Aquinas hasn’t had a winning baseball record in a non-aborted season since 2016, but the Falcons seem poised to change that in 2021.
The 2020 season, of course, ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Falcons were 3-2 at the time. Aquinas lost twice to Xavier Prep to start the season, then recorded victories against the Academy for Academic Excellence, the Public Safety Academy and Twentynine Palms.
If the Falcons do eventually make a leap it will be new coach Mike Carpentier and an influx of young talent leading the way.
Carpentier was a 10th-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1995 and he played high-Class A ball with the San Bernardino Stampede of the California League that year. Now he runs Easton Prime, an indoor baseball training facility in San Bernardino which has travel teams.
If the name sounds familiar, his son – Michael Carpentier Jr. – was a star catcher for Yucaipa High who graduated in 2019, received a scholarship to Arizona State but is now at Cal Baptist University.
The older Carpentier has high hopes for Aquinas baseball.
“The Aquinas football team won a section championship and the basketball team lost in the section title game and the softball program is successful,” Carpentier said. “I thought it sounded like a good situation.”
The former Sacramento State player assisted former Citrus Valley coach Ron Carmody for a few seasons. He has become more seasoned instructing at his training facility at 760 East Central Avenue in San Bernardino which percolates with talent.
“We have 30 (NCAA) DI commits,” Carpentier said. “And we play the best competition.”
As for Aquinas, Carpentier said the goal is to “bring the program back to where it needs to be” — winning a section championship.
“That’s everybody’s ultimate goal,” he said. “We want to turn the program around.”
Freshmen were more than half of Aquinas’ starting lineup this season, led by 6-foot-4, 190-pound shortstop and pitcher Eric Bitonti, who has committed to the University of Arizona.
Other freshmen for the Falcons were outfielder and third baseman Wyatt Herness, pitcher and outfielder Seth Rajacich, catcher and pitcher Ethan Cheek and catcher and pitcher Augie Cowan.
Easton Prime has numerous players who have made commitments to universities in recent months. They include Yucaipa’s Wyatt Doty and Jacob Reamer (both to Cal State Fullerton), Citrus Valley’s Jared Snyder (Long Beach State), Rancho Mirage’s Grant Kelly (Cal State Fullerton) and Colton’s Alex Navarete (Long Beach State).
While early commitments can be deceiving (either side can back out), the buzz can’t do anything but help Aquinas baseball. The Falcons went 10-11-1 overall in 2019 (6-6 in the Ambassador League) under former coach Eddie Hernandez, who resigned after the ’19 season.
The Falcons’ last winning record not counting 2020 came in 2016 when they went 16-9 overall (8-4 in league) under coach Robert De La Torre. They lost 5-1 to Sierra Vista in the first round of the CIF-SS Division V playoffs.
Interest is increasing in Aquinas freshman football star Francis Mauigoa (6-6, 280).
In the last month or so, Oregon, Washington, Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Michigan, USC and Utah have each offered Mauigoa a scholarship, Aquinas communications director Nick Karavedas said. Tennessee offered on Monday, May 25.
Defending national champion Louisiana State is interested as well, Karavedas said.
Mauigoa is the No. 3-rated player in the nation in the Class of 2023, according to College Football Today. That also makes him the No. 1 prospect in the Class of 2023 in the state, according to CFT.
“Most of the Pac-12 has offered him, except for UCLA, Arizona and Stanford,” Aquinas coach Jordan Brusig said of Mauigoa. “He has a heck of a motor and he plays both ways for us and just plays his (rear) off. He has a long way to go on technique, but it’s impressive for a (kid that young) to have that kind of impact.”
His older brother, Francisco Mauigoa (6-4, 230), is a junior who plays quarterback and outside linebacker for the Falcons. He led them to the CIF-SS Division 5 title last season. Francisco has picked up seven Division I college offers – Army, Utah State, Idaho, Idaho State, Montana State, Hawaii and San Jose State.
Aquinas has a tough nonleague football schedule set for 2020 with Simi Valley Grace Brethren, Citrus Valley, Xavier Prep, Damien and Riverside Notre Dame all lined up.
COLBRUNN STILL EDUCATING
Fontana athletic director Brandon Colbrunn continues to find ways to tell students, fans and the community about the school’s rich athletics history.
As previously reported, he is working on a project to compile a list of the Steelers’ league championship teams and post its sport-by-sport champions on banners inside the school’s gym.
More recently, he began a “Throwback Thursday” campaign with videos on Instagram and Twitter in which he delves into topics such as the construction of Steeler Stadium.
The stadium report details how Fontana played on a grass field with no stands, beginning in 1952, for several years until the Kaiser Steel Mill came to the rescue. The mill chipped in labor and materials to help build what Colbrunn called an “amazing jewel” of a stadium by the 1958-59 school year. The stadium seated 5,500 to 6,000 fans, as it does today.
Until the stadium was completed, fans at first watched games from a grass berm and then later from one side of the stadium while the stands on the opposite side were being constructed.
Original school plans called for Fontana to have what Colbrunn described as a horseshoe-shaped “junior Ohio State-like” stadium. But that did not happen due to cost.
Steeler Stadium has now stood for more than 60 years and has played host to some memorable athletic events, including serving as home to Fontana’s unbeaten 1987 and ’89 teams, which both won section titles and were ranked No. 1 in the state. The ’87 team coached by Dick Bruich was also ranked No. 1 in the nation by two polls.
“The videos are just an attempt to engage our kids during this whole shutdown,” Colbrunn said of his efforts. “It has the added benefit of bringing out some of my history teacher skills that have sat dormant for the past few years. I was going to keep them primarily on Instagram, because there are hardly any kids on Twitter anymore. However, I hoped that some alumni out there might be interested, as well, so I did put it up on Twitter.”
TOP HONORS FOR ATKINSON
It has been quite a year for Canyon Springs’ Angela Atkinson. She was named the Cougars’ senior girls athlete of the year for 2019-2020, and she is the salutatorian, with a 4.7 grade point average, for her class.
“She’s a great kid,” Canyon Springs athletic director Justin Remington said. “She is going to (UC Riverside).”
Wrestler Caleb Trumbull was Canyon Springs’ Citrus Belt Area Athletic Directors Association boys athlete of the year. He is headed to Vanguard on a scholarship.
John Murphy can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrepCat