St. Anthony's starting pitcher Jason DeCaro delivers to the plate...

St. Anthony's starting pitcher Jason DeCaro delivers to the plate during a CHSAA baseball game against St. John the Baptist in South Huntington on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. Credit: Peter Frutkoff

St. Anthony’s season ended last year with only four wins in 15 tries, but the juniors learned some valuable baseball lessons along the way.

“They all played, the juniors, but you know what a learning curve the Catholic league is,” coach Paul Parsolano said. “Now as seniors, the game has slowed down enough for them that they can lead by example — big at-bats, making plays in the field.”

The returnees as well as some newcomers have helped make the Friars NSCHSAA contenders. They blanked St. John the Baptist, 8-0, Tuesday in the opener of a two-game series, making them 9-4 overall and 8-1 in the league, just a game back of first-place Chaminade.

“I just think the culture this year is a lot different, a lot of better,” junior righthander Jason DeCaro said.

The St. Anthony’s ace stood out above the rest on this day, dealing an overwhelming combo of fastballs and curves. DeCaro fired a three-hitter with 10 strikeouts. He walked three and hit one, with 62 of his 97 pitches landing in the strike zone.

“Outstanding,” Parsolano said. “… In high school, they have the 105 limit (for pitches). This was the first week we were going to let him go to 105 because we thought he was ready. This is his fourth start. His fastball was excellent today. His breaking ball was sharp. He battles. He’s a real-deal kid. He competes to win.”

The Cougars (9-6, 6-6), on the other hand, had some control issues that hurt.

The Friars scored one in the second, then smashed the game apart by scoring six with two outs in the fourth against starter Nick D’Avanzo and reliever RJ Azarieh.

“Every single game, we’re putting up a lot of runs,” senior shortstop Jack Vallario said.

Here’s how the inning went: Walk; steal; popout; walk; force play; bunt single to load the bases; RBI infield single by Vallario; walk to force in a run; pitching change; hit batter to force in a run; walk to force in a run; infield throwing error to allow two runs to cross — 7-0.

“It basically comes down to we can’t walk guys; we can’t strike out as much as we have; and we’ve got to make the plays in the field,” Cougars coach Casey McKay said. “When we do that, we’re one of the best teams in the league.”

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