The article below originally appeared on MercuryNews.com and is being reprinted with permission.
Third baseman Angelo Bortolin nearly led state in RBI at top-seeded College of San Mateo
SAN MATEO — To continue terrorizing pitchers at the next level, Angelo Bortolin simply needed to drive one exit up Highway 92.
The freshman slugger at College of San Mateo nearly led the state in RBI during the regular season, but the 19-year-old doesn’t mind finishing as the runner-up.
“Stats are cool, or whatever,” Bortolin said. “But it’s not really what we’re playing for.”
A year ago, the 5-foot-10, 185-pound third baseman was entrenched into the heart of the order at Serra High in San Mateo. He led the Padres with six home runs, 16 doubles and 33 RBI, not to mention he ended up tied with a .429 average over 101 at-bats.
“He loves to hit,” Serra coach Craig Gianinno said. “There’s just guys, when you watch them take batting practice, you can hear the sound of the bat. And when it comes to Angelo’s bat, it’s just a little different sound. He just presents so much fear in the box for opponents.”
At fourth-ranked CSM (33-6), which earned the No. 1 seed in the NorCal Regional, it didn’t take long for Bortolin to be inserted into the middle of the lineup.
Entering the playoffs, he’s hitting .279 with five home runs, 10 doubles and 53 RBI, the latter one shy of the state lead.
“He’s coming into a good phase of his career where he’s starting to understand the mental side of the game better,” CSM coach Doug Williams said. “And if he continues up that path, then the sky is the limit with him because he’s got some really special tools.”
A man of few words, Bortolin spent the fall at Loyola Marymount.
But instead of playing NCAA Division I baseball this spring, he opted to transfer to CSM.
“Baseball-wise, it was going great,” said Bortolin, who was reunited in the dugout at CSM with three former Serra teammates in Nick Knecht, Chris Papapietro and Ryan Sambel. “It was more of a school thing and personal stuff. It just wasn’t working out.”
Welcomed with open arms over winter break in January by a veteran roster, he was only asked to do his part on a team that ranks No. 2 in the state in extra base hits — with 95 doubles, 25 triples and 27 home runs.
“It makes it easier, because you have a lot of bats,” Bortolin said. “So you never know who’s going to step up each game.”
The Bulldogs also rank seventh in the state in fielding percentage, with Bortolin accounting for only three errors at the hot corner.
“I would say that third base is just an instinct kind of area, because it comes fast there,” Bortolin said.
“Defensively, he’s as good as it gets, and he proved that by his senior year at Serra,” Gianinno said. “He’s so offensive that sometimes you forget to realize and recognize that he’s a very good defender at third base.”
Bortolin feels that playing at Serra prepared him to play college baseball, with the West Catholic Athletic League oftentimes a breeding ground for NCAA talent, including outfielder Hunter Bishop, who’s hitting .281 with four home runs as a freshman at Arizona State.
“You’d like to say that we do something right,” Gianinno said. “But those guys are unbelievable athletes and baseball players with tremendous skill sets.
“And I don’t know anybody who works harder than Angelo when it comes to hitting,” Gianinno said. “He’s an old soul, he’s a cage rat. He used to ride his bike to Serra and really the only thing in his bag was his bat. And for the first three years at Serra, I don’t think he owned a cellphone. So when colleges or scouts would call and ask me, ‘Hey, can you give me Angelo’s phone number?’ I’d say, ‘I’d love to give it to you, but he doesn’t have a cellphone, yet.’
“He’s an old soul.”
The Bulldogs host No. 17 seed Los Medanos (25-15) for a best-of-3 series beginning Friday.
“It’s a big bonus to not have to travel,” Bortolin said. “I know some teams have to travel like eight hours away — you don’t want to do that.”
In fact, CSM won’t have to leave its friendly confines until the state tournament in Fresno at the end of the month.
But every team that must travel to San Mateo will be hungry to upset the No. 1 seed.
“We’re not really thinking about it,” Bortolin said. “We’re going to have to play somebody each week to keep going. We’re just trying to win a state championship.”
On the way, why not strike fear into opponents just for kicks?