The562’s season previews for the 2022-23 school year are sponsored by Vertical Raise, the official team fundraising partner of The562.
The562’s coverage of Saints athletics is sponsored in part by St. Anthony High School.
Eight years ago, a Saints roster full of players looking to prove themselves left their mark by reaching the second CIF championship game in school history, and this 2023 team is looking to repeat the feat.
“This is the deepest team I’ve had here,” St. Anthony 10th year coach Kris Jondle said. “We feel pretty good about where we’re at right now.”
The increased quality and depth has come with the arrival of transfers from bigger local schools. Of the eight seniors on the roster, six of them are from programs like Los Alamitos, Mater Dei, Millikan and Warren.
“We have a solid reputation in the baseball community right now,” Jondle said of his program. “(The player quality) is better than what you’d think because they’re all looking to prove themselves. They want playing time to prove to their old programs and coaches wrong. There’s a lot of competition right now.”
Jondle and his coaching staff ratcheted up the competition in practice earlier than normal to push the Saints as they prepare for a much more difficult Camino Real League after winning consecutive Santa Fe League championships.
St. Anthony only lost a few starters off last year’s squad, and that left a hole at the top of the pitching rotation for Jake Searles. The senior, who started his high school career at Millikan, has worked hard to develop physically in the offseason.
“I’ve really worked hard on getting my velocity up while still having good command,” Searles said. “Last year, I learned I needed to be stronger so I put on about 40 pounds. I’ve just been trying to get after it by lifting weights a bunch over the last eight months.”
Jondle thinks Searles might be the best pitcher he’s had at St. Anthony. The senior righty sits in the mid-80’s with his fastball and has gotten better throwing strikes with his secondary pitches— specifically the slider.
“I think we’re really underrated and we’re going to shock some people this year,” Searles said.
Searles (pictured above) will be backed up by senior Tyler Harris and sophomore Benny Lane in the pitching rotation.
“We’ve never had three guys we can count on, so it’s a good problem to have,” Jondle said.
Mater Dei transfer Isaac Salazar will take over as catcher less than a year after joining the program. He is committed to attend a Division III college next year and has a younger brother in the program.
Searles said it’s a lot of fun to work with new teammates he grew up with like Salazar and outfielder Owen Shaw, who also came from Millikan.
“We’re looking really good this year,” Searles added. “Our defense is really locked down right now. In our last few winter ball games we maybe had one error. Once we really start hitting we’re going to annihilate teams.”
A key returning starter at first base, Luis Gil, will be a 4-5 hitter in the lineup behind leadoff and returning shortstop, Robby Shepherd. Gill is a senior and Shepherd is a junior who had a breakout sophomore campaign. He hit .344 with a team-high 39 runs scored last season.
Senior Max Contreras and sophomore John Arnold will both get playing time at second base and they can both pitch late in games. When Lane isn’t pitching, the sophomore will play at third because his bat is good enough to stay in the lineup.
Senior Tyler Gingras, a Los Alamitos transfer, was a utility player last year but will take over in center field this season. Jondle said he’s got a real knack for reading balls off the bat and tracking them down. Junior Ryan Vega was behind the plate last year but will take over a corner outfield spot.
Jondle has assistant pitching coach Nic Piazza back on the staff, and they’ll be joined by Moon Cordero. He played for Jondle at St. John Bosco and also coached there before coming over to be the St. Anthony Director of Campus Ministry.
St. Anthony opened the season with a loss to Mayfair, but beat St. Margaret’s 5-4 in eight innings last week. The Saints will face Bellflower on Wednesday.
Projected Starting Lineup:
P – Jake Searles
C – Isaac Salazar
1B – Luis Gill
2B – John Arnold
3B – Benny Lane
SS – Robby Shepherd
OF – Tyler Gingras
OF – Owen Shaw
OF – Ryan Vega