The life of a homebody never held much appeal for Katie Belmontes.
As much as she likes movies, Belmontes still prefers to frequent the theater as opposed to staying at home with a streaming service of her choice.
Belmontes has also chosen to spend a great deal of her youth in athletics, but it was not until the summer prior to her freshman year at Costa Mesa High that she picked up softball.
Instantaneously, she demonstrated natural ability at the plate, leading all Newport-Mesa players in home runs with nine.
In the past two weeks, Belmontes has revived her power stroke. She had four home runs over a four-game span, including a fabulous farewell to the Battle for the Bell rivalry.
The senior went four for five with two home runs and a double in a 15-6 win for the Mustangs (8-10, 5-1 in the Orange Coast League) at Estancia on April 5. Her performance included a grand slam and nine runs batted in.
“To play them for the last time, just to know that I would never be on that field again, or I would never get to play for another Battle for the Bell was kind of sad,” Belmontes said. “Obviously, [I was] just trying to go out with a big bang and making sure that I could remember what I had done that game. Just making it enjoyable for everybody was a big deal.”
Mustangs softball coach Doug Deats considered the showing exceptional, especially considering the conditions.
“That’s a different park to hit in with the wind blowing in your face,” Deats said. “Any fly ball is going to be held up at Estancia, and she turned around, and she hit two home runs and a double that were all three lined shots.
“She made the adjustment. The two home runs, they couldn’t have gotten more than 10 feet off the ground.”
Deats said that Belmontes is probably his team’s best athlete, which is why he has been able to move her around the field during her career. She started out as a center fielder, but she has also played shortstop, and occasionally, catcher.
Belmontes said that she does not talk a lot, in general. Her talents, however, impressed upon her a leadership role, whether in basketball or softball.
“I’ve never really considered myself a leader,” Belmontes said. “I’m just not vocal at all. Everybody, everywhere I go, everyone always says that leadership is something that I was just born with.
“No matter where I go, I’m always going to have to be a leader.”
Over the past calendar year, Belmontes has gained a wealth of experience that should serve her well in that role.
As a junior, Belmontes was an all-CIF Southern Section Division 7 honoree after helping the Costa Mesa softball program notch its first two playoff victories since 1979. The Mustangs reached the quarterfinals.
In her senior season as a basketball player, Belmontes once again led Costa Mesa to the quarterfinal round. The co-Orange Coast League champion Mustangs upset No. 2-seeded St. Margaret’s at home in the first round of the Division 5AA playoffs.
Belmontes also shared the Orange Coast League MVP award in girls’ basketball this season.
In both of her sports, Belmontes has had teammates that have shared in the highs and the lows. A handful of basketball players are now in the dugout with her. Among them are starting point guard Samantha Filner and center McKayla Ortiz, both of whom are also seniors.
Haley Wolf has been with Belmontes for the duration of the softball journey, as their friendship goes back to their days at Sonora Elementary School. As four-year members of the varsity softball team, the duo is proud to have ended the Mustangs’ prolonged playoff win drought.
“It was so special,” Wolf said. “It was just so exciting for us to finally pull through. Every year, we could feel ourselves chipping away at, almost this stigma, that Costa Mesa High softball wasn’t in the top three in our league or couldn’t get to CIF.
“To finally break through that barrier was so amazing. I will never forget the feeling of all of us running and jumping and hugging after we won the Estancia game last year, which was the game that got us to CIF.”
Belmontes also credits Fred Bagatourian, her travel ball coach with the SoCal Athletics, for instilling the confidence and desire to get the most out of her abilities in softball.
In less than four years of playing the sport, Belmontes carved out an opportunity for herself at the next level. She is committed to play for Cal State Northridge next year.
Marina first baseman Shayla Thomas is also committed to the Matadors. She met Belmontes at a camp for Cal State Northridge recruits, and they wound up rooming together at their official visit.
“We bonded over [our commitment to the Matadors], and then we roomed together when we went on our visit, so she’s cool,” Thomas said. “We kind of like the same things. We lay low, and we like to get good grades, so I think it’s a really good opportunity to room together because we both will get our homework done.
“She can hit the [heck] out of the ball, too. She can get it done.”
Born: Feb. 5, 2001
Height: 5 feet 10
Weight: 230 pounds
Coach: Doug Deats
Favorite food: Pasta
Favorite movie: “Crazy Rich Asians”
Favorite athletic moment: Costa Mesa advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division 7 quarterfinals in softball last season, which marked the first playoff wins for the program since 1979.