Coach: Mark Olson
Last year: 11-19, 4-8 West Suburban Gold; lost to Bartlett in Class 4A regional semifinal.
Top players: Crystal Marinelli, sr., IF, Danielle Ciaglia, sr., Ari Renc, jr., OF.
Scouting report: The Blazers return seven starters from last season, including the team's top three hitters and all-conference selections Marinelli, Ciaglia and Renc. Ciaglia led the team with 33 RBI. Renc had 20 RBI and tied with Marinelli for the team lead in triples with 4 each. Olson is expecting strong seasons offensively from junior outfielder Kelly Delawder, junior first baseman Alex DiSilvio, junior infielder Rachel Baumgartner and sophomore infielder Carla Muell.
Coach: Jerry Schilf
Last year: 22-8, 13-5 East Suburban Catholic Conference, third place; won seventh regional title in 14 years; lost to Downers Grove North in Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top players: Marissa Panko, sr., SS; Julianne Rurka, sr, 3B; Rowan McGuire, sr., 2B; Steph Abello, jr., C; Emily York, jr., P/1B; Molly Moran, sr., P; Megan Stoppleman, so., P; Shannon Mills, sr., OF; Jessica Brown, jr., CF.
Scouting report: Although the Redwings lost four key players from last season, nine players return with significant varsity experience and five have confirmed their plans to continue playing softball in college. Panko is heading to Northwestern with Rurka (Providence), McGuire (Georgia Southern), Abello (Illinois) and Moran (University of Chicago) also will continue to play. York returns to the roster after hitting 4 home runs during last spring's regional. Benet's depth is also helped by the return of Stoppleman on the mound and starting outfielders Mills and Brown.
Downers Grove North
Coach: Eric Landschoot
Last year: 26-9, 11-1 West Suburban Silver, first place (fourth year in a row); lost to Downers Grove South in Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top players: Dale Ryndak, sr., P/OF; Kelsey Gockman, sr., IF/OF/C; Hannah Mrazak, jr., C.
Scouting report: The Trojans return five starters from the 2013 team. A key player is also back after a two-year absence. Ryndak missed all of last season with a knee injury and is headed to Arizona State to continue playing after graduation. Ryndak was second-team all-state as a sophomore. Gockman hit .374 with 38 RBI and is heading to Hillsdale College. Mrazak hit .364 with 4 home runs. Landschoot is also looking for freshmen Katie Polaski, an infielder, and Zoe Varsbergs, a catcher, who can also play the infield and outfield, to contribute as well. "With Dale Ryndak piching we will be a tough team to beat. If we can score a few runs and play consistently solid defense, we should be able to compete with and beat a lot of competitive teams," Landschoot said.
Downers Grove South
Coach: Ron Havelka
Last year: 22-11-1 overall, 11-1 West Suburban Gold (first place); lost in Class 4A supersectional to St. Charles East.
Top players: Jessica Andree, sr., SS; Caitlyn Daly, sr., OF; Caroline Hedgcock, So., P; Melissa Orton, sr., OF.
Scouting report: The Mustangs take to the new season with a strong mix of solid pitching and offense and the help of seven returning starters. Andree hit .449 last year with 6 home runs and 34 RBI. Daly finished with a .407 average with 5 homers and 30 RBI. Hedgcock was 15-8 on the mound. "If we stay healthy, we should be a tough team to contend with," Havelka said.
Coach: Dave Mello
Last year: 20-17, 4-8 in Metro Suburban Conference (fifth place); lost in Class 3A regional final to Fenwick.
Top players: Hannah Wassmann, sr., SS; Nicole Susmarski, sr., 3B; Cindy Paul, sr., OF; Dana Fritz, jr., P; Paige Ramirez, sr., C.
Scouting report: The Bison return 13 players from last season, including Wassmann, who hit a school record 7 home runs. Susmarski hit a record .544 with both players getting third team all-state honors. Fritz won 13 games on the mound. "We feel that this is a season where we will continue to build on the recent success of the program," Mello said. "Once again, we will play a very challenging schedule that includes many games against state-ranked teams. Our hope for this year is to have postseason success and continue in pursuit of the program's first sectional championship."
Coach: Nikki Simpson
Last year: Eighth in DuPage Valley Conference, lost to Batavia in Class 4A regional quarterfinal to Batavia.
Top players: Carissa Slobodecki, sr., LF; Grace Miller, sr., P; Kelli Tyler, jr., 3B/C; DoniBrooke Ross, so., SS.
Scouting report: "I think this team is working hard to turn over a new leaf in the program. They are excited about competing hard and getting after it. They are focused on the goals and expectations that we want accomplish so that we can have a great season," said first-year coach Simpson.
Coach: Josh Sanew
Last year: 26-5, 11-3 in DuPage Valley Conference (second place); lost to St. Charles East in Class 4A sectional final.
Top players: Sydney Benz, sr., SS; Heather Sperlazzo, sr., 1B; Alex Caliva, sr., 2B; Stephanie Campos, jr., 3B; Sarah Petzold, jr., CF; Cece Dopart, sr., P.
Scouting report: Glenbard North is a consistent DuPage Valley Conference and area power and should be a force again this spring with some top talent returning that will all play in college. Benz, who is heading to Louisville, hit .459 in 2013 with 29 RBI. Sperlazzo (Grand Valley State), hit .391 with 29 RBI and Caliva (Illinois State) hit. 366 with 14 RBI. Two returning juniors will boost the Panthers and are set on college choices as well. Campos has picked Bradley and hit .314 with 18 RBI as a sophomore. Petzold is heading to the University of Albany after last spring saw her finish with a .337 average and 17 RBI. Senior pitcher Cece Dopart was 8-0 in the circle last season with a 0.37 ERA and 67 strikeouts. "Our pitcher has Division II offers. So we have six starters playing Division I and II. So we have high expectations. We should be a very tough team," Sanew said.
Coach: Julie Fonda
Last year: 31-5, 12-0 in Metro Suburban Conference (first place); won Class 3A championship.
Top players: Tarah Valdez, sr., C/SS; Aimee Gerhardt, sr., 3B; Ashton Cattenhead, sr., OF; Payton Carli, so., OF.
Scouting report: The Raiders return 10 players from last season as they aim for their third straight state title. Gerhardt hit .433 with 17 RBI last season, Cattenhead finished with a .446 average and 42 RBI, and Carli hit .355. "We are ready to hit the ground running. We are reloading and working hard to continue success," Fonda said. "Every year is a fresh start. The team I had last year was different than this year's team. That is the great thing about high school sports, every year brings something different. Being a two-time state champ is great and something we are very proud of, but we will work to accomplish new goals this year with this new team."
Coach: Mary McGrane
Last year: 17-17, 8-4 in West Suburban Silver (second place); lost to Conant in Class 4A regional semifinal to Conant.
Top players: Taylor Langtry, sr., P; Shelley Warmolts, jr., C; Rachel Terwilliger, jr., SS; Stacy Borneman, sr., 2B.
Scouting report: Langtry, who is headed to Bucknell to continue playing softball, is back in the circle and healthy, which McGrane said makes the Hilltoppers a different team entering this season as opposed to last year. Seven players return, including four starters. Besides Langtry, the other returning starters are Warmolts, Terwilliger and Borneman. McGrane said seniors Jackie Feliciano and Emily Biederman will fill in at the corners to round out the infield. Seniors Sarah Park and Morgan Adair, junior Cori Szabo, sophomore Kaitlyn Ohrnstein and freshman Katherine Porter are battling for starting spots in the outfield. "Our goal is to compete every pitch, every inning this spring," McGrane said.
Coach: Lee Maciejewski
Last year: 14-18, 2-10 in West Suburban Silver (sixth place); lost to Marist in Class 4A regional final.
Top players: Faith Koffron, jr., C; Annemarie Tracey, jr., P/SS; Lauren Daleen, sr., 3B; Emma Day, jr., RF; Courtney Berlin, So., P.
Scouting report: Although only four upperclassmen are on this season's roster, Maciejewski likes the mix of talent the Red Devils have this season. Koffron, Tracy and Day are all entering their third varsity season. Daleen is in her fourth. Hinsdale Central will also look to returning pitcher Courtney Berlin, a sophomore. Maciejewski said the team's inability to get outside because of field conditions caused by the severe winter will hurt younger players trying to get used to the varsity level. But he's optimistic about the season overall. "I think by the end of the year we'll be very competitive," he said.
Coach: Kelly Van Hout
Last year: 13-22, 7-5 in West Suburban Gold (fourth place); lost to Sandburg in Class 4A sectional semifinal.
Top players: Sabrina Kuchta, sr., 3B; Kailey Hoel, So., 2B/OF; Sarah Hanson, So., 1B; Holli Jones, So., C.
Scouting report: The Hornets are boosted by five returning starters including the DePaul-bound Kuchta, who hit .441 with five home runs last season.
IC Catholic Prep
Coach: Frank Reaber
Last year: 19-11, 8-7 in Suburban Christian Conference Blue (third place); lost to Aurora Central Catholic in Class 2A regional final.
Top players: Jessica Conenna, jr., P; Gabby Curran, jr., IF; Anjella Farmer, so., IF.
Scouting report: Conenna, a pitcher, who has verbally committed to Northern Illinois University, leads six returning starters back from last season. Conenna finished 13-6 on the mound with a 1.64 ERA and 141 strikeouts. She hit .475 with 22 RBI. Curran hit .384 with 17 RBI and Farmer batted .440 with 26 RBI. Junior outfielder Lindsey Montoya and freshman infielder/outfielder Katelyn Falduto are expected to make big contributions as well. "We are looking to build upon our success from the last couple of seasons and we feel we have balance and a strong mix of offense and defense. We have a tough schedule to start our season and we hope to get off to a good start," Reaber said.
Coach: James Chellson
Last year: 24-12, 13-6 in Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division (third place); lost to Bartlett in Class 4A regional final.
Top players: Julie Baumgart, jr., P; Stephanie Sturino, sr., P; Maria Zepeda, jr., SS.
Scouting report: Chellson said the return of Baumgart and Sturino on the mound will be crucial for the Lancers along with Zepeda's varsity experience that will help lead the infield. A total of 11 players return from last year's squad. Games in early April at The Dome in Rosemont against last year's Class 4A runner-up St. Charles East on April 2 and Waubonsie Valley two days later will test the team early on the schedule.
Coach: Jen Pomatto
Last year: 13-12, 7-9 in Interstate Eight North (fourth place); lost to Aurora Central Catholic in Class 2A regional semifinal.
Top players: Summer Stitt, sr., P/SS/CF; Melissa Ericson, so., CF; Bella Daly, so., IF; Shelby Jensen, sr., P/IF.
Scouting report: Stitt returns this season after an all-conference junior year that saw her hit .428 and earn a 2.17 ERA on the mound. The team is young with three seniors, two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen on the roster. "Although we are young, our players are experienced," Pomatto said. "We need to minimize our errors and capitalize on other's mistakes."
Coach: Kris Kalivas
Last year: 11-22, 7-12, sixth in the Upstate Eight Valley Division; lost 11-2 to Benet in Class 4A regional semifinals.
Top players: Laura Sense, sr., OF; Jenna Hall, sr., P; Alise Perna, sr., OF; Katie Kennedy, jr., OF; Kara Leckinger, so., C; Becca Fattes, sr., 1B/DP.
Scouting report: The Mustangs were hit hard by graduation and will need to replace Anna Petersen (now playing at Northwestern University) and several other key contributors from last spring. Newcomers Elise Titiner, Megan Arcivar, Megan Archey , Lisa Harrington, Lexi Gaul, Peyton Voights and Monica Jauch will give the lineup a boost in 2014. "This will be a rebuilding year," fourth-year coach Kalivas said. "Hopefully, the young players will be able to learn and adjust quickly to the varsity level. We are also looking for more consistency from our pitching staff as well as strong leadership from our returners."
Coach: Richie Costante
Last year: 27-11, 13-2, second in Suburban Christian Conference Blue; lost to Fenwick in sectional semifinals.
Top players: Sara Ross, sr., 1B; Cristina Barrett, sr., SS; Lauren Trojnar, jr., P; Bell Alexander, so., CF; Alyssa Sclafani, so., C/3B.
Scouting report: The Broncos, who return eight starters and a ton of offense, will face tough tests early on against the likes of Benet, Plainfield South, Lake Park, Lockport, East Peoria and Glenbard South. "We will find out real quick how we stack up," said Costante, who expects to contend in the SCC along with St. Francis, Rosary and Chicago Christian. After setting school records in hits, extra-base hits, home runs, RBI and runs scored, Montini returns the 1-6 positions in the batting order, along with a three-year starter on the mound in Trojnar.
Coach: Andy Nussbaum
Last year: 32-4,14-0, first in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost 10-8 to Downers Grove South in regional final.
Top players: Maddi Doane, sr., CF; Keegan Hayes, sr., P; Kaitlyn Skarecky, sr., C; Megan Nerger, sr. 1B; Julie Kestas, jr., P; Lisa Tassi, jr., SS; Lindsey Gonzalez, so., IF.
Scouting report: The Redhawks went unbeaten while claiming their first DVC crown since 1989, but after a 29-0 start last season they stumbled down the stretch. With eight starters back, including NIU-bound pitcher Hayes and Syracuse-bound Doane, look for another big spring from the program. "We had an awesome season last year, even though it certainly didn't end the way we wanted it to end," Nussbaum said. "It will be really tough to duplicate last year's success. Our goal is to be the best team we can be, every game, every inning, every pitch." Tassi hit .405 as a sophomore, Gonzalez had 32 RBI as a freshman, and junior OF Katie Lamich hit .400 as a sophomore.
Coach: Jerry Kedziora
Last year: 14-16, 6-8, fourth in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost to Downers Grove South in regional semifinal.
Top players: Kailee Budicin, sr., C ; Emily Hillier, sr., DP/C (Quincy College); Casey Rechenmacher, sr., P/IF (Robert Morris); Alexis Solak, jr., SS, Rachel Martin, jr., 1B; Rachel Aiardo, jr., OF; Bailey Engel, jr., 2B/OF; Kelsey Warren, so., OF.
Scouting report: An experienced Huskies squad featuring eight returning regulars looks to stay strong throughout the season after struggling at times down the stretch in 2013. "We look to be stronger offensively throughout our lineup and will have players to step into key role playing positions. With five girls set to play college after high school, and a few more in the process of deciding, our starting lineup will be experienced," said Kedziora, noting that Solak has committed to Pitt and Budicin to Dayton. Solid newcomers Amanda Mackey and Dani Biesiada join a strong cast of returners.
Coach: Melissa Wilson
Last year: 18-12,13-6, third in Upstate Eight Valley Division; lost in first round of regionals to Yorkville.
Top players: Jamie O'Brien, sr., IF (Loyola University); Megan Bilgri, sr., P; Colleen Hill, sr. IF; Haleigh Yerkes, sr., C/OF; Kristin Catalano, sr., P (Cleveland State University); Jenny Budds, jr. OF.
Scouting report: The Wildcats return six varsity players and seven talented newcomers including catcher Nicole Dehnel, outfielder Rachel Chase, Dominica Lange and Molly Price, infielder Aryana DiBernardo, and Elizabeth Gale and Julia Huebner. Experienced pitching and defense will be a strength, but coach Wilson adds, "Offensive success will come from a number of weapons in the lineup, including speed, power hitting, clutch hitting and a variety of bunting styles." O'Brien batted .352 with 19 RBI last spring, while Bilgri, who has verbally committed to Mercer University, hit .571, and Hill hit .423 with 7 homers.
Coach: Ralph Remus
Last year: 25-5, 15-1, first in Suburban Christian Conference; lost in sectionals.
Top players: Fiona Summers, so., C; Ali Dittrich, jr., 1B; Carley Pasquale, jr. OF; Janie Smith, jr., SS; Emma Davis, sr., 3B; Maggie Remus, sr., P.
Scouting report: The Spartans lost a talented middle infield combo of second baseman Ali Germanos and shortstop Allyssa Fernandez to graduation but still return a solid nucleus this spring led by Remus, who was 22-1 with a 1.15 ERA, and Dittrich, who slugged her way to a .475 average with 5 homers and 40 RBI in 2013. "We have some holes to fill because of graduation and we will not score as many runs as last year, so we will have to concentrate on defense," veteran coach Remus said. "We should be a better team later in the season." Catcher Summers looks to stay hot at the plate after hitting .402 as a freshman.
Coach: Aaron Moore
Last year: 12-16, 2-10, last in Metro Suburban Conference; lost to Elmwood Park in regional opener.
Top players: Kaylee Biscan, so., P/IF; Emily Gifford, fr., P/IF; Kaitlyn Gehrke, jr., 1B; Marina Pawela, jr., C/3B.
Scouting report: A young Trojans squad may start as many as four freshmen and two sophomores, but the athletic group looks to be strong on defense. "This group will work hard and will compete this season," Moore said. "We're not very deep in some positions, so our leaders will be asked to carry the load for us. I believe we will be solid on defense and will score some runs, and I hope our pitching will be able to step up for us." Marisa Voss, the team's top hitter and pitcher last spring, graduated and will be missed as will three other top hitters who either graduated or transferred after last year.
Coach: Valerie Wood
Last year: 23-6, 16-3, first place Upstate Eight Valley Division; lost in regional semifinals.
Top players: Melaina Koulos, sr. 3B; Amanda Lack, sr. C; Shannon Hohman, jr. P, Jordan Kurth jr. OF/P; Layne Thesh, jr. SS.
Scouting report: New coach Wood takes over a program that won back-to-back conference titles and 49 games the last two years. While the graduated Amanda Minahan and Erin Hohman will be greatly missed, Shannon Hohman, the 2013 UEC Player of the Year, does return on the circle. "Shannon Hohman returns with a vengeance this season. She is working hard to get better at all phases of her game," said Wood, a former Warriors standout pitcher herself. "Offensively, we will be solid through the lineup. We have a nice mix of players that can hit for power." Others expected to play key roles this spring are Christina Pembrook, Audria Wagenknecht, Meghan Grannan and Sabrina Calabrese.
Coach: Kim Wallner
Last year: 8-19, 3-11 in the DuPage Valley Conference, lost to St. Charles North in regional semifinals.
Top players: Jenna Foreman jr., OF/P; Amy Goldsmith jr., P; Tatiana Rich jr. SS; Ellie Braun jr., C/3B; Jillian Staton sr., 1B/OF; Natalie Warkins sr., OF/SS.
Scouting report: The Wildcats will field a young squad this spring but expect improved defense and pitching to allow them to be competitive as they join the Upstate Eight Conference. "We graduated six seniors, so we will be young with two seniors, 10 juniors and one sophomore on the roster," Wallner said. "The upside is the return of both junior pitchers this season -- Amy Goldsmith and Jenna Foreman, a year older, stronger and more confident." Departed standouts Amanda Gosbeth (University of Illinois-Springfield) and Morgan Dastych (Univeristy of Wisconsin-Parkside) will be missed, but newcomers Jenny Wood, Kayla Goffinet, Hannah Gehlhaar, Jackie Stancik, Amanda Tannehill, Emily Bedard, Erica Spellman are ready to step into key roles.
Coach: Paul Gagliano
Last year: 10-11, 8-6 in Suburban Christian Conference, 8-0 and first place in SCC Gold Division; lost to Montini in regional finals.
Top players: Marissa Gagliano sr., SS; Michelle Ridderhoff sr., P; Jessica Bosse jr., C; Autumn Ratliff jr., P.
Scouting report: Seven starters return and transfer pitcher Autumn Ratliff will team with Ridderhoff to give the Warriors two solid pitchers. "Offense will continue to be a strength as well-known local hitting instructor and assistant coach Scott Mennie gets another year with these girls," said coach Gagliano, whose team hit .351 last season with an OBP of .416. The defense took a hit when center fielder Sara McClain chose not to play softball this spring, and talented freshman Meghan Gagliano recently tore her ACL and will miss the entire season. On the bright side Wheaton Academy added a JV team this year for the first time after carrying 18 girls on varsity in 2013.
Coach: Danielle Soraghan
Last year: 10-23, 4-10 in the DuPage Valley Conference; lost in first round of the regional to Glenbard North.
Top players: Kat Meyer, sr., 3B; Kelly Thornton, jr., SS; Amanda Mordacq, sr., P; Madison Roskuszka sr., C; Bree Zbilski, sr., IF; Hannah McCarthy sr., 2B.
Scouting report: Ten seniors will help first-year coach Soraghan, including six returning players from last year's varsity team. "Strengths include a lot of experience and players willing to work hard for the good of the team," Soraghan said. "This is a group of girls that work extremely hard and maintain a positive attitude. We are ready for the season ahead and cannot wait to get outside." Along with the senior veterans, the remaining six players on the roster (Thornton, Alex Adams, Rosie Craine, Paige Grittner, Olivia Duguay and Maggie Will) have a lot to bring to the table this spring for the Falcons.
Coach: Jeff Pawlak
Last year: 18-16, 10-4, third in the DuPage Valley Conference; won regional; lost 3-2 to Downers Grove South in sectional semifinals.
Top players: Maggie Graham, sr., OF/P; Jenny Harkabus, sr., SS; Maddie Briggs, jr., P/3B; Katie Hohnstein, jr., 3B/2B; Jenna Pape, sr., 1B/3B.
Scouting report: The Tigers ended a long regional title drought last spring but will miss pitcher Sammy Granger, third baseman Joanna Drew, center fielder Cameron Briggs and catcher Hannah Keating, four standouts who graduated. Coach Pawlak expects speed and left-handed bats to give the offense a boost and also returns plenty of pop in the middle of the batting order. Maddie Briggs picked up plenty of innings last year and looks to build off that experience on the mound. "It was our first regional in nine years and it's good to have more confidence in the program," he said. "It's a great point to start from, but the DVC is one of the toughest conferences in the state. It's always tough and now we're adding Lake Park. It's as good a conference as there is in the state."
Coach: Rachel Karos
Last year: 23-9, 9-3 in West Suburban Gold, second place in West Suburban Gold; lost in first round of regionals.
Top players: Sam Schmidt, jr., SS; Alyssa Ressinger, jr., 1B; Olivia Domin, sr., CF; Erin Sporer jr. 3B; Delaney Pelsor, jr., P; Zoe Dannenberg, so., P; Jordan Marczewksi so., RF; Cheyenne Brunig jr., 2B.
Scouting report: The Warriors won 23 games in large part to the pitching and hitting of the graduated Darian Pelsor, but six of nine starters from last year return, including Northern Illinois bound-Sam Schmidt. "A strength for the upcoming year will be hitting and producing runs. I also believe we will have one of the strongest defenses we've had in years," coach Karos said. "The combination of a strong lineup and our tough defense should definitely make us a contender for 1-3 (finish) in conference and a postseason competitor." Junior Delaney Pelsor and sophomore Montini transfer Zoe Dannenberg give Willowbrook a pair of pitchers with varsity experience.
Coach: Drew McGuire
Last year: 23-16, 8-4, tied for second in West Suburban Gold; fourth place in Class 4A.
Top players: Angela Scalzitti sr., CF, (DePaul); Sarah Milkowski, jr., C; Brooke Bandy, jr., P; Isabella Jaeger, jr., 1B; Taylor Pankau, sr., 2B; Abby Solem, so.; 3B.
Scouting report: The Dukes played superb softball down the stretch last season and came away with the school's best finish, bringing home a trophy. "It was an awesome experience for the girls," McGuire said. "I think they were thankful to have it and learn from it. They worked all winter long for this season and worked hard in the weight room getting ready for this season." With just two seniors last spring, York returns all but one starter, including Bandy, who was 15-7 with 1.98 ERA and 129 strikeouts as a sophomore. "We're very optimistic about it, but at the same time we're trying to stay focused and not let last year's success go to our heads." The speedy Scalzitti hit .504 last year with 47 runs and 37 stolen bases, while Solem batted .403 with 5 home runs and 35 RBI as a freshman in 2013.
-- Stan Goff and D.J. Wanberg