Coach: Jeff Davis
Last season: 19-15 (5-5 Northern Illinois Big 12)
Postseason result: Lost, 19-18, to Burlington Central in Class 3A regional final
Key returners: Katie Kowalski, jr., P; Sabrina Killeen, sr., CF; Hannah Walter, sr., 2B
Impact newcomers: Morgan Newport, fr., P
Outlook: A disappointing 2012 campaign saw the Barbs lose a thriller in the regional final to Burlington Central. But a healthy Kowalski in the circle will give the Barbs a chance in any game.
DeKalb has an experienced lineup and a number of players who were part of the team that advanced to a supersectional in 2011.
Davis’ take: “This season, we’re going to be pushing for the conference championship. As long as we can keep people healthy, we will be right at the top.”
Coach: Mike Lauer
Last season: 19-13 (6-4 Big Northern Conference East)
Postseason result: Lost, 3-1, to North Boone in Class 2A sectional semifinals; Class 2A regional champions
Key returners: Paige Keegan, jr., C; Natalie Klein, sr., SS; Danielle Engel, sr., P; Tori Hensley, sr., 1B; Baylie Ullmark, so., P; Amy Clark, sr., 3B; Megan McConnell, sr., OF; Aubrey Schultz-Trongue, sr., OF
Impact newcomers: Kailyn Cygan, sr., SS/3B/P
Outlook: Despite fielding a young team last season, the Cogs managed to win their first regional championship since 2008. They return a lot of that talent this season and will look to challenge Burlington Central in the BNC East.
The biggest challenge for G-K will be a move up to Class 3A, but they will benefit from the transfer of Cygan, who comes to G-K from Schaumburg.
Lauer’s take: “We’re a very veteran team, we’ve got a lot of kids back from last year. They know the system. Early, it’s more of a review on different situations, on things we run.”
Coach: David Tamraz (first season)
Last season: 14-13
Postseason result: Lost, 3-0, to Ashton-Franklin Center in Class 1A regional semifinals.
Key returners: Ashley Tamraz, sr., P/C; Dani Clark, sr., SS/P; Abbey Turner, sr., P; Tatiana Spung, sr., C/3B; Dawn Failla, jr., OF/1B
Impact newcomers: Lauren Watson, fr., C/SS/OF; Madison Marshall, fr., IF/P
Outlook: Tamraz takes over as head coach and thinks the Hawks will surprise people off the bat. His daughter, Ashley, was an all-conference performer last year and three freshmen should be consistent contributors for Hiawatha from the start.
Tamraz’s take: “I just truly think they had a decent team last year, but they had people in the wrong spots. Our defense, our pitching and our hitting, I think, will get us in a lot of games.”
Coach: Jeff Kenyon (first year)
Last season: Played only JV games
Outlook: H-BR is still building a relatively new softball program and have scheduled mostly junior varsity games this season. Some schools only field varsity games so the Royals will play about 10 official varsity contests.
Right now the Royals are scheduled to play in the postseason for the first time, but that could change depending on numbers and competitiveness.
Coach: Alyx Gunderson (first year)
Last season: 5-21
Postseason result: Lost, 7-4, to Paw Paw in Class 1A regional quarterfinals
Key returners: Kayla Kauffman, jr., SS / C; Samantha Bergstrand, jr., C; Alanah Wieseler, sr., 1B; Khloe Gordon, sr., OF; Sarah Faivre, sr., SS
Impact newcomers: Amanda Kimpslin, jr., P; Jordan Bergstrand, fr., P
Outlook: Indian Creek will be under the leadership of first-year coach Alyx Gunderson, who played at Earlville-Leland in high school and also competed in travel ball with Indian Creek.
Kauffman, a Daily Chronicle All-Area honorable mention pick as a sophomore, will lead a young squad looking to rebound from a tough 2012.
Gunderson’s take: “We’re very young. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores out. So it’s definitely going to be a building year, but they’re working really hard.”
Coach: Brian Willis (fourth season, 66-37)
Last season: 31-7. Northern Illinois Big 12 East champions.
Postseason result: Lost, 9-1, to Sterling in Class 3A sectional semifinals; Class 3A regional champions
Key returners: Allyson O’Herron, sr., SS; Lanie Callaghan, jr., CF; Lexi Roach, jr., LF; Paige Kuefler, so., 3B
Outlook: The Knights lost a big piece in pitcher Delani Vest, who now plays for Northern Illinois, and Willis said finding her replacement will be key.
Kaneland won conference and regional championships last season before ending its season in a loaded sectional and the Knights hope to continue that momentum.
Willis’ take: “Hopefully, we have developed some confidence from last season that will carry over to this season. We learned how to play as a team and win the close game last season and hope we haven’t forgotten.”
Coach: Jill Carpenter (eighth season, 135-117)
Last season: 16-20 (4-6 NI Big 12 East)
Postseason result: Lost, 5-0, to DeKalb in Class 3A regional semifinals
Key returners: Abby Foulk, sr., P; Becca Schroeder, sr., C; Brit Huber, sr., 1B; Taylor Zak, jr., P; Tristyn Criswell, jr., IF; Lyndsey Coddington, jr., IF; Taylor Jones, jr., OF; Jasmyne Taylor, jr., OF
Impact newcomers: Miranda Rivera, jr., OF; McKenna Marcinkowski, jr., P
Outlook: Sycamore returns a lot of experience, which Carpenter says will work in their favor with the poor weather so far. Carpenter likes where her group is at defensively and said the Spartans will have to find ways to score runs and give their pitchers a chance.
Carpenter’s take: “The players know what the expectations are and, after a disappointing season last year, are ready to hit the ground running. We are confident that this group will be able to accomplish a lot.”
– Ross Jacobson, email@example.com