There is nothing ideal about the St. Anthony baseball season. The Saints only have two starters back from the team that won two playoffs games last year, they’re dealing with the construction at Clark Field that’s taken away the space for their batting cages and over the winter break someone broke in and stole their golf cart and pitching machines.
“It’s been a very interesting fall and winter so we’re scrambling a bit,” St. Anthony coach Kris Jondle. “But all that said, it would still be disappointing if we didn’t win the league.”
St. Anthony hopes it can cruise through its last year in the Santa Fe League before moving up to the Camino Real League next year. The Saints were also moved up to Division 4 this season, so they know they’ll have to rely on their strong pitching to hang with tougher opponents.
“A lot of our better players from last year graduated but I think there’s some young kids who can fill those shoes, for sure,” pitcher Sean Lovett said.
Lovett is back after serving as the No. 3 starter last season, and he’s worked hard on his slider in the offseason to add to his four-pitch arsenal of fastball, changeup and curveball. Part of that work has been on his stride and extension to get more velocity.
After seeing the improvement of the program over the last few years, Lovett said his entire team is better for having Jondle in charge.
“He’s tough when he needs to be and he has a good set of tools that makes us better,” Lovett said.
Jondle and Lovett both said that the offensive is a work in progress, and their scrimmage against Wilson last month was proof of that fact. Both teams only had two hits, but a slew of errors by the Saints defense proved to be the difference.
“The defense has been a little sketchy with a lot of new guys out there but we can get better with experience,” Jondle said.
Transfer Jake Seamless, who went to Millikan as a freshman, is in line to be the other top option to take the mound with Lovett. Both of them sit around 83-84 MPH and Jondle said that’s good for their league.
Sophomore Robby Shepherd is one of the new faces trying to carve out a spot for himself. He was supposed to play in the outfield, but won the starting shortstop spot after having a great summer. Shepherd, who is the younger brother of St. Anthony’s ace from last year Ethan, is going to hit leadoff this season.
Nyle Leomiti is one of the key returners from last season, and he will be hitting second while moving from right field to center field. Leomiti and Warren transfer Luis Gil are two of the biggest and most physical players on the roster. Gil will be the primary first baseman after his sit out period.
Pitcher Jake Searles will be in the mix to hit in the heart of the Saints lineup alongside senior Kyle Lewis who will play right field and is committed to attend the University of Hawaii Hilo. Searles, Lewis, and left fielder Tyler Gingras will all be key parts of the pitching staff as well.
Elsewhere, returner Jude Jackson has been dealing with a back injury, so Ethan Walker and Max Contreras have been battling to take the playing time at second base.
Finally, Jondle has high hopes for the maturation of his underclassman starters like sophomore catcher Ryan Vega and freshman third baseman Benny Lane. Vega will hit at the bottom of the lineup and work behind the plate with his toughness and good hands. Lane is a Whaley PONY All-Star who is also very good defensively.
St. Anthony has tough local nonleauge games scheduled against teams like Bellflower, Jordan, Cabrillo and St. Margaret’s this month. The Saints lost to Mayfair 14-6 in the season opener.