From losing season to championship run – Belen’s fortunes have spun around like a parking lot donut.
The Wolverines were 10-11 on April Fool’s Day – no joke – but they have won nine straight to reach the state semifinals for just the third time in school history and first since 2007.
“I did expect more out of the team,” outfielder Christian Del Castillo said of Belen’s troublesome start, which included six losses by seven or more runs.
“But I wasn’t depressed. I don’t give up. I wanted to keep pushing my teammates, not focus on the past but focus on the present.”
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The present is indeed a gift for the Wolverines (19-11), who will play Tampa Gaither (18-9) Thursday at 1 p.m. in a Class 7A state semifinal at jetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
Belen has never won a state title in baseball and has reached the title game only once in 2003.
The Wolverines’ fortunes this year are largely tied to three senior right-handers: Barry University recruit Pablo Arevalo (6-1, 0.34 ERA), Tulane signee Albert Maury (7-3, 2.11) and Gabriel Gonzalez (5-4, 2.37).
Arevalo, who has 21 career wins, was out the first part of this season due to a muscle strain in his right arm. But he has been the ace of the staff in the second half of the season and will likely start on Thursday.
Belen’s offense is led by Del Castillo, a 5-8, 170-pound senior who has signed with Seton Hall.
Del Castillo, who bats third in Belen’s order, leads the Wolverines in just about every offensive category, including batting average (.511), triples (four), steals (12), doubles (16), on-base percentage (.600) and slugging percentage (.837).
He is No. 1 in the county in doubles and ranks fourth in batting average.
“I think he’s the best hitter in Miami,” Belen coach Jerry Albert said. “He’s on another level.”
A fourth-year starter, Del Castillo has put up outstanding numbers in 313 career at-bats, hitting .396 with 34 doubles, six triples and seven homers. His career on-base percentage is .491. And he’s never hit below .317 – not even as a 15-year-old freshman.
“He hits like a pro, spreading the ball all over the field,” Albert said of Del Castillo, who bats left and throws right. “He has a good idea of what he wants to do at the plate.”
Del Castillo, who drew interest from a couple of Ivy League schools, including Dartmouth, has a 4.7 grade-point average, including 4.0 unweighted.
He is interested in studying biomedical engineering or pharmaceutical research. But before he heads off to college in New Jersey, Del Castillo would love to win a state title.
A native of Miami, Del Castillo inherited his passion for baseball from his paternal grandfather and his father, who learned the game in Cuba.
But despite the stellar offensive numbers he has put up, Del Castillo said the key at state will be the performances of Arevalo, Maury, Gonzalez and the rest of the staff.
“The life comes from the pitching,” he said. “I know that when we’re pitching well, we’re more confident.”
St. Thomas Aquinas soccer star Bella Dorosy has been named Gatorade’s Florida Player of the Year.
Dorosy, a 5-foot-6 junior forward scored 37 goals and had 23 assists this past season, leading the Raiders (22-1-1) to the Class 4A state semifinals.
Dorosy, a Florida State University signee with a 3.83 GPA, is a two-time Miami Herald Player of the Year and was a Class 4A first team All-State selection. For her career, Dorosy has 84 goals and 47 assists.
Cypress Bay’s coaching tandem of Vince Grossi and Marina Stewart were named the state’s Coaches of the Year by the Florida Dairy Farmers Association.
Grossi led the Lightning’s boys to a state championship, their fourth in five seasons. Stewart led the Lightning girls to their third consecutive state title.