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2017 SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Team-by-team capsules
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North Forsyth junior outfielder Bella Caracciolo needed a little help from older brother, Griffin, a former North baseball player, in making her college choice. - photo by For the Forsyth County News
Forsyth Central

Coach: Kaelin Stevens, fifth season

Last season: 8-16, 4-11 in Region 5-7A

Key returners: C Grace Kiser, Jr.; UTL Emma Lowe, Sr.; P Bailey McCachren, Soph.; OF Karah Straub, Sr.; SS Morgan Watson, Sr.

Key newcomers: OF Ansley Clark, Soph.; UTL Sydney Moroney, Soph.

Outlook: The Bulldogs return after their season of transition into Class 7A and Region 5 with the rest of the county’s public school teams. It came with its struggles, but it finished with two encouraging games – a 5-3 win against South Forsyth and a close 1-0 loss to North Forsyth. Central also returns six starters who figure to be more acclimated to Region 5’s competitiveness. There’s sophomore pitcher Bailey McCachren (4-8, 2.98 ERA in 82 1/3 IP) throwing again to junior catcher Grace Kiser. Lander commit Morgan Watson (.388, 7 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 9 RBI, 19 R) anchors the infield again, and Karah Straub and Sadie Waters (.292, 6 2B, 10 RBI) roam the outfield again. Head coach Kaelin Stevens hopes a year of familiarity and improvement leads to more production from an offense that scored a region-worst 37 runs in 15 games last season.

Lambert

Coach: Brooks Youngblood

Last season: 25-5, 15-0 in Region 5-7A, lost in GHSA Softball Championships

Key returners: 2B/SS Skylar Aledia, Sr.; C Rachel Cowart, Sr.; 1B Ansley Dean, Jr.; OF Catherine Harper, Sr.; OF Catie Rose Hays, Sr.; P/3B Kassidy Krupit, Sr.; SS/P Brooke Miller, Soph.; OF Lindsey Nelson, Soph.; 3B Kaley Varner, Soph.

Key newcomers: OF/1B Ansley Hyde, Soph.; OF/C Anna Jackson, Soph.; OF Alexis Sewell, Sr.; INF Allie Sewell, Soph.

Outlook: Last year was the breakthrough season Lambert had been waiting for. After running through the Region 5-7A with a perfect record, the Longhorns reached the GHSA Softball State Championships in Columbus for the first time in program history. It was a short experience – Lambert went 0-2 and was eliminated by rival South Forsyth. Plenty of motivation, then, for a Longhorns team that returns so much. Start with pitching, led by Kassidy Krupit, the 2016 FCN Pitcher of the Year, who was so dominant last season. But there’s depth behind her in Catie Rose Hays (.348, 16 2B, 15 RBI), who has plenty of varsity experience, and Brooke Miller (.383, 6 2B, 5 HR, 21 RBI), who’s is talented in her own right. Then there’s the defense, which returns every starter except one outfielder. The biggest question then is how much will Lambert miss 2016 FCN Player of the Year Marissa Guimbarda and her 18 home runs last year.

North Forsyth

Coach: Jim Cahill, first season

Last season: 12-11, 7-8 in Region 5-7A, lost in first round of Class 7A state playoffs

Key returners: SS/OF Mallorie Black, Soph.; OF Bella Caracciolo, Sr.; INF Addie Harris, Sr.; OF/P Amber Jones, Sr.; UTL Katie Jordan, Jr.; 3B/1B/OF Abby Martin, Soph.; P/OF Mackenzie Marvin, Jr.; 2B Madelyn Oliver, Sr.; 1B Ansley Payne, Sr.; OF Haley Simpson, Sr.

Key newcomers: C Ashley Grace, Fr.

Outlook: It says above that this is head coach Jim Cahill’s first season with the Raiders, but that’s not exactly right. The long-time North baseball coach also led the softball program from 2002-07 during which the Raiders went 132-79 with trips to the GHSA Softball Championships in Columbus in 2004 and 2005. He takes over an experienced and talented team, led by three Division I-committed players in Mallorie Black (Georgia Tech, .365, 8 2B, 2 HR, 21 R), Bella Caracciolo (Morehead State, .329, 7 2B, 2 3B, 3 HR, 18 RBI) and Haley Simpson (South Carolina). Simpson’s return after missing last season with a torn ACL should spark North’s offense. Addie Harris, Amber Jones, Madelyn Oliver and Ansley Payne also have plenty of varsity experience. Cahill’s biggest challenge will be finding consistent pitching, which figures to fall to Mackenzie Marvin and Jones.

South Forsyth

Coach: Ronnie Davis, 16th season

Last season: 19-14, 9-6 in Region 5-7A, lost in GHSA Softball Championships

Key returners: P/OF Lauren Baccari, Jr.; 1B/DP Kelly Bagarose, Sr.; SS Jordyn Harris, Sr.; OF/INF Kayla Mayoros, Jr.; C Cat Rife, Sr.

Key newcomers: 2B Isabel Hui, Soph.; OF Morgan Kilmer, Soph.; DP/1B/C Kylie League, Jr.; 3B Makenna Segal, Fr.

Outlook: Despite a more rocky-than-expected regular season last year, the War Eagles reached the GHSA Softball Championships for the second straight season and even eliminated rival Lambert from the tournament. But they have a lot to replace this season. Despite losing two-time FCN Pitcher of the Year Katherine Huey, head coach Ronnie Davis feels good about the team’s pitching with Lauren Bacaari, who went 6-2 with a 1.01 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 41 2/3 innings last season in support of Huey. Her battery mate, Cat Rife (.250, 9 2Bs, 3 3Bs, 1 HR, 15 RBI), was a clutch hitter last season. And 2015 FCN Player of the Year Jordyn Harris (.333, 3 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 17 RBI) returns to lead the infield. South is otherwise inexperienced compared to these past few seasons, but expect them to be in the mix for a state playoff spot once again.

West Forsyth

Coach: Justin Rickett, seventh season

Last season: 15-16, 8-7 in Region 5-7A, lost in second round of Class 7A state playoffs

Key returners: UTL Carlie Behan, Sr.; OF Christie Carpenter, Sr.; P Hannah Guthrie, Jr.; 1B/P Morgann Koepke, Sr.; C Emily Kraft, Jr.; INF Bailee Martin, Soph.; OF Gracie Martin, Jr.; UTL Arynn Pickvett, Sr.; UTL Ashley Schull, Jr.; UTL Kelsey Schell, Jr.

Key newcomers: UTL Katelyn Cooper, Jr.; UTL Avery Wassilchak, Jr.

Outlook: The Wolverines had a milestone season last year, winning the program’s first state playoff series in its history and almost going even further. West head coach Justin Rickett is optimistic of more postseason success this season with the amount of experience the team returns. It starts with junior pitcher Hannah Guthrie, who established herself as the team’s workhorse last year; Guthrie threw a complete game in 25 of the team’s 31 contests and finished with a 2.26 ERA in 179 2/3 innings. Seniors Carlie Behan, Christie Carpenter, Morgann Koepke and Arynn Pickvett are also tested contributors who are displaying the requisite leadership, according to Rickett. It’s also a versatile roster, with players like Behan, Pickvett and Ashley and Kelsey Schell able to contribute at multiple positions. Rickett’s challenge will be finding out how all the pieces fit best. Whatever that looks like, it should be a playoff contender.