Most Viewed Stories
Easy does it for Hawks' pitcher Castro
On a Thursday afternoon in late March, the San Luis baseball team was taking infield practice moments before its game at Gila Ridge.
Less than a half an hour before he was to take the mound, Gila Ridge's junior ace pitcher Victor Castro lounged in a fold-up chair with the scorebook on his lap — letting out an enormous yawn.
Eventually, Gila Ridge's pitching coach James Kuzniak told him it was time to get ready. The junior put the scorebook down, sat up and stretched before making his way to the bullpen.
Castro eventually threw a four-hit, complete game performance in Gila Ridge's 7-1 win over the Sidewinders.
“Every time we go to hit (before games), I go back to dugout to get some water and I see him laying down and I tell him to wake up and tell him a joke, every time,” Gila Ridge second baseman and No. 2 pitcher Irving Lopez said. “He'll put his cap down on top of his face. That's his way of getting ready for the game and we all know that.”
“His demeanor is always calm, cool and collected,” Kuzniak said. “This kid doesn't get rattled on the mound. People misunderstood his laid back attitude and thought he was lazy. But if you pay close enough attention, he works his butt off. Any running or conditioning he does without hesitation.”
Castro's performances this year have certainly given him the benefit of the doubt about his easy-going preparation. With seven starts this season, he's a perfect 7-0 with a 0.84 ERA and 40 strikeouts with just seven walks.
“I feel confident because I know that coach trusts me and is confident in me,” Castro said. “I've worked on my curveball and it's gotten much better and my velocity has got much better.”
“I don't think he gets real nervous. He's accepted his role as our No. 1 guy,” Gila Ridge head coach Greg Osowski said. “Every team going into the state tournament is looking to have a guy. Some people have two guys but you have to have a guy where your team pulls together when he's on the mound — play solid defense and get a couple of runs — and we got a chance to win.”
The soft-spoken Castro carries a heavy fastball — Kuzniak said he put a radar gun on him while he threw and the Hawk pitcher was hitting 88 to 91 mph. But more than anything, it's been Castro's accuracy that's been his biggest strength in his leap into becoming the Hawks' ace. On the days he isn't racking up strikeouts, his ability to throw strikes — again, only seven walks in 50 innings — means that he'll be able to take advantage of having a tremendous Hawk defense behind him.
“They're really good defensive players anyway, but they know that he's always around the plate — he'll walk a hitter here or there but he hardly ever goes into deep counts,” Osowski said. “When he's always around the plate, the ball is coming and the defense knows he's going to throw a strike — get ready, here it comes. So they tend to play better defense. Slow innings are where the errors come and we don't see that when he comes.”
“It makes it much easier because any ground ball into the hole, I know the defense will help me out,” said Castro, who plays for the Yuma Yankees traveling team.
Castro's magnum opus of the season came on a Thursday night in mid-March — two weeks before his win over San Luis.
Facing off against Kofa, Castro and the Kings' left-handed knuckleballer Manny Camacho matched each other inning for inning before the two teams went into the ninth with the game tied 0-0. Eventually, the Hawks got to Camacho and won 5-2.
Castro's line: nine innings pitched, four hits, two runs, one walk and 12 strikeouts.
“Unbelievable, that's the word,” Lopez said of the performance by Castro, who had a no-hitter broken up in the seventh inning. “How can a guy go nine innings and his first hit is in the seventh inning? We all knew — the defense knew he was throwing a no-hitter and that we had to help him out.”
“He was throwing the ball really hard all night. And he understands that he doesn't try to throw the ball, 87, 88, 90 mph every pitch. He's constantly working his spots,” Osowski said. “(The performance) was as good as I've seen, as long as I've been here, anyway. That was definitely a special performance and we hope to see it again.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.