Iliana Nyktas celebrates her 100th career hit with Nottingham May 9, 2018. (Photo by Rich Fisher.)

Apparently, it pays for Nottingham High softball players to serve as scorekeepers for other Northstar teams.

During her time at Nottingham, Kristin Hallam kept the book for the wrestling team and went on to become the Colonial Valley Conference’s all-time hits leader. This past winter, Iliana Nyktas finished her final year of authoring the scorebook for the girls’ soccer and basketball teams and got her 100th hit on May 9.

“I guess it’s a lucky charm,” said Hallam, now enjoying a strong career at Seton Hall.

Or maybe it was the environment Nyktas was raised in and the company she keeps; as she grew up down the street from Hallam and the two have been lifelong friends.

“Our parents were friends before I was even born,” Hallam said. “She really is just like a younger sister to me.”

And Nyktas enjoyed an outstanding high school career, in part by looking up to “Big Sis.”
“She was a great leader by example,” Nyktas said. “She always carried herself in a professional way, and I admired her demeanor on and off the field. She is a Northstar that every athlete, regardless of sport, should look up to. Kristin was always there to support me through tough times and get me back on track to help the team succeed.”

Those tough times were few and far between when it came to softball, as Nyktas made an immediate impact on the Northstars and continued to hit throughout her career.

During her first year, she hit .455 with 25 hits, 16 runs, 17 RBI and seven doubles.

“When she started producing as a freshman, it was really awesome and kind of a breath of fresh air,” Hallam said. “I look at some of the younger kids today, and it just seems as if talent and hard work are qualities that are hard to find—so seeing her come in and hit the ball like she did was incredible.”

As a sophomore, Nyktas increased her hit total to 30, which still stood as her career high as she entered this year’s state tournament with 25 on the season. She batted .448 with 17 runs, 15 RBI and nine doubles and was setting a tone for consistent performance.

Her only “down” year came last season when she slipped to .299 with 14 RBI and 12 runs scored. But she had a career-high nine stolen bases.

“Towards the end of my season I suffered a concussion and missed a few games and just never fully recovered that year,” Nyktas said.

She returned to full force as a senior, carrying a .357 average into the states with six doubles, 12 RBI and 12 runs. Her lifetime average stood at .386 with 58 RBI, 57 runs, 25 doubles and two home runs.

This was her last hurrah in softball, as Nyktas is headed to Towson University next fall to major in criminal justice, “with high hopes of one day landing a job in the FBI.” Her only foray into softball would be playing intramurals. Thus marked the end of a career that started in T-ball and was followed by Nyktas making All-Stars in the HTRBA baseball league at age 7.

“My brothers playing baseball are the true reason I began my career,” she said. “They were instrumental in my love for the game.”

Hallam felt they were also instrumental in honing her competitive spirit.

“Having two older brothers and not being afraid to get into it with the boys, in my opinion, really gave her a tough edge and amazing confidence, as a player and even as a person,” Hallam said.

After five years of baseball, Nyktas switched to softball and played for the 10U Hamilton Hurricanes travel team at age 10. Five years later she moved to the Jersey Outlaws, where she still plays.

Nyktas has spent most of her career as an infielder, starting at third, moving to second and taking over at short after Hallam suffered a knee injury. She has been stellar at short and just as impressive at the plate when she lets her natural talent to take over.

“As a hitter, I think Iliana does best when she just trusts herself and trusts her abilities,” Hallam said. “She is a base-hit hitter but can add a little power when you need it. She is very successful when she doesn’t think in the box or doesn’t try to do too much.”

And she is also a tough out, no matter the situation.

“She never gives away her at-bats,” Hallam said. “She always competes against the pitcher to win the battle or go down swinging, which makes her hard to beat and gives her the ability to see more pitches and eventually get the one she’s looking for.”

It was Hallam who inspired Nyktas to think about becoming the seventh player in Nottingham softball history to get 100 hits. When Hallam did it during Nyktas’ sophomore year, it made the younger Northstar think big.

“I realized this could be a goal of mine as well,” she said. “I thought to myself if I had 25 hits each year, I could eventually reach 100. I knew a high average would help our team win, which was always the ultimate goal. (A hundred hits) wasn’t my main priority but always a thought in my mind.”

A thought that became reality on May 9 when Nyktas lined a two-run single in the fourth inning during a win over Allentown.

“It means a lot to me because it shows my commitment to the program over four years,” Nyktas said. “It also shows trust from coaches to put me in the lineup each day to achieve this goal. It was definitely an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.”

It was not, however, an experience that will define her entire time in high school, as Nyktas was much more than an athlete.

She was a fixture on the girls’ soccer bench and girls basketball scorer’s table over the years, drawing rave reviews from head basketball and assistant soccer coach Lauren Kelly for her reliability and accuracy. “Top-notch,” Kelly said. Nyktas opted for the bookkeeping in order to follow the athletic career of best friend Liz Kerekes, who will be her roommate in college next year.

“I am pretty sure my awesome stat keeping capabilities are the reasons why they had such successful seasons,” Nyktas said with a laugh. “But seriously, I follow Liz everywhere to support her because she does the same for me each spring.”

During other school events, Nyktas could be seen shooting photos for the VIP Telecommunication class to be used for the senior video. Asked if she was inspired by Wes Kirkpatrick, Nottingham’s resident media mogul, Nyktas laughed and said, “Wes is awesome but I really joined the class as another way to get involved with school during my off-season.”

She is also a member of the Future Educators Club and Hamilton NEWS, a rapidly growing program that enables students from all three high schools to come together as one.

“I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to experience being a student at Hamilton West for a day,” Nyktas said. “I learned how great of a school West is and how it isn’t different from Nottingham at all.”

As for her softball career, Nyktas felt it played a tremendous part in her personal growth.

“What I will take away the most are the friendships and the memories,” she said. “There were great wins and tough losses but ultimately the relationships I established with my teammates have helped me mature into the woman I am today.”

And one of Nyktas’ biggest mentors feels that she’s a pretty special woman.

“She has actually told me during high school that she looked up to me, which is heart-warming,” Hallam said. “The main goal is to grow our game and grow our sport, so I’m glad that I inspired Iliana and anyone else during high school because in the end it’s not really about me, it’s just about the love for the game. And I’m sure that there are girls out there looking up to Il. She possesses rare qualities as an athlete and she should be extremely proud of herself and who she is.”