Spartans and baseball standouts Boden Strafelda '22 and Judah Thomas '22 are the focus of a sports profile in the May 12 issue of the Highland Villager for their exceptional contributions to the 2021 varsity baseball team. The piece, entitled "Pair Provide Powerful Combo for SPA Baseball," calls Strafelda (pictured right, photo by Brad Stouffer) and Thomas "a one-two punch at the plate, in the field, and on the mound" for the Spartan baseball team. Read the full article below.
The Spartans are having one of their best seasons in years, with a 9-6 record midway through the season and a four-game win streak as of May 12. The streak includes a no-hitter pitched by Levi Mellin '21 in the team's 13-0 victory over Trinity on May 11, and a nailbiter 5-4 win over IMAC rival Blake on May 12. As of May 13, Strafelda was tenth in the state for hitting with a .545 batting average, and Thomas was tied for seventh in the state for his pitching, with four wins so far this season. The Spartans are currently #2 in Section 4AA and are closing in on #1 Concordia Academy, according to Head Coach Rob Thompson.
From the May 12 issue of the Highland Villager; reprinted with permission.
Pair provide powerful combo for SPA baseball
by Bill Wagner
Boden Strafelda and Judah Thomas are a one-two punch at the plate, in the field and on the mound for the Saint Paul Academy baseball team. The two juniors also share another quality to go with their prowess on the diamond: humility.
"There's no ego with either one of them," said SPA coach Rob Thompson.
In looking at their numbers, it's easy to measure just how good Strafelda and Thomas are. As of May 5, Strafelda had a team-high .564 batting average with 14 RBI and 13 stolen bases. He was also leading the state in hits with 22. Thomas was batting .378 with 14 hits, seven J.3.BI and nine stolen bases.
Thomas plays center field or shortstop, while Strafelda plays shortstop or third when they're not pitching. On the mound, Thomas had a 1.00 ERA and 23 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched, while Strafelda had posted a 3.32 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 12 1/2 innings.
According to Thompson, shortstop is probably Strafelda's best position. "He's a pure hitter with a good eye," he added. "And he throws in the 80s with a good curve and changeup. He's probably our ace pitcher right now."
Thompson referred to Thomas as possibly the best overall athlete he's ever coached. "His freshman year, he was fourth in Minnesota in steals," he said. "And he's a three-sport athlete." (Thomas also plays hockey and football).
Strafelda, a longtime Mendota Heights resident who recently moved to Sunfish Lake, is a product of the Minnesota Blizzard, one of the top club baseball programs in the state. He played travel ball under the tutelage of his father and coach until he was 15. "I learned a lot of different ways to play baseball," he said.
Strafelda said he gets just as big a charge by taking a hit away from somebody as getting one himself. "A grand-slam is always nice," he said, "but I love playing in the field."
Thomas is a Macalester-Groveland resident who played on Highland Ball traveling teams. Thompson described Thomas as a "five-tool player"-one who can hit, hit for power, run, throw and field. However, Thomas still thinks he has room for improvement. "I'd like to improve my hitting for power," he said.
Thomas likes playing shortstop and pitching, and he can go get a ball like few others. "I like tracking a ball down in center field," he said. "I like having the whole outfield to work with, but you feel more a part of the action in the infield."
Both Thomas and Strafelda could have a future in college baseball, but they acknowledged there is ample time to think about that in the future. For now, they just want to have a successful junior year with the Spartans, who as of May 5 were 6-6 overall and 4-5 in the Independent Metro Athletic Conference.
Both Thomas and Strafelda said they enjoy playing for Thompson, a coach with solid baseball connections and an astute judge of talent. "Coach gave me a chance to play on his team when I was an a eighth-grader," Strafelda said.
It was music to Thomas' ears when he heard that Thompson referred to him as a five-tool player. "I'm happy to hear that coach said that," he said. "I like to think that I'd be that type of player."