05/07/2016 10:04 AM -
Whiting, Ind. – May 7, 2016 – Bringing back one of the league’s top offensive players was noteworthy on its own.
Returning two of the Midwest Collegiate League’s best hitters immediately puts the Northwest Indiana Oilmen the conversation regarding league favorites.
Reigning MCL All-Star and postseason all-league infielder Stefano Belmonte has agreed to come back for a second season of playing for the Region’s team. His middle of the order power will complement returning leadoff man Tyler Sroczynski in the Oilmen order.
“We just had a good time last year,” Belmonte said. “We had good crowds and a good atmosphere at home. (Oilmen manager Adam Enright) is young and he’s a very good guy. He’s nice to get along with and talk to. He knows what he’s talking about; he has a good baseball background. I look forward to playing with Tyler Sroczynski again. We both play hard and play to win.”
Belmonte is entering his third year in the MCL after a one-year stint with the Southland Vikings in 2014. He is currently a junior at Division-I Florida Gulf Coast after two years of junior college baseball at South Suburban and a redshirt year at Purdue in 2013.
Belmonte had a successful prep career at St. Rita, where he was a four-year letter-winner for coach Mike Zunica. He helped St. Rita reach state his freshman and sophomore years and contributed to his team winning the 2009 summer state title. Belmonte was a three-time all-area third baseman, batting .400 or better in each of those seasons.
Belmonte tasted an MCL title with Southland in 2014 and hopes to regain that feeling with the Oilmen this season.
“Last year, I remember having a really good team,” he said. “We competed day in and day out. We made it pretty far during the playoffs, but we came up a little short. I want to win a championship this year. I wish we would have snagged that game against Lexington and moved on.”
The transition from junior college to the Atlantic Sun Conference has been smooth for Belmonte this season. The only bump in the road occurred when he tore his meniscus over Christmas Break. The setback limited his early-season playing time, but he recorded RBI hits against North Florida on May 1 and USC Upstate on May 6.
Now, Belmonte is close to 100 percent and said he’ll be good to go for the summer season.
Florida Gulf Coast opened the season against No. 1 Florida and has also played No. 3 Miami and then-No. 16 Florida Atlantic. The Eagles will meet No. 5 Florida State on May 11.
“It’s been a great transition from junior college,” he said. “You play at a lot of great stadiums against good pitching and hitting. You see a lot of good competition and the way baseball is supposed to be played.”
Away from the diamond, Belmonte has had the chance to soak up the sun. He lives right on the beach with a lake, where he can ride a jet ski, and a pool right in his backyard.
“All winter, it was never really below 70 degrees,” Belmonte said. “It’s amazing, you never have to play in 30, 40 or 50 degree weather out here. It’s a blessing. Playing down south is legitimate.”