Saturday May 31, 2014 More slapping means more mashing for Bailey Castro
Updated: 12:11pm, June 1
Updated: 12:11pm, June 1
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The question directed to Florida outfielder Bailey Castro during Friday night’s post-game news conference came from a Daily Oklahoman reporter who said he’d been covering the Women’s College World Series for a long time.
He added that he’d never seen a home run launched as far as the one Castro parked off Oregon’s ace Cheridan Hawkins in the second inning of UF’s 4-0 win over the top-ranked Ducks.
“It was a good pitch and I took a hack,” said Castro, the junior from Penbroke Pines, Fla., who went 3-for-4 with a pair of RBI in the game. “That’s kind of my thing. I take hacks. It felt nice coming off the bat, and I was smiling all the way, for sure.”
Felt nice? Guess so.
The rest of her team, though, wasn’t as impressed as the media gallery.
“She can hit it farther,” senior pitcher Hannah Rogers said.
Added Coach Tim Walton: “Usually she swings out of her shoes. She can hit it far, but that was the easiest swing I've seen her have.”
The ball left Castro’s bat like a rocket -- a dead-solid line drive over the bleachers in left-center field -- and was last seen disappearing down toward the ASA Hall of Fame Stadium complex field house.
And, yes, she was smiling (left) all the way around the bases.
It was quite the kick-starter for the Gators against the mighty Ducks. In fact, it was Castro who helped get her team going the night before when she smashed a two-run double into the right centerfield alley in the bottom of the first to push UF to a 3-0 lead against 17th-ranked Baylor en route to an 11-0 run-rule victory.
That was the hit that earned Castro and her teammates some funnel cake, as promised by Walton, but her hunger for WCWS pitching looks insatiable right now.
Through two World Series games, Castro is 4-for-6, with four RBI and a couple runs scored.
“We've been talking all year about line drives and that was my "go-to" play of the day -- to go up there with line drives,” she said. “It worked out well for me.”
Castro was one of the most sought-after power-hitting prospects in the country during her career at American Heritage High, where she led her team to a pair of state championships and was named Florida’s 2011 Class 3A Player of the Year. As a senior, she hit .618 with 16 home runs and every Southeastern Conference team wanted her bat.
A “grip-and-rip type” when she arrived at UF, according to Walton, the Gators had to work with her swing and only recently got her comfortable with the slapping concept.
Now she’s making some of the best contact of her career.
“More than anything, it’s helped her just calm down in the box,” Walton said. “She doesn’t have to think about mechanics, just timing. Timing is almost everything when it comes to hitting and [the slap] has taken the mental element out of the game.”
It's allowed Castro to do what she does best.
The one she crushed against Oregon, a change-up, might still be rolling somewhere across the Oklahoma countryside.
“I changed to the slap and I think that has been really effective for me,” Castro said. “I can stay on top of the ball a little more. [The home run] pitch was a little up in the zone, I kept my barrel above it, took an easy swing and it kinda went out.”