He’s the epitome of betting on yourself.
Fort Scott High School product and former Joplin Outlaws player Kaleb DeLaTorre received zero Division I baseball offers out of high school.
On Monday, DeLaTorre manned first base and hit in the 5-hole for Division I South Alabama in the championship game of the NCAA Gainesville Regional at Florida Ballpark.
Even though South Florida denied the Jaguars an opportunity to win their first regional, DeLaTorre said the postseason ride was nothing short of unbelievable.
“That was special,” DeLaTorre said in a phone conversation on Tuesday shortly after arriving back in Mobile on the team bus. “This group was really tight. We were pretty much a family. It’s just kind of one of those things. We got hot at the right time whether we were winning or losing. … It didn’t matter. We were going to come out and keep playing hard. We trusted each other, believed in each other. We had a great ride.”
The sweet-swinging left-handed hitter strung together some big offensive performances for South Alabama on the national stage.
It all started when DeLaTorre went 4 for 5 with a home run and three RBI in the Jaguars’ 19-1 romping over 14th-ranked Florida in an elimination game. He followed that up with a two-run blast to help South Alabama oust Miami 7-2 on Sunday.
“At this level, it’s all about focus, especially with the situation we had,” DeLaTorre said. “It was a do-or-die game. The focus was the biggest thing. I was able to put some good offensive days together and help us win, get to that championship game.”
And DeLaTorre knew his two-run blast was gone. Case in point: the resounding bat flip that followed once he launched the ball out to deep left field.
“I have never really been big on bat flips,” DeLaTorre said with a laugh. “I have never really done that in my career, but the way that game was flowing and the emotions of that game, there was a little chatter back and forth. As soon as I hit it, I knew I got it. All the emotions came out when it happened. It got the team going and helped us into the next game.”
Former Crowder standout Cameron Tissue also played a role in the Jaguars’ postseason run. A Little Rock, Arkansas, native, he posted a 3 for 6 performance with four runs driven against the Gators on Saturday.
“He was coming up big for us all year,” DeLaTorre said. “He was coming in with big hits. He’s a lock down third baseman and I’m glad I got to play with him this year.”
DeLaTorre finished with a .243 batting average in his senior campaign for the Sunbelt Conference champions. He slugged eight home runs and drove in 36 runs.
“It was really cool looking up and seeing on the video board right next to my face was Fort Scott, Kansas,” DeLaTorre said. “That was really special. I will remember it forever. I couldn’t be more thankful for all the support that I had.”
While DeLaTorre is unsure what is next for him, he’s perfectly content with what he has accomplished to this point in his playing career.
“The draft is coming up in July,” DeLaTorre said. “If it happens, it happens. Obviously, everyone wants to play pro ball, but coming to South (Alabama), I just wanted to play and see how I could do against these bigger schools. and I did that. If I played my last game, I’m OK with it. We went out on a good note.
“I couldn’t be more thankful for my teammates, coaches and my family and all the support they have given me. When me and my brother were kids, all the games of wiffle ball we played, that played a big part in my success, too.”