Coach: Kaelin Farrington, third season.
Last season: 11-13
Key returners: SS Alexa Hull, sr.; 2B Marisa Hull, sr.; OF Devyn Malinzak, sr.; 3B Sydney Pajerski, so.; 1B/RF Lindsay Race, jr.; OF Karah Straub, so.
Key newcomers: C Grace Kiser, fr.; P Brooke Wade, jr.; OF Sadie Waters, fr.
Outlook: Last season felt like a re-run of 2013 for the Lady Bulldogs when they fell one game short in the Region 7-AAAAA tournament of clinching a state playoff berth for the second straight season. Third-year coach Kaelin Farrington was more frustrated the team seemed to peak in the middle of the season. For all of the questions surrounding this season’s team, Farrington believes it’s one that will get better as the season goes along. Senior twins Alexa and Marisa Hull will anchor the middle infield and middle of the lineup. Karah Straub and Sadie Waters are young but quick and talented outfielders. Farrington is especially high on freshman catcher Grace Kiser. But Central’s season may come down to finding a pitcher among North Forsyth transfer Brooke Wade, Abbey Sims, Emma Lowe and Jenny Sims, among others. Whoever emerges, Farrington believes this will be the strongest team defensively and offensively of her tenure.
Coach: Brooks Youngblood, second season
Last season: 25-4, Region 6-AAAAAA champions, lost in first round of Class AAAAAA playoffs
Key returners: 2B/SS Skylar Aledia, so.; OF Maddie Butz, sr.; C/OF Rachel Cowart, so.; OF/C Shelby Dean, sr.; P/1B Marissa Guimbarda, jr.; OF Kaitlin Holloway, sr.; P/SS Kassidy Krupit, so.; 3B Zoe Miller, sr.
Key newcomers: 1B Ansley Dean, fr.; OF Catie Rose Hays, so.; UTL Ansley Lloyd, jr.
Outlook: Pitching is the most crucial component in softball, and Lambert has plenty in junior Marissa Guimbarda (13-4, 1.63ERA last season) and sophomore Kassidy Krupit (10-0, 1.51ERA). Oh, and both can hit too: they combined for six home runs and 59 RBI last season. They will anchor Lambert’s lineup this season, and the Lady Longhorns will need them to help offset the loss of shortstop and Tennessee signee Savannah Huffstetler, last year’s FCN Player of the Year, and catcher Macy Stovall. Second-year coach Brooks Youngblood is confident sophomore Rachel Cowart can replace Stovall at catcher and that Krupit can slide over to shortstop on the days she doesn’t pitch to replace Huffstetler. It’s also comforting for Lambert to have four-year starter Zoe Miller back at third, sophomore Skylar Aledia back at second and senior Kaitlin Holloway back in centerfield. This looks like another Lambert team that can contend for a region title. “That’s our regular season goal every year,” Youngblood said. “I think it’s realistic this year.”
Coach: Bud Henderson, seventh season
Last season: 9-16
Key returners: UTL Ashley Barton, jr.; OF Bella Caracciolo, so.; INF Addie Harris, so.; P Sara King, jr.; SS Autumn Musgrave, sr.; 2B Madelyn Oliver, so.; 1B Ansley Payne, so.; OF Haley Simpson, so.;
Key newcomer: Payton Martin, so.
Outlook: The Lady Raiders took something of a tumble last season, missing the state playoffs for the first time in a few seasons. Hard to blame North, considering 21 of the program’s 26 players were freshmen or sophomores. That means this season’s team is still young, but it’s also more experienced. The Lady Raiders should have a strong outfield tandem of sophomores Bella Caracciolo and Haley Simpson, who seventh-year coach Bud Henderson said is one of the fastest players he’s ever seen. Madelyn Oliver returns at second base after starting as a freshman. Henderson said junior pitcher Sara King has gained plenty of experience and some velocity too. Elsewhere on the diamond, North has at least two players capable of winning a starting position, meaning Henderson has more depth and versatility at his disposal. “I see us competing and being in the playoffs again,” Henderson said.
Coach: Ronnie Davis, 14th season
Last season: 23-7-1, Region 6-AAAAAA runner-up, lost in second round of Class AAAAAA playoffs
Key returners: SS Emily Harris, jr.; P Katherine Huey, jr.; C Bianca Mora, jr.; OF Sofia Tapia, sr.
Outlook: The Lady War Eagles figure again to be in the mix for a region championship and state playoff berth, if only because of the return of junior pitcher and Purdue commit Katherine Huey. The reigning FCN Pitcher of the Year went 16-4 with a 1.49 ERA and 131 strikeouts last season, and she’ll carry an even bigger load this season. Junior Emily Harris (.369, 17RBI, 24R) returns at shortstop. But some roster surprises have forced veteran coach Ronnie Davis to do some shuffling. Sofia Tapia (.311, 14RBI, 18R) was an all-county catcher last season, but the Radford commit will move to centerfield to replace the graduated Stephanie Harris. Bianca Mora had 25RBI last season as South’s designated player, but she’ll replace Tapia behind the plate. But with Huey on the mound and leadership from Harris, Mora and Tapia, the Lady War Eagles should be able to handle the transition just fine.
Coach: Justin Rickett, fifth season
Last season: 17-13, lost in first round of Class AAAAAA playoffs
Key returners: OF Mikki Adams, sr.; P Kelly Carpenter, sr.; SS Bailley Concatto, jr.; 1B Chelsea Coussan, sr.; OF Kayla Hardy, jr.; C Alana Frye, jr.; 3B Hayla Seitz, sr.
Key newcomers: INF Carlie Behan, so.; OF Christie Carpenter, so.; OF Lauren Crowe, jr.; 1B/3B Abbey Poe, jr.
Outlook: The right kind of pieces return for a Lady Wolverines team coming off its second straight state playoff appearance. There’s senior pitcher Kelly Carpenter, healthy again after battling through injuries last season to pitch 129 1/3 innings. The left side of the infield is experienced with returning starters Hayla Seitz at third and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville commit Bailley Concatto at shortstop. Kennesaw State commit Alana Frye returns at catcher. Senior Kayla Hardy returns in the outfield. There will be new starters at first base and second base, and two more in the outfield, but fifth-year coach Justin Rickett likes his team’s chances of making a third consecutive trip the state playoffs, particularly with a lineup that looks more balanced top to bottom. “We have a good chance of getting people on base and putting pressure on defenses,” Rickett said.