Overall health was the key factor last year for St. Anthony softball, and it looks like this year will be the same story. The Saints have top talent and great pitching with returns like Rose Cano and Jayla Cadena, but they’re both coming off injuries.
“We have to take care and listen to our bodies,” Cano said. “If we don’t feel good enough we need to take time off. We need to be available in the big games.”
St. Anthony wasn’t at full strength down the stretch last season and it showed in the results. The Saints lost a key game to St. Joseph to finish a game back of first place in the Del Ray League. They then lost to eventual CIF champions Whittier Christian because of a pivotal error in the first round of the playoffs.
Second-year head coach Joseph Younger said he’s using that disappointment and the lessons learned from last year as motivation for his team that hasn’t won a league title in three years. He’s been with the program for eight years.
“This is the first group that hasn’t won a league title, so that’s our first and foremost goal,” Younger said. “We were one game out last year, and our focus is winning our league. Not even thinking beyond that at this point. If we can stay healthy I like our chances.”
Cano (pictured) has been fantastic in the circle for St. Anthony throughout her career, but she’s been dealing with a back injury that’s kept her sidelined. She said going to see a chiropractor and doing acupuncture didn’t help, so she’s just been resting as much as possible.
“Whenever they talk about the best softball pitchers at St. Anthony they’ll have to talk about Rose Cano,” Younger said. “We’ve just got to be careful and get her healthy.”
Cano already signed with George Washington University in December.
“I love the comradery of the team and the coach there made me feel really welcome,” Cano said of choosing George Washington. “The campus is three blocks from the White House, and three blocks from the Washington Monument so that’s pretty cool.”
Cadena will play shortstop when she’s healthy and not pitching as the backup for Cano. Both of them will hit in the three or four spot of the lineup, and they’re just two parts of a large and experienced senior class.
Sophomore third baseman Miracle Mckenzie will also be a huge key in the lineup and at third base. She will be on the left side with her cousin Nata Leomiti. The freshman won the starting shortstop job thanks to her range on defense and big bat at the plate.
Another accomplished senior in the lineup will be second baseman Amy Metz, who recently signed with Boston University. She’ll be joined on the right side of the infield with freshman first baseman Kween Tauala. Jane Quinn will also get playing time at first.
Senior Angela Orozco will be behind the plate as the primary catcher for Cano and Cadena.
In the outfield, Sammie Dodge and Destiny Avila are two players who will be battling for playing time as Younger tries to keep his players fresh and healthy.
Younger added that the leadership from Cano, Cadena and Metz will be key to keeping everyone happy and productive even if they’re not every day starters where they want to be.
“They’re the ones who have stepped up and taken over the leadership roles after girls like Tiare Jennings and the big time leaders left, these girls have taken that over and made it their program,” Younger said.
It’s been a few years since Jennings was leading the Saints to uncharted territory, but for St. Anthony that feels like where they should be all the time.
“I think we have been the best softball team in the city,” Younger said. “Two years ago when we got shutdown we were ranked as a top 10 team in the country. Last year we battled with Millikan and I didn’t pitch Cano. I want to play the Moore League schools. I don’t know if it’s important to us to feel like we’re the best in the city, but we can play with those big schools.”
St. Anthony put its money where its mouth is and beat Wilson 14-1 in nonleague action earlier this month. The Saints will also play Poly on Feb. 24.
“We’re very hopefully and confident in ourselves,” Cano said. “We’re not envious of others because we don’t have a field or something. We take what we have and we know what we’ve got. We’re good.”