By Zach Cavanagh
Spring has sprung earlier than usual in the world of high school sports.
Not only was the CIF calendar bumped up across the board this school year, but baseball and softball got an even earlier jump on their seasons. Both were allowed to play their first games on Feb. 9, which was two weeks earlier than last year’s first pitches. The earlier start makes sure any potential CIF-SS championships will finish before the school year ends, but it has also run both sports into winter storms.
Tennis opened Feb. 11; track and field, swimming and volleyball opened Feb. 16; and the lacrosse and golf teams will open their seasons on Feb. 23.
Spring is a busy season on the fields and courts and in the pool, so let’s check in on where all 11 spring sports teams stand at San Clemente High School as the season opens.
For in-game updates, scores, news and more for all of the San Clemente spring sports programs, follow us on Twitter @SouthOCSports.
Triton Baseball starts off the season with a 2-1 win over Dana Hills behind a solo shot and sacrifice by junior Trenton Brail!!??⚾️ pic.twitter.com/Kwi5bFGail
— Triton Athletics (@SCHSTritons) February 13, 2019
The 2017 South Coast League season was one to forget for the Tritons.
While San Clemente was 14-3 in nonleague play, including a trip to the Loara Tournament Final, the Tritons were 2-10 in league play that included an 0-8 start.
It was a disappointment for a senior-heavy San Clemente team and a harsh reminder that the South Coast League remains one of the toughest high school baseball leagues in the state. However, the Tritons now move down to the Sea View League with an opportunity to compete.
San Clemente will have to rebound from that season with a lack of starting experience on the roster. The Tritons lost their top three run-scorers, top five in hits and RBI and their top four winning pitchers.
The top returning hitters for San Clemente are juniors J.P. Hefft and Kellen Hollibaugh. Hefft scored 15 runs on 17 hits and nine walks and stole two bases as a sophomore. Hollibaugh scored 10 runs on 19 hits and 11 walks and stole one base.
Junior Trenton Brail stepped up in the Tritons’ season-opening win over Dana Hills, 2-1, on Feb. 12. Brail brought home both runs with a solo home run and a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, San Clemente will turn to senior right-handers Jay Baggs and Connor Wilford. Baggs committed to San Diego State back in August. As a junior, Baggs posted a 3.65 ERA in 15.1 innings pitched with 16 strikeouts. Wilford maintained a 2.62 ERA in 21.1 innings pitched with 19 strikeouts.
San Clemente opens the Steakhouse Tournament next week at home against South Coast League champion El Toro on Feb. 25. The Tritons open Sea View League play at home against Trabuco Hills on March 1.
The San Clemente softball team was in a competitive mix in the South Coast League last year right up until season’s end.
The Tritons battled among a tight top three but ultimately finished third. San Clemente pulled out a marathon first-round win in the CIF-SS playoffs before a second-round exit.
San Clemente lost some impact seniors, but the Tritons had strong contributions from every grade level last season, with a group of then-juniors now ready to lead the way as seniors.
San Clemente will be paced in the circle by senior Raeonna Flores, who was the go-to starter for the Tritons last season. Flores signed with Concordia University at Irvine on National Signing Day on Feb. 6.
On offense, seniors Sydney Kowalski and Jordyn Smith bring their leadership and experience. Kowalski also packs some power into her swing with a least one of her home runs leaving the softball area and landing on the San Clemente tennis courts.
Juniors Melinda Cratty and Chalice Rogers were also strong contributors for the Tritons last season on offense. Sophomores Natalie Casto and Helena Skov saw plenty of playing time as freshmen and should step up this season.
San Clemente is 1-2 to open the season with a win at Dana Hills, 2-0, on Feb. 12. The Tritons were shut out in their two losses to Aliso Niguel, 5-0, and Santa Margarita, 4-0.
San Clemente continues its nonleague schedule at home against Huntington Beach on Feb. 26 and Mission Viejo on Feb. 28. The Tritons open league play at El Toro on March 19.
The success keeps rolling for the San Clemente boys tennis team.
The Tritons swept through the South Coast League last season to capture their eighth consecutive league title. While seniors paced the doubles side last season, the Tritons are led by experienced and talented youth on the singles side.
Juniors Corey Angeli and Griffen Wolfe were stellar as sophomores and are poised to continue their success as juniors.
Both Angeli and Wolfe were undefeated in league singles, and Wolfe took the league singles title. Angeli won the South Coast League doubles title with now-graduated senior Caden Spencer.
Despite the regular-season success, the pair did not find the same ease in the CIF-SS postseason. Wolfe and Angeli won two sectional matches, but in the final CIF-SS bracket, each lost his first match. Wolfe lost in the round of 32 (6-1, 6-1), and after a bye, Angeli lost in the round of 16 with Spencer (6-3, 6-3).
San Clemente opened the season on Feb. 19 at Woodbridge, but results were not available at press time. The Tritons continue their nonleague schedule at home against Irvine on Feb. 25 and against University on Feb. 26.
San Clemente opens league play at home against El Toro on March 7. The Tritons host Dana Hills on March 19 and play at the Dolphins on April 11.
After the 2017 boys volleyball season, head coach Ken Goldstone had considered retirement. However, he saw some promise in the 2018 group, and that group invigorated Goldstone so much that he hadn’t given retirement another thought at the end of last season.
“I’m definitely coming back,” Goldstone said last May. “We made so many strides. We’ve invested a lot of time and effort getting these guys ready. Excited to see how this group continues on.”
That group finished second in the South Coast League and lost its Division 1 opener to eventual champion Corona del Mar. San Clemente graduated only three seniors, and while important, the Tritons have plenty of then-juniors, now-seniors ready to step up with a year of experience.
Senior outside hitter Marc Monier returns after a first-team All-South Coast League season as a junior. Monier proved deadly time and time again from the left side and is solid defensively.
Wolf Beeuwsaert was named second-team All-South Coast League as a sophomore, as was Cole McDaniel as a junior. McDaniel was an assist machine, and Beeuwsaert was a presence up front. Both return to bolster the Tritons.
Seniors Wyatt Eberle and Owen Hamro also return to fill out a strong San Clemente lineup.
San Clemente opens its season at home against Carlsbad on Feb. 21 before entering the Foothill Tournament this weekend. In nonleague, the Tritons travel to Division 1 finalist Newport Harbor on Feb. 26 and San Juan Hills on Feb. 28. San Clemente also hosts Laguna Hills and Laguna Beach on March 5 and 7, respectively.
The Tritons open South Coast League play at rival Dana Hills on March 12. San Clemente hosts Aliso Niguel on March 14 and Dana Hills on March 28.
The star of the 2018 San Clemente golf season and the leader for the 2019 Tritons is senior Alex Pak.
Pak got hot at the perfect time: the CIF postseason.
Pak finished second at the CIF-SS Regionals, second at the CIF-SS Individuals, tied for eighth at the Southern California Championships and fourth at the CIF State Championship.
As an individual in the CIF postseason, Pak shot a five-under 67, four-under 67, and even-pars of 72 and 71, respectively, through each round.
As a team, the Tritons finished fourth at the CIF-SS South Coast Division Championships for the third straight season.
And beyond Pak, the Tritons have another budding star in sophomore Drayton Joseph. Joseph has committed to the University of San Diego for golf and, in the fall, came off the bench to lead the San Clemente football team to its first win over Mission Viejo and South Coast League title since 1999.
Joseph led the Tritons at the South Coast Division Championships with a 74.
Senior Christian Wentzel will also be a key player for the Tritons.
The San Clemente boys lacrosse team was a young group in 2018.
The Tritons were coming off the loss of 18 seniors and entering just their second year with head coach Brendan Finnerty.
San Clemente was again strong in the South Coast League (6-2), but the Tritons were swept by undefeated league champion Trabuco Hills. San Clemente finished 9-11 overall against a tough, top-ranked schedule.
A year later, all of the youth that populated the Tritons roster is now experienced and ready for another go.
The defensive corps was a strength for San Clemente last season, and with another year under their belts, the Triton defenders should be even better. Seniors Dylan Hartanov and Nick Amico will man two of the long sticks for San Clemente. Both were ground ball monsters last season.
The defense will be solid in front of senior Eugene Kang. Kang came in midway through last season and was successful as he split time in the cage. Now in control of the reins, Kang will lock down the back end.
Up front, senior Jake Brannon starts things off as the faceoff specialist. Brannon is scrappy and can be dominant on the X. Brannon is a major key to getting the Tritons going.
Jack Rogers emerged as a freshman to establish himself as a top scoring option for San Clemente and will be again as a sophomore. Senior Liam Nelson will also be counted on to put balls in the cage.
San Clemente opens its season against Santiago of Corona at Los Alamitos High School on Feb. 23. The Tritons will take on Southern Section power Loyola at Newport Harbor High School on March 2 and Orange County power Foothill at Foothill High School on March 16.
San Clemente opens league play against El Toro on March 19 and hosts Trabuco Hills on March 26.
Back-to-back South Coast League championships have the San Clemente girls lacrosse program riding high.
The Tritons went undefeated through the South Coast League (8-0), won their first-round playoff game against Esperanza, played tight in a second-round loss to Mater Dei and finished 13-5 on the season.
Despite losing two of its top-three goal scorers, the Tritons seemed primed to repeat their success.
Senior Delainey Isles was second on the team in goal-scoring last season with 48 goals in 18 games. She also was second in assists with 19 and fifth in ground balls with 22. Isles signed with Liberty University on National Signing Day.
Senior Tesfanesh Jonas was fourth on the team in scoring last season with 20 goals and 15 assists in 18 games. She was also second on draws with 39 wins.
The draws leader last season returns in junior Paige Campbell. Campbell won 52 draws last season and was third in ground balls with 28. Campbell also scored 16 goals.
Goalie Kennedy Kingsmill also returns for the Tritons. Kingsmill allowed 6.1 goals per game with 84 saves last season.
Gabriela Perez was one off the pace of the ground balls lead with 38 last season as a sophomore and will be looked to again as a junior.
San Clemente opens the season at home against Santa Margarita on Feb. 26. The Tritons begin league play at home against Tesoro on March 13.
San Clemente completed its first-ever full aquatics sweep last year with league titles in boys and girls water polo and boys and girls swimming.
The boys won their first league title since 2004. It was the first coach Thomas Dollar had seen in his time at San Clemente High School, including his career as a student.
San Clemente was led last season by some prized seniors, but the Tritons had plenty of juniors and underclassmen in the wings ready to step up.
Seniors Spencer Burress, James Garnette and Dorian Johnson all qualified for CIF-SS last season in various disciplines. Seniors Jared Smith, Luke Christl and Riley Herbert and junior Colin Snyder qualified for CIF-SS in the 200-yard freestyle relay this season.
The San Clemente girls swimming team also broke a championship drought last season with its first league title since 2003 to help complete the aquatics sweep. It was only the second time in school history that the boys and girls teams both won swimming league titles; the first was 2002.
The girls were entirely powered by juniors and underclassmen last season, which makes for a powerful Triton girls team in 2019.
Stella Copeland earned the only individual league title for the girls last season as a freshman in the 200-yard freestyle. Copeland also earned a silver in the 500-yard freestyle.
Daisy Frauenzimmer is the senior leader for the Tritons this season. Frauenzimmer qualified for CIF-SS in the 200-yard medley relay and 100-yard breaststroke.
Frauenzimmer was joined on that relay by now-junior Grace Pelkey and now-sophomores Lang Csira and Alexandria Higginson. Junior Katie Faris also was a CIF-SS qualifier last season as a sophomore.
Boys Track and Field
The San Clemente boys track and field team is happy to say goodbye to the South Coast League.
The Tritons finished last at the South Coast League Finals each of the past two seasons, but San Clemente looks to feel more comfortable in the Sea View League.
The Tritons’ boys cross country team finally reclaimed the Sea View League title in the fall, and it will be that group that paces San Clemente in the distance races.
As juniors, the crew of Elijah Sech, Denilson Lopez-Guerrero, William McNee, Matthew McWilliams, Christian St. Clair and Patrick Riley all had decent showings in the South Coast League track finals in the 400-meter, 800-meter, 1,600-meter and 3,200-meter races. They’ll be strong in those disciplines again.
A strong surprise last season that could be in for a huge leap up was Marcus Zanzonico. As a sophomore, Zanzonico finished fourth at the league finals in the high jump and set a personal record of 6 feet, 4 inches at the CIF-SS Division 1 preliminaries to qualify for the Finals.
Also a sophomore last season, Burke Dambly finished second at the league triple jump to qualify for CIF-SS.
Elsewhere on the track, football running backs James Bohls and RJ Donaldson could be names to watch.
Girls Track and Field
Observers of the San Clemente girls track and field team should keep their eyes focused on the oval, or they might miss something.
While the Tritons finished third as a team at the South Coast League finals last season, San Clemente had three individual wins from two runners.
Emilie Bennett completed her climb up the podium as a junior in the 100- and 200-meter races. Bennett finished second in both as a sophomore and took home league titles in both as a junior. As a senior moving into the Sea View League, Bennett could be on track to go back-to-back.
Bennett will be joined in the sprints by fellow senior-to-watch Siena Keck.
The other individual win last season was the pace car for the Tritons’ distance and cross country efforts. In the fall, junior Hana Catsimanes led San Clemente to a Sea View League cross country title with her own individual title and finished seventh at CIF-SS Division 1 and 16th at the state meet. Catsimanes won the 1,600-meter race last season and should be favored in the distance races again.
In the field events, Natalie Vissman took second at the league finals in the high jump as a freshman last season and should improve.