Duneland Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Megan Matheny, Sr., C (3.71, 23 RBI); Megan Tymorek, Sr., P (17-9, 1.64 ERA, 175 SO, 171 IP, 9 HR, 41 RBI); Sydney Cooley, Jr., 3B/P (4-1, 1.54 ERA, .360, 6 HR, 28 RBI); Mallory McKee, Jr., 1B (.369, 16 RBI); Jill Bohnert, So., RF/DP (.300, 2 HR, 13 RBI).
Outlook: Regional champion Chesterton returns nine starters from last year's squad. The Trojans shattered the program's home run record last season (23), and the high-powered offense might reset that mark.
CROWN POINT (25-7)
Players to watch: Siena Gyure, Sr., P (19-3, 1.75 ERA); Mandey Shrader, Sr., SS (.446); Amanda Rock, Jr., C (.371); Bailey Mores, Jr., CF (.409).
Outlook: The Bulldogs start their first full season with Ginger Britton as coach. A deep pitching staff gets better with freshman Miranda Elish (Oregon) moving up. Most of the team is back. The Bulldogs should be dangerous.
LAKE CENTRAL (26-3)
Players to watch: Kayla Bishton, Sr., OF (.346); Abbey Rauch, Sr., 1B, (.375); Lizzie Seymour, Jr., SS (.416, 4 HR, 23 RBI); Aspyn Novak, So., OF (.426); Lily Del Toro, Jr., P (8-1, 1.45 ERA); Annabel Karberg, So., P (6-1, 1.11 ERA).
Outlook: The defending DAC and sectional champs have a chip on their shoulders after being upset by Chesterton in the regional. Great pitching will be the cornerstone. A lot of offense did graduate.
Players to watch: Alexis Botford, Sr., 2B; Brynna Wolfenbarger, Sr., C; Emma Dickson, Jr., SS; Kelsey Vergin, Jr., OF.
Outlook: The Slicers lost both of their starting pitchers to graduation, and this youthful squad needs time to build confidence. Coach Bob Severs hopes his team will be prepared by the postseason.
Players to watch: Julie Ross, Sr., OF; Selena Diaz, Jr., OF; Ashley Hansbury, Jr., INF; Emily Glover, Fr., P; Kristin McGee, Fr., INF.
Outlook: Kaitlyn O'Brien takes over the Pirates and hopes to rebuild. The goals are to learn the game, play together and grow every day of the season.
MICHIGAN CITY (16-12)
Player to watch: Jameka Collins, Sr., SS (.481, 6 HR, 29 RBI).
Outlook: Collins might have to be the glue for the team this season. Wolves girls basketball coach Mike Megyese and former Marquette softball coach Jim Kintzele take over, replacing coach Candy Feare.
Players to watch: Haley Hodges, Sr., C (.493, 5 HR, 26 RBI); Jalise McKnight, Sr., CF; Lauren Murray, Sr., RF; Heather Zengler, Sr. P; Kaitlin Doud, So., P/SS; Kiley Jones. So., P/1B/DP.
Outlook: The Indians return a solid lineup, including all three pitchers from last season's staff. Hodges is one of the best hitters in the area.
Players to watch: Molly Grant, Sr., 3B; Megan Krantz, Jr., P; Kathy Minko, Jr., SS.
Outlook: The Vikings return a good core of players, including Krantz on the mound, so Valparaiso might surprise some opponents this season.
Greater South Shore Conference
BISHOP NOLL (18-9)
Players to watch: Elana Sobilo, Jr., SS; Andrea Fremoun, Jr., P; Monica Martin, Jr., C; Tori Keilman, Fr., 3B; Erin Mullaney, Fr., C/OF.
Outlook: Not only did the Warriors lose four-year starter Vanessa Hartzell to graduation, but six other seniors also graduated. Not one senior is on Ralph Laramie's team. He has four pitchers and an offense that must produce.
Players to watch: Danneylle Thomas, Sr., P/SS; Jazzmin Haygood, So., C; Andrea Whitehead, So., 3B; Samantha Gibbs, Sr., SS; Cailena Nusz, Fr., P.
Outlook: Three-year junior varsity coach Karry Rodgers takes over for Ryan Vondrak. A lot of talent graduated, but Rodgers is excited about the young, skilled talent on the roster. Nusz could be a very special player.
LAKE STATION (18-10)
Players to watch: Shelby Jorgensen, Jr., P; Caitlin Acker, Jr., 3B; Lexi Brock, Jr., C; Tonya Blair, Sr., OF.
Outlook: The Eagles shocked a lot of people last year in winning the 2A sectional. With Jorgensen back in the circle and Acker in the box, this should be another great spring.
Outlook: Kayla Smith is in her second season with the Blazers, who hope to continue to grow as a team.
NORTH NEWTON (20-12)
Players to watch: Allyson Leach, Sr., P (.419, 11-8); Aubrey Spencer, Jr., P (.291, 7-4); Alyssa Cooper, Jr., C (.319); Jena Leach, So., 1B (.330); Hayley Ross, Jr., CF (.371).
Outlook: Coach Amanda Suarez's team set a school record in wins last year, and she has almost her entire team back. There is a good mix of youth and experience. Leach will lead the way in the circle.
RIVER FOREST (4-24)
Players to watch: Kayla Smith, Sr., SS (.302); Ashley Ogren, Jr., C (.417); Abbey Bryant, So., P,(.353); Itzel Nunez, So. (.379).
Outlook: The Ingots struggled last spring but did advance to the sectional championship game. Losing big to rival Lake Station has motivated this team. Coach Austen Robison said hard work will raise his program.
Players to watch: Nickole Finch, Jr. P/1B (10-6, 2.13 ERA, 157 SO, .321, 6 HR, 28 RBI); Karessa Sweeney, Jr., SS (.412, 21 runs, 16 RBI); Hanna Houghtling, So., OF (.360, 17 runs).
Outlook: The defending league champs have Finch and Sweeney to provide leadership to an inexperienced roster -- the youngest coach Marc Bruner has had in his tenure. Freshmen Angelisse Vukin and Kylie Horn will see considerable playing time.
Players to watch: Mollie Lovasko, Jr., P (.296, 217 SO); Jessica Butler, So., SS; Lily Hale, Jr.; Abby Bondi, Sr.; Roxy Maslikowski, Sr., 2B.
Outlook: The Oilers batted only .200 last year, but with six returning starters to a program that played well in the second half last spring, things should be much better. Whiting's never had back-to-back losing seasons.
GREAT LAKES ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Valarie Ruiz, So., P/SS (.451); Sara Kruszynski, Jr., 3B/P (.441); Abby Govert, Jr., 2B/SS/C (.319); Andrea Zamora C/LF (.300).
Outlook: Ruiz leads a group of five experienced varsity players. There might be some early struggles, but coach Christina Delgado believes her Pioneers could be dangerous at the end of the year.
Players to watch: Helen Shelton, Sr., CF (.410); Bri Mangerson, Jr., UT (.432); Amber Earl, So., C (.385); Amber Sanders, So., P (.333); Shelby Geurts, So., P.
Outlook: The Glads are fired up after losing to Griffith in the sectional final. Geurts returns after missing last season with an injury. Coach Emily Smith is counting on improved pitching and hitting.
Players to watch: Jazzlynn Baines, Sr., P/1B; Andrea Davila, Sr., C/P.
Outlook: Only five players return with starting experience. Coach Jacqueline Brasseur is hoping for improvement from several freshmen.
Players to watch: Angelica Justiniano, Sr., P (17-2, 1.81 ERA, 92 SO, .379); Cierra Charbonneau, Sr., C (.403, 26 RBIS); Vivian Peterson, Sr., INF (.486, 17 RBIs).
Outlook: Five seniors return for a team that set the school record for wins and beat Lowell in the sectional. It starts with Justiniano and Charbonneau. Look for big things in Hessville.
NORTHWEST CROSSROADS CONFERENCE
Players to watch: Morghyn Neal, Sr., C; Brenna Boyle, Jr., SS/P; Madison Lesch, Jr., OF; Catherine Murad, Jr., OF; Katie Crandol, Sr., P; Savannah Kinsella, Sr., INF.
Outlook: The defending Class 3A state champs lost Nikki Steinbach to graduation, but there is still a ton of talent in this dugout. Finding a pitcher to get outs will be key. Like last year, this team should score runs.
Players to watch: Sammi Adams, Sr., CF; Sarah Galambos, Sr., C; Jamie Rex, Sr., 1B; Rhiannon Kozy, So., 2B; Blair Morton, So., P.
Outlook: Don Bence takes over the Panthers. The program is a defending sectional champion but lost a lot to graduation. Adams and Galambos are the key leaders on this young team.
Players to watch: Aleysha Slaven, Jr., SS (.357) Samantha Tedesco, So., CF (.332).
Outlook: Coach Erin Zeller said her young team is working hard and focusing on small successes. The Trojans hope to be competitive in conference and improved by the postseason.
Players to watch: Dana Claussen, Sr., P (.286, 3.11 ERA, 136 SO); Aimee Pope, Sr., OF (.345); Brittany Probasco, Jr., 3B (.337, 17 RBI); Hannah Wilson, So., 1B (.318).
Outlook: A lot of experience returns for coach Katrina Lucas. Her young team improved last spring and is looking for bigger and better things this time around.
KANKAKEE VALLEY (20-10)
Players to watch: Alyssa Matson, Sr., 3B.
Outlook: The Kougars played state-champion Andrean to a tough 1-0 loss in the sectional, showing how far this program has come. Gone is pitching ace Ashley Dobson. This team should rebound.
Players to watch: Hunter Jusevitch, So., SS (.347); Morgan O'Hanlon, Sr., CF (.342); Brandi Faverty, Jr., P (8-4, 1.97 ERA).
Outlook: Coach Pete Iussig has a lot of returning players, but the Red Devils had a sub-par season last year and are looking to raise the stakes. Expect better play this time around.
Players to watch: Sadie Conner, Jr., LF (.349, 27 Runs); Emma Hodges, Sr., C/3B (.308); Taylor Michalski, Jr. (.316, 26 R); Carly Murphy, Sr., P (5-5, 2.07 ERA, 70 SO); Gina Rice, Jr., RF/C, (.347); Briana Zunica, Jr., 2B (.314).
Outlook: Coach Beth Thornburg has much back from a solid spring last year. With Murphy healthy and ready to go, the Mustangs should have what it takes to make a run in the NCC.
PORTER COUNTY CONFERENCE
BOONE GROVE (17-11)
Players to watch: Kayla Yadron, Sr., INF; Kirsten Spangenberg, Jr., C; Mackenzie Starcevich, Sr., CF.
Outlook: Freshman Amanda Hawrot and junior Megan Smentek will take over pitching, as the Wolves will try to support them with quality defense and a potent offense.
HANOVER CENTRAL (13-13)
Players to watch: Ashley Yoways, Jr., P (.407, 22 RBIs; 11-7, 1.31 ERA, 101 K); Melissa Balkema, So., 3B (.438, 5 HR, 24 RBI); Ivy Dawson, Jr., SS (.330, 4 HR); Alyssa Howard, Sr., OF.
Outlook: The Wildcats have seven returning starters as they enter their final season in the PCC. Hopes are high as talent in all four grades try to blend together to make a run at a conference and sectional title.
Players to watch: Kyle Doelling, Sr., SS (.392); Maggie Lindeman, Jr., P/INF (9-2, 0.72 ERA, .351); Rachel Pauer, Jr., 2B (.363).
Outlook: The Hawks lost four key players to graduation, including Maggie's older sister Mollie, but the team still has plenty of experience in the lineup. Freshman infielder Brianna Spicer is a key newcomer.
Player to watch: Alyse Rosenbaum, Jr. 2B.
Outlook: The Fillies lost several starters to graduation, but Rosenbaum will be one of the building blocks.
Players to watch: Nikki Goodwin, Sr., INF (.417); Taylor Guse, Sr., INF (.300); Gabbie Sievers, Sr., 1B (.378).
Outlook: Coach Dave Amor said that senior Sarah Mareska has made strides as a pitcher, and she'll profit from a formidable offense.
MORGAN TOWNSHIP (6-17)
Players to watch: Kaley Lauder, Sr., P; Kari Gourley, So., SS.
Outlook: The Cherokees are going to have to lean on seniors like Lauder to provide leadership.
SOUTH CENTRAL (19-10)
Players to watch: Madisyn Walter, Jr., P (10-3).
Outlook: The Satellites lost eight starters from last year's sectional championship squad, but Walter will provide much-needed leadership for new coach Patrick Fuller.
WASHINGTON TOWNSHIP (14-11)
Players to watch: Ali Cobb, Sr., C; Kacie Corley, Sr., 3B; Ashley Hines, Sr., LF; Maddiy Johnson, Jr., CF; Corie O'Connor, Jr., 2B.
Outlook: Sisters Liz and Elaine Lustgarten graduated from last season's sectional championship team, but several starters return to the lineup. Four freshmen, including pitcher Kelby Cunningham, will help fill the void.
Players to watch: Arianna Parrish, So., P (.261, 35 SO); Chelsea Hughes, Sr., CF (.408); Kara Bulington, So., SS; Catlin Oliver, Sr., 2B.
Outlook: The Bombers have more pitching in the mix and a goal to hit .350 as a team. Coach Kim Denton has a group of girls working hard with a plan to improve.
Players to watch: Beth Piotrowski, Jr., OF/P; Katie Piotrwoski, Jr., OF.
Outlook: The Piotrowski sisters will provide leadership to a squad which lost four players to graduation.
!~ Compiled by Times sports writers Steve Hanlon and Jim Hunsley.