In the last year, Cypress' Josh Belovsky has overcome a career-threatening back problem, transferred and worked his way out of the bullpen into the starting rotation.
Belovsky is one of three starters to win at least 10 games this season for Cypress, which plays Lassen in the opening round of the State tournament Saturday at Cerritos College.
Belovsky (10-1) is joined in the rotation by Aaron France (12-3) and Ron Hendren (10-3). All three are sophomore right-handers.
Belovsky, from Orange High School, started his college career at Orange Coast in 1992. He had 3-1 record as a freshman, including a victory over Cypress in an early-season tournament game.
He returned to OCC last season but experienced soreness on the right side of his back early in the season. After a few games, the discomfort increased and one day, after an especially sharp pain, he noticed a small lump had formed on his back.
A trip to the doctor revealed a tumor that required surgery. The tumor was benign, but Belovsky couldn't pitch again last season. He was given a medical redshirt.
The only lasting effect from the tumor is a scar, about three inches long, that Belovsky is proud to show off with little prompting.
"I never doubted that I would come back," Belovsky said. "That's just how I am. I'm an easy-going guy off the field but when I get out there I'm very competitive. I don't like to lose--at anything."
During rehabilitation, he decided to leave Orange Coast for Cypress, in hopes of getting a new start.
He spent last fall and winter trying to prove himself to a new coaching staff and teammates. He started the season as the fourth starter and worked in relief as well.
Belovsky, who throws a fastball, split-finger fastball, change-up and curveball, moved into the starting rotation when Rob Crabtree injured his arm in late March.
"He just really stepped it up this season," Cypress Coach Scott Pickler said. "We knew he was going to pitch a lot for us but this has been amazing."
One of the reasons Belovsky has had such a strong season is the time he and his teammates spent lifting weights and running in the fall. The extra work has made him stronger in the final weeks of the season when pitchers have a tendency to tire more quickly.
Belovsky and France have become the aces of the staff. Belovsky has been most impressive in big games this season. He has three shutouts, including beating Rancho Santiago, 4-0, and, 1-0, to keep Cypress in first place. He has given up 62 hits, recorded 77 strikeouts in 84 innings and has an earned-run average of 2.14.
"Our defense is one of the big reasons I've done so well," Belovsky said. "Pickler has beat it into the ground, saying it over and over again, but it's true. I know I can leave one hanging and someone still might make a great play. When a guy gets on, the first thing I think about is the defense turning a double play."