.
“She’s been quite a player for us. I would think she’ll be that at the next level for Minnesota State.”
Besides having two college basketball players as older sisters, Kacy Nickerson’s competitive background includes having a father in Jim Nickerson that has been coaching track and field for nearly 40 years.
“When you have a competitive family, it pushes you every day to get better,” Nickerson said. “It’s pushed me to be what I am today. Softball is a different sport from basketball, but it’s something I love to do.”
Before heading to Minnesota State, however, Nickerson will be looking to guide the Ottumwa Bulldogs back to the Class 5A state softball tournament for the 29th time in program history this summer. For the first time in program history, a new coach will leading Ottumwa onto the diamond with former OHS all-state pitcher Mandi Moore taking over for Huston.
“It will definitely be a chance, but I think as a team we’ll get used to it pretty fast,” Nickerson said. “We just need to play our hardest. We know what to do when we’re out there together playing as a team.”