Injuries hampered St. Anthony softball while going 16-8 last season, so the Saints are motivated to make a run in the CIF-SS playoffs again with 13 returners and seven returning starters on the roster.
The Saints won the 2017 CIF Southern Section Division 6 championship, but only has one playoff win in the last two years.
“Our expectations are to win the Del Rey League and go deep in the Division 3 playoffs,” coach Brian McCalip said. “We have the team to do it if we stay healthy.”
Senior captains Tiare Jennings, Thessa Malauulu and Jae Kapu are some of the most experienced softball players in Long Beach. All three contributed to the 2017 CIF-SS Division 6 championship as freshman. Jennings is an Oklahoma signee, and Malauulu is headed to UCLA.
“That experience makes a difference in the way we play,” Jennings said. “We have more players with softball IQ. I have to use that to get my pitches. I get anxious and don’t see a lot of pitches in high school. I have to learn better pitch recognition.”
Malauulu and Kapu were first and second on the team in most offensive statistical categories for the Saints last season. Malauulu hit .508 with 24 RBIs and 28 runs scored. Kapu hit .478 with seven doubles and three home runs.
Jennings, an Oklahoma signee, is back from injury and already has eight hits, six RBIs and three home runs in four games at shortstop this season. The Saints beat Mayfair on Thursday in a big Division 3 matchup.
Pitchers Rose Cano, Brooke Townsend and Jayla Cadena will be in the circle for the Saints. Last season, they combined to strike out 132 batters in 137 innings with a 3.12 team ERA.
Infielder Zaida Puni and catchers Maleah Morales and Aimee Metz are also key returners.
McCalip said the games against St. Paul (March 19, April 6) and Bishop Amat (March 31, April 23) will likely decide the Del Rey League.
“We have a small community and we treat it like a family, and that close knit bond is what makes St. Anthony really great,” Jennings said.
St. Anthony hit .382 as a team last season with 156 RBIs in 23 games played.