Kingston grad Castro excelling for UAlbany softball squad
WHEN Charlise Castro decided to transfer to the University at Albany, the Kingston High graduate hoped to make an impact on the Great Danes’ softball team.
Castro just might have exceeded those aspirations.
As Albany prepares to play in this week’s America East Championship Tournament, Castro is the top hitter on the team.
She is fourth nationally in the NCAA Division I rankings with a .468 batting average, fifth in slugging percentage (.935) and 16th in runs batted in per game (1.13).
She finished the regular season first in the America East in average, home runs (13), runs batted in (52), total bases (116) and runs scored (38). She was third in hits (58) and tied for third in doubles (13).
In addition, she had a .541 on-base average and was named America East Player of the Week three times.
She is a top contender for the conference’s Player of the Year Award, which will be announced tonight.
“I’m very happy with how my season has gone so far, but I know I can do even more to help the team,” Castro said. “I’m happier that the team is doing as well as we are.
“We have a great team with great coaches and I’m glad that I’m helping.”
“Char has absolutely (exceeded expectations),” Albany coach Chris Cannata said. “We knew she was a good player with a lot of potential, but sometimes potential doesn’t translate on the field. Continued...
“She’s coachable, listens and works hard. She’s a very good player.”
Coming off a standout scholastic career at Kingston, Castro accepted a scholarship to attend Maryland Eastern Shore.
There, she was named Mid-Eastern Conference Rookie of the Year, hitting .409 with 42 RBI and a conference-leading 15 home runs. In addition, Castro led the conference in slugging percentage (.801) and had 12 doubles and a .472 on-base average.
The Hawks, however, struggled, with a 7-40 record.
“I thought I played pretty well, but it was a tough season for us as a team,” Castro said. “It’s hard when you go out and work as hard as you can, as we all did, but then you just don’t see the results.
“It was frustrating.”
Castro found the environment at Albany to be completely different.
Under Cannata, the Great Danes have averaged 30 wins a year for 18 seasons. They have won four America East titles and appeared in four NCAA tournaments.
“I noticed it from the first day of practice at Albany,” Castro said. “When I was in high school, I always envisioned myself at this huge school — like a Texas A&M — and even though it was a tough season in Maryland Eastern Shore, I felt I learned a lot.
“But at Albany, I’ve learned so much more.” Continued...
“I really didn’t know what to expect from Char. I knew she had a good year at Maryland Eastern Shore, but I think we play a little better competition in the America East,” Cannata said.
Castro, however, said she was confident she could make a smooth transition.
“I always believed I could do well in Albany,” she said. “I’m a pretty fast learner, so I was confident I would be able to do what the coaches asked me to do.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself because I knew my team would be counting on me.”
Some of that pressure came from her own personal goals.
“I hit a lot of home runs last year, so I wanted to hit double figures in home runs this year,” she said. “I wanted a batting average over .400. They were just personal goals, but I accomplished both, so I was very happy.”
The Great Danes are equally as happy.
“Char runs well, is athletic and can play pretty-much anywhere, even as a left-hander,” Cannata said. “And she has ridiculous power.
“I think the one thing that surprised me most about Char is how hard she hits the ball, whether it’s a home run, a hit or an out, she has tremendous power.”
Castro hopes that power will help Albany in the America East tournament. Continued...
The reigning tournament champion (34-12) Great Danes are seeded third in the four-team, double-elimination tournament at top seed Boston University. Albany opens play against No. 2 Stony Brook 3:30 p.m. Thursday. Boston faces No. 4 Maine at 1 p.m.
The tournament concludes on Saturday, one day before Castro turns 20.
“I think we have a great chance to do well,” Castro said. “We have a really good team and I don’t think the other teams have seen the best Albany team yet.
“We hope we’re playing our best for the tournament.”
After the Albany season is over, Castro will face yet another decision.
Castro is being recruited to play for the Puerto Rico international team.
“It’s an honor to be recruited to play at that level,” she said. “They want my jersey number, my jersey size and cleat size, so I’d say they’re pretty serious.
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do yet. My focus is on Albany and, hopefully, when we win the tournament and play in the NCAAs and our season is finally over, I’ll decide.
“I just want to play well for Albany.”
Despite her gaudy numbers, the sophomore expects even more of herself in years to come.
“I feel like I can accomplish even more,” she said.
“Char can definitely take her game to another level,” she said. “The biggest thing she needs to work on is becoming more aggressive.
“Char can be a little laid back. When she becomes more agresssive, the sky’s the limit.”
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