By DAVE O’SULLIVAN
EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The book on Egg Harbor Township junior left-hander Misael Castillo was: live arm, good curveball, but has a tendency to get a little wild sometimes. Castillo, at least for a day, rewrote that
The southpaw buzzed through the Holy Spirit lineup, piling up 14 strikeouts while tossing a no-hitter in his first varsity start as the Eagles scratched out a 2-0 win over the Spartans in the opener for both squads on Wednesday afternoon.
“It was amazing, honestly. My teammates had me pumped up and I was just trying to throw strikes and pound the strike zone. I was nervous,” Castillo said. “My coaches, they tell me what to do and how to pitch. I used to be a really bad pitcher before, so every mistake I make they help me correct it.”
Holy Spirit coach Steve Normane, A former Rutgers University star making his debut as the head coach of the Spartans, said Castillo pitched a tremendous game.
“Hats off to him. He pitched awesome. That was probably one of the best performances we’ll see all year, we just happened to get it in the first game. He threw strikes, kept us off balance and pounded the zone,” Normane said. “I was very impressed. One of the best high school performances I’ve seen in a while.”
Castillo didn’t make any mistakes. Two walks was all that kept him from a perfect game.
Castillo said he tried not to focus on the no-hitter, knowing that a 2-run lead was anything but secure against a team like Holy Spirit.
“I wasn’t thinking about it until the last inning, honestly,” Castillo said. “It felt amazing. I wasn’t expecting to throw that well, but I came out confident and my teammates helped me out and had my back on a couple plays.”
Catcher Mike Lahoud said he realized about halfway through the game that Castillo had a no-hitter going, but wasn’t about to talk about it, as per the old baseball superstition that if you mention a no-hitter you will immediately lose it.
“(Misael and I) started talking about it secretly in about the third inning, but you can’t say anything out loud because that’s baseball. He was throwing strikes and giving us a chance. He was keeping everything low and then coming in with his curveball,” Lahoud said. “We knew that if we played how we can play we would come out on top.”
Holy Spirit senior right-hander Mike Di Ianni, a seasoned varsity starter, nearly matched Castillo’s effort. Di Ianni allowed just four hits and struck out five, but EHT jumped on him early and that was the difference. With runners at second and third in the bottom of the first inning, Andrew Holmes laced a 2-run double to left for the only runs of the game.
“He’s a good pitcher, throws a lot of strikes, but I think we handled it well,” Lahoud said of Di Ianni.
“(Mike) pitched great. He ran into some trouble in that first inning, left the ball up and the kid took it the other way. It was a nice piece of hitting by Holmes and that was the game,” Normane said. “He settled down after that and kept us in the game. That’s a tough-luck loss for him but he’ll be fine.”
Normane said he is confident his team will turn the page quickly.
“We’ll look to bounce back. The good thing is we have three games in the next three days,” Normane said. “I have a ton of confidence in these guys. If our pitching staff goes out there and gives up only two runs per game I have confidence that we’ll score three from here on out.”