Mike Belfiore's best moment in his college baseball career was his last. Heck, it was the most memorable of a brilliant baseball career filled with milestones and achievement. Belfiore, a Boston College first baseman, who doubles as the team closer, came on to pitch against host Texas in the NCAA Division I regional two weeks ago.
His shuttle from first base to the pitching rubber to close out opponents or keep the game within reach is never really more than an inning or two. But on this night, Belfiore would be asked to do extraordinary things. Boston College and Texas locked up in an NCAA postseason-record 25-inning game that lasted more than seven hours.
The 6-3, 220-pound Belfiore pitched 92/3 innings of relief as the teams battled into extra, and more extra innings. He exited with the score tied at 2. Top-seeded Texas went on to win in the 25th inning and advance to the College World Series.
"The crowd in Texas was over 10,000 fans and they were wild," Belfiore said. "The fans were rabid. Baseball is religion in Texas. They were so into it and it just gets you pumped up. The longer the game went, the more they respected us. By the 20th inning, they were cheering both teams. It was unforgettable."
Belfiore's stock went way up after that gutsy performance. And he won't forget the events of the past month. He returned to his Long Island home in Commack and learned that the Arizona Diamondbacks made him the 45th selection in the amateur draft.
"The whole neighborhood turned into Diamondbacks fans," he laughed. "All my high school friends and everyone is so proud. And they're all a part of this; it's a Commack thing."
Belfiore is proud of his hometown, his Little League roots, and the high school where he honed his skills. He has made transitions from centerfielder to first base to closer. Great athletes can adjust just like that. His emergence in high school started in centerfield, where he was a Gold Glove recipient as a junior. And as a senior, he earned the Paul Gibson Award as Suffolk's top pitcher.
"I'm going to sign but we're still trying to get a figure in place," he said. "I'll play this summer and go back to school in the fall. I need two semesters to get my business marketing degree."
The kid has always had a plan. He'll report to Arizona's minicamp in Missoula, Mont., then go on to play in the Class A Pioneer League.
Belfiore has been perfect in save opportunities the past two years, saving 14 games in 14 attempts.
"I love coming in with the game on the line," he said. "I always want the ball in that spot."
Arizona is getting a gamer.