Neuqua Valley baseball has been a top tier program in the state for the past two decades. One of the key players in the Wildcats run of success was pitcher Ricky Castro, who is now helping the Purdue Boilermakers to a red hot start on the diamond. Justin Cornwell has more on the three year varsity starter in Where Are They Now? presented by Advantage Acura.
While the peak for Neuqua Valley baseball has to be the 2007 state championship followed by a 3rd place finish in 2008, the Wildcats have been a model of consistency essentially since the program began under long time head coach Robin Renner. From 2016-2019, Neuqua Valley won four straight regional championships, three DVC championships and a sectional title.
The roster was loaded with talent by players like Jack Rigoni, James Gargano, Nick Taylor, Noah Herdmann, and Ryan Wheeler just to name a few. From 2016-2018, one of the key members of the pitching staff was right hander Ricky Castro. A three year varsity starter, the 6’1 Castro teamed with fellow aces James Kulak, Justin Hicks, Austin Waeghe and Mason LeBreck to form a nearly un-hittable rotation during that span.
The 2017 season was especially strong for the blue and gold. That was Castro’s junior year, where the team went an incredible 35-2-1 on the season, including a 22-1 record in DVC play. The team won the program’s fourth sectional championship, and first since 2013 before falling to St. Laurence in the Super Sectional round.
Senior Year Success
In 2018, Castro capped off his Wildcat career with an All-Conference and All-Area season. His ERA was a paltry 1.57 with 64 strikeouts, leading to a record of 8-1. Neuqua won over 30 games once again, repeating as both regional and DVC champions. Castro was the starting pitcher in the team’s 5-2 sectional semi final victory over Plainfield Central.
Following graduation, Ricky Castro headed to Parkland College in Champaign. His 2.84 ERA caught the eyes of D-1 programs, as Purdue University offered a scholarship. Unfortunately, Castro’s sophomore season was cut short in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a junior in 2021, the former Wildcat was finally able to get his first full taste of Big Ten baseball, appearing in 12 games out of the bullpen for the Boilermakers. The junior earned his first win of the year against the University of Illinois behind two innings of shutout relief on April 19th.
Both Castro and Purdue are off to great starts in 2022. The Boilermakers are currently 15-0 while Castro has pitched nine innings in relief, with eight strikeouts and an ERA of 3.00. Expectations are high for the senior and for the boys in black and gold as the spring season rolls along.
For Naperville Sports Weekly I’m Justin Cornwell.