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Cardozo’s Castano among the city’s top hurlers

With each batter, Adrian Castano could hear John Adams Coach Glenn Beyer telling his hitters what pitches to expect. It didn’t bother the Cardozo ace — even though Beyer was pretty much on the money regarding his mid-80s fastball and hard-breaking hook.

“Them knowing my pitches,” Castano said with a smile, “that doesn’t mean they can hit them.”

The brash statement became more truth than braggadocio. The Judges sophomore ace, coming into the game in relief, retired all nine hitters he faced and struck out four to wrap up Cardozo’s 10th-straight league win to start the year, a 5-1 baseball victory Friday over John Adams that earmarks the Judges as Queens’ best.

After the win, Cardozo Coach Ron Gorecki looked to change the subject regarding Castano, who also drove in two runs with a two-out single, in a way to spread praise. He talked about the fine job third starter Calvin Luk did in picking up his second league win; how this is the hardest-working team he’s ever had; and the leadership qualities in catcher Diego Gonzalez, a Baruch College campus transfer.

Yet, moments after he says, “This isn’t the Adrian show” and “This isn’t Adrian Cardozo, it’s Benjamin Cardozo,” the baseball lifer begins raving about Castano. He says his sophomore is a 15-year-old who plays like he’s 20; that he’s the best center fielder in the city; the team’s sparkplug and engine atop the lineup; and he can envision him playing pro ball one day.

“By the time he is a junior, nobody is stopping him in the PSAL,” the coach said. “I’ve had eight to 10 major leaguers play for me. He’s got the ability to play at the next level.”

Evidently, he also has tunnel vision. During his appearance Friday, Castano’s personal rooting section exchanged words with Beyer. His father Adrian Sr. and summer league Coach Nelson Santiago were upset with a flippant statement they alleged Beyer made, which he denied.

The game is stopped as Beyer speaks with Gorecki and the home-plate umpire.

All the while, Castano is standing idly on the mound, just one hitter into his first relief appearance since last year’s disappointing showing. That day, Castano couldn’t find the plate without any such distractions in a 7-4 playoff loss to Brooklyn Tech.

Eventually, the game resumes and the hubbub dies down. Not that Castano seemed fazed by the commotion.

“That’s none of my business,” he said. “I’m here to play the game. I block that out.”

It isn’t cliché; he means it. Senior right-hander Chris Estrada says Castano often tells teammates to ignore everything that isn’t on the diamond. True to form, he shakes off the delay with the same ease he dismisses opposing batters.

Castano credits his development to hard work and his vast experience playing up in age with the College Point All-Stars. He is the summer team’s youngest player, says his father Adrian Castano Sr., who is also a coach with the team that reached the Babe Ruth World Series in 2008.

“I believe … to get better you have to play with better competition,” Adrian Castano Sr. said. “I was raised not to like failure. I try to bring that upon him. You learn losing, you learn winning, but try to be the best you can all the time.”

He later said: “I don’t want to sound conceited, but I expect him to do good.”

Castano is hard on himself. He recalled his poor effort against Brooklyn Tech in last year’s playoffs — he allowed one hit and one walk in 2/3 of an inning while notching three hits at the plate. To improve, he said he forgot the outing, remembering it only as a means for motivation.

“You got to let things go,” he said. “You have to work, work, work.”

Nobody has touched him, for the most part, in close to two varsity seasons. As a freshman, the lanky southpaw went 5-1 with a 0.60 ERA; as a sophomore he’s 4-0 with a 0.81 ERA, 42 strikeouts in 26 innings pitched. Estrada, the senior pitcher, is hardly surprised. He faced Castano during summer ball before he landed at Cardozo. When he showed up for tryouts, Estrada immediately thought: “He’s gonna make our team better.”

“By senior year,” Estrada said, “he’s probably gonna take over the whole city.”

Beyer agreed. Last year, Castano shutout Adams; this year he slammed the door on the Spartans.

Castano is going to get “bigger and stronger and better,” he said, before adding: “Which is scary.”

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