St. Anthony sophomore Tiare Jennings, the Division 6 Player of the Year as a freshman in 2017, hopes to lead the Saints to another CIF-SS softball title in 2018. (Credit: St. Anthony High School)

Having won a CIF-Southern Section softball title last season with a lineup full of non-seniors, the St. Anthony Saints are a logical choice to repeat their championship season.

Of course, whether that becomes reality won’t be apparent until the end of the school year, nearly four months away. Which means --- for St. Anthony, and the dozens upon dozens of Catholic school softball, baseball, volleyball, track, swimming, golf and tennis teams gearing up for the spring sports season, all of them seeking to cradle CIF championship trophies and plaques come late May and early June --- there is much work to be done.

This week, Angelus News begins its Spring Sports Preview with an overview of softball, baseball and boys’ volleyball. The coming weeks will spotlight track and field, swimming and diving, and boys’ golf and tennis.

Baseball

2017 Highlights: Much of the excitement focused on the post-high school season major league draft, where J. Serra shortstop Royce Lewis and pitcher-infielder Hunter Greene of Notre Dame in Sherman Oaks were taken 1-2 by the Minnesota Twins and Cincinnati Reds, respectively. It was the first time local Catholic school players had been selected first and second in the MLB draft since its inception in 1965.

As for the 2017 season itself, no Catholic school from the Los Angeles Archdiocese or Orange Diocese won a CIF-Southern Section title for the third straight year, or since Santa Margarita (Division 1) and Bishop Amat (Division 3) captured crowns in 2014. St. John Bosco ended the regular season ranked first in Division 2, but was eliminated (as were its fellow Catholic school contenders) before the final round.

Last year’s league champions: Notre Dame/Sherman Oaks (Mission), St. John Bosco (Trinity), Cantwell-Sacred Heart (Camino Real), Bishop Amat (Del Rey); St. Michael’s Prep (Express), St. Monica Academy (Independence), Paraclete (Gold Coast), St. Anthony (Santa Fe), St. Bonaventure (Tri-Valley).

Returning All-CIF players: Ethan Patrick, La Salle senior; Joey Estes, Paraclete junior; Bryan Sanders and John Jackson, Serra seniors; Andrew Donini, St. Anthony junior; Ryan Gervais, St. Bernard senior; D.J. Mason, St. Michaels Prep senior; Will Goodwin, Bishop Diego senior.

2018 Schedule: First regular season games Feb. 24; last RS games May 11; playoffs begin May 15; CIF finals June 1-2.

Softball

2017 Highlights: After having won the CIF-SS Division 6 title with eight freshmen and a junior in the regular lineup in 2017, it makes sense that St. Anthony is expected to be among Southern California’s top teams in 2018.

The Saints ended last year 24-8, winning their last 17 and a third straight Camino Real League championship under the guidance of coach Adrian Ponce. Sophomore infielder Tiare Jennings, the Division 6 Player of the Year as a freshman, is among the returning regulars, along with fellow sophomore Brooke Townsend, an All-CIF D-6 pitcher in 2017.

Last year’s league champions (in addition to St. Anthony): Cornelia Connelly (Express), St. Joseph/Lakewood (Del Rey), Paraclete (Gold Coast), Alemany (Mission), Alverno Heights (Horizon), St. Genevieve (Santa Fe), St. Bonaventure (Tri Valley)

Returning All-CIF players (in addition to Jennings and Townsend): Nia Carter, St. Paul junior outfielder; Paige Vargas, Santa Margarita senior pitcher; Clarissa LaSitte, St. Bonaventure senior infielder; McKenzie Wilson, St. Joseph/Lakewood senior outfielder; Brianna Sanchez, Alverno Heights junior pitcher; Halli Hunter, St. Joseph/Santa Maria junior infielder; Dominique Montelongo, St. Mary’s Academy senior pitcher; Noelle Mourani, Cornelia Connelly sophomore infielder.

2018 Schedule: First regular season games Feb. 24; last RS games May 10; playoffs begin May 15; CIF finals June 1-2.

Boys’ Volleyball

2017 Highlights: Loyola dominated Division 1, ending the regular season ranked No. 1, before losing in the Division 1 final to Corona del Mar, denying the Cubs their 12th CIF volleyball championship (by far the most of any local Catholic school).

Notre Dame of Sherman Oaks, on the other hand, finished fourth in the final Division 2 regular season poll, but pulled out a four-set win in the Division 2 final toi take home its first-ever CIF-SS boys’ volleyball title.

Last year’s league champions: Loyola (Mission), Mater Dei (Trinity), Bishop Montgomery (Del Rey), St. Anthony (Camino Real), Paraclete (Gold Coast), Cantwell-Sacred Heart (Santa Fe), Bishop Diego (Tri-Valley).

Returning All-CIF players: Daniel Matheney, Bishop Montgomery senior outside hitter.

2018 Schedule: First regular season games Feb. 24; last RS games May 2; playoffs begin May 5; CIF finals May 19; SoCal Regionals May 22-26.