Coach: Jeff Davis (ninth season)
Last season: 23-9, lost to Warren in Class 4A Prairie Ridge Sectional final
Key returners: Katie Kowalski, Sr., P; Morgan Newport, So., P/OF; Jessica Townsend, Sr., OF; Lindsey Costliow, Sr., C; Sarah Friedlund, Sr., SS; Haley Tadd, Jr., 1B; Taylor Garland, Jr., 3B
Key newcomers: Claire Koertner, Jr., 2B/OF; Abby Taylor, So., 2B; Alex Scheidecker, Jr., OF; Katie Schneider, Jr., C; Kelsey Cooper, Jr., IF
Outlook: The Barbs have an experienced, senior-laden roster that is poised to make a big postseason run. DeKalb will rely on the pitching duo of Newport and Kowalski, but the Barbs can hit, too. DeKalb also will play a tough nonconference schedule in preparation for the postseason.
Davis’ take: “We upped our schedule, we’ve got Cary-Grove on it and some big-time softball schools. We want to be pushed every game. It doesn’t matter if we’re .500 during the season, as long as we know how to play and prepare for that tournament at the end of it. That’s why we upped our schedule big time. We’ve got some really tough teams on there.”
Coach: Mike Lauer (14th season)
Last season: 19-9, lost to Marengo in Class 3A Sycamore Regional semifinal
Key returners: Paige Keegan, Sr., C; Baylie Ullmark, Jr., P
Key newcomers: Dani Mathey, So., SS/OF; Kendall Strack, So., 3B/P
Outlook: G-K loses six seniors off last year’s squad but returns Keegan, who hit .612 and slugged over 1.000 last year on her way to Daily Chronicle Player of the Year honors. As one of the smallest schools in Class 3A, the Cogs will have a tough postseason road.
Lauer’s take: “Young players will need to step in and play well. By season’s end, we would like to be playing our best and contend for a regional (championship).”
Coach: David Tamraz (second season)
Last season: Lost to Orangeville in Class 1A Dakota Sectional semifinal
Key returners: Haley Zuberbier, Sr., UTIL; Dawn Failla, Sr., 1B; Alanna Sterling, Jr., UTIL; Madison Marshall, So., P; Haley Melendez, Jr., SS
Key newcomers: Alexis Ross, Fr., P; Lauren Watson, So., C; Hannah Corn, Fr., C/OF; Skyler O’hern, Jr., OF
Outlook: Last season, Hiawatha won its first regional championship since the 2008 season, but the Hawks lost five seniors, including all-area picks Ashley Tamraz and Dani Clark. Both players pitched, while Clark also played shortstop and Tamraz spent time behind the plate. Marshall saw some time in the circle last season and should be Hiawatha’s No. 1.
Tamraz’ take: “I’m hitting grounders, grounders, grounders, trying to get it in their mindset that defense wins games. That’s the mindset we’re going to have this year. If the pitching comes around, Madison does what I think she can do, our bats are active, we’ll have a good shot at it again.”
Coach: Kristy Harrod (first season)
Outlook: After playing a mostly junior varsity schedule last season, the Royals’ young program will play a full varsity slate this season. H-BR is scheduled to compete in the postseason for the first time.
Coach: Alyx Gunderson (second season)
Last season: Lost to Amboy in Class 1A Indian Creek Regional semifinals
Key returners: Kayla Kauffman, Sr., C; Amanda Kimpflin, Sr., P
Key newcomers: Samantha Fleming, Fr., P; Katherine Nolan, Fr., P; Olivia Harvell, Fr., C/SS
Outlook: Indian Creek’s roster will have five freshmen this season. Gunderson expects Kimpflin, Fleming and Nolan to contribute in the circle. The Timberwolves’ main offensive threat will be Kauffman, a 2013 all-area selection who had a .672 on-base percentage and .981 slugging percentage last season.
Gunderson’s take: “We’ve made some great progress from last year, especially in our pitching staff. We’re going to have a good rotation. And I think when we have good pitching it will help our defense as well.”
Coach: Brian Willis (fifth season)
Last season: 23-4, lost to Rosary in Class 3A Rosary Regional championship
Key returners: Lexi Roach, Sr., OF; Lanie Callaghan, Sr. OF; Paige Kuefler, Jr., 3B/C
Key newcomers: Angie Morrow, Jr., P
Outlook: The Knights lost 2013 Daily Chronicle all-area selection Allyson O’Herron but should be able to score runs with players like Roach (Youngstown State recruit), Callaghan (Valparaiso recruit) and Kuefler in the heart of the lineup. Morrow, a transfer from Burlington Central and a Wisconsin recruit, will handle pitching duties.
Willis’ take: “I expect the girls to come out and play hard every game and compete. If they do that, they’ll be pretty successful. They want to win, they want to play well.”
Coach: Jill Carpenter (ninth season)
Last season: 14-19, lost to Burlington Central in Class 3A Sycamore Regional semifinals
Key returners: Lyndsey Coddington, Sr., UTIL; Tristyn Criswell, Sr. UTIL, Jasmyne Taylor, Sr., UTIL
Outlook: Sycamore has a veteran roster that features eight seniors and eight juniors. The Spartans will be strong offensively with Coddington, Criswell and Taylor, an all-area selection last year, leading the way. With four-year varsity pitcher Abby Foulk now gone, Carpenter will rely on McKenna Marcinkowski, Taylor Zak and Rachel Reifsteck in the circle.
Carpenter’s take: “We have some great offensive threats on our roster. We’ve had some health issues the past couple of years, so the hope is that we can keep everyone healthy throughout the season so that we have the chance to peak at the right time come the end of May.”
– Steve Nitz, email@example.com
• Attempts to reach Hinckley-Big Rock were unsuccessful.