It has been four long years since St. Anthony’s magical season that ended in the CIF-SS Division 6 championship game that was lost to Flintridge Prep, but sixth-year coach Kris Jondle thinks this Saints team has the talent to get back to glory.
“I think this will be the best team I have here,” Jondle said. “We’re going to pitch and hit well enough to win a lot of games, but we have to play defense.”
The best players at St. Anthony have taken that to heart. Specifically, senior third baseman Andrew Donini has been staying after practice all offseason to work on fielding.
“I’ve struggled with it, and this game is one of improvements, so I’m improving myself,” Donini said. “I do infield work with my hitting coach, taking ground balls out of the pitching machine to work on keeping the ball in front of me.”
Donini also will be the closer for a deep pitching staff. Junior Ben Kessler had a team-high 11 appearances and 10 starts as a sophomore with a 3.27 ERA. Senior Nathan Torres, senior Matt Duffy and junior Lucas Lehmar are all returning to add depth to the staff, and sophomore Nick Saucedo is the most talented newcomer. The 6’2” lefty has a lot of poise and good off speed pitches. He was the junior varsity MVP last year.
Donini and Jaxon Kraemer will be the key hitters in the heart of the St. Anthony lineup. Kraemer led the Saints with 35 hits, 31 RBIs, four home runs and three triples last season. Donini had a team-high 28 runs scored with six doubles on 34 hits.
St. Anthony doesn’t have any transfers on the varsity roster, and boasts a talented junior class that includes coach Jondle’s son, Blake Jondle.
“These kids have been with us a couple of years now and that junior class is 10-12 deep, which is rare for us,” Jondle said. “We just coach them like we coached at St. John Bosco and Santa Margarita. Even though they’re not as talented and there’s not as many depth wise, we still treat them like that.”
St. Anthony will have a much tougher schedule in the new Camino Real League with Salesian, St. Paul, Bishop Montgomery and Mary Star of the Sea. However, the Saints are back in Division 6 this year, where Jondle thinks his team can do some damage.
“Expectations are high,” Donini said. “Our goal is to win CIF, but we have to take it one game at a time.”