Duneland Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Sydney Cooley, Sr., P/3B; Mallory McKee, Sr., 1B; Jill Bohnert, Jr., C.
Outlook: The Trojans lost two All-DAC players in Megan Matheny and Megan Tymorek, but Cooley leads a deep senior class that won't allow Chesterton to miss a beat. Cooley will take over for Tymorek in the circle, but coach LouAnn Hopson still has plenty of lineup questions as she begins her 31st season.
Players to watch: Miranda Elish, So., P (17-1, 1.03 ERA, .444 avg.); Amanda Rock, Sr., 3B; Ally Rock, Sr., C; Rachael Honaker, Jr., 2B; Alexis Holloway, Fr., P.
Outlook: A great regular season ended with a disappointing loss in the postseason last year for coach Ginger Britton’s squad. Nine returning players and six seniors will look to redeem themselves with some key young additions to the roster.
Players to watch: Lily Del Toro, Sr., P; Lizzie Seymour, Sr., SS (.426 avg., 14 RBIs); Melanie Pabon, Sr., C; Aspyn Novak, Jr., CF (.398 avg., 29 runs); Paige Carter, So., 3B.
Outlook: The Indians return seven starters, which Jeff Sherman says is “the most veteran team I’ve had in my five years as coach.” Senior leadership will be key for L.C. with Del Toro and Seymour having key roles.
Players to watch: Emma Dickson, Sr., SS; Kelsey Vegin, Sr., OF.
Outlook: Coach Bob Severs continues to rebuild a program that has been decimated by graduation over the last two seasons. The Slicers won't sneak up on anyone this season as several DAC coaches have cautioned about looking past LaPorte.
Players to watch: Ashley Hansbury, Sr.; Makayla Pearson, Fr.; Jenny Villanueva, Fr.
Outlook: The Pirates will be playing under their third different coach in three seasons as Kristina Sides takes over. And she’s quite optimistic, considering the team hasn’t won many games in recent years. “People will be surprise when they play Merrillville,” she said. “This is a whole different team. They have passion and heart. We are great team all around and we will win some games this season.”
Players to watch: Dakota Leslie, Sr., Abby Heckman, Sr., Stephanie Brady, Jr.
Outlook: Coach Candy Feare returns to the program after taking a year off last season. The Wolves will miss departed senior Jameka Collins.
Players to watch: Kaitlin Doud, Jr., SS; Kiley Jones, Jr., P; Alexis Johnson, Jr., P.
Outlook: The defending state champions lost plenty of talent off last season's squad, but the Indians are ready to embrace their role as the hunted. Doud and Jones are two of the best players in Northwest Indiana, and the juniors are eager to make another deep run downstate. Johnson is the only senior on the roster, so this group will be together for the next two years.
Players to watch: Kennedy Minko, So., P; Olivia Vinyard, So., SS; Abbey Thomas, So., 1B.
Outlook: The Vikings will rise or fall based on the strength of their sophomore class. Minko gained plenty of experience in the circle last season, while Vinyard and Thomas earned their spurs in the field. Coach Tracy Corneil is confident the youthful Vikings will build on what they learned last season.
Greater South Shore Conference
Players to watch: Monica Martin, Sr., C (.558 avg., 26 runs, 25 RBIs); Andie Fremouw, Sr., P; Elena Sobilo, Sr., SS; Jade Acevedo, Sr., 1B; Ashley Gordish, Fr., P/IF; Brittany Anderson, Fr., IF.
Outlook: New head coach Rich Sobilo has a veteran squad with six seniors and eight returning starters. But he also likes his talented group of freshmen coming in to help the Warriors challenge for tough conference and sectional titles.
Players to watch: Jazzmin Haygood, Jr., C/SS; Kayla Tobel, Jr., SS/CF; Andrea Whitehead, Jr., IF; Jessica Robinson, Sr., 1B/OF; Meagan Plumer, Fr., IF.
Outlook: Coach Karry Rogers says the Warriors could start out slow due to some inexperience, but she likes the possibilities from some talented freshmen that should get more consistent as the season progresses.
Players to watch: Ashley Yoways, Sr., P; Ivy Dawson, Sr., SS; Melissa Balkema, Jr., IF.
Outlook: The Wildcats will go as far as Yoways takes them in their first year in the GSSC. The Iowa recruit batted .450 last year and was 16-9 with a 1.26 ERA. Hanover Central's schedule will have a different look this season as the Wildcats are now forced to play a double round-robin in the GSSC, eliminating several rivalry non-conference games.
Players to watch: Shelby Jorgensen, Sr., P; Lexy Brock, Sr., C/IF; Caitlin Acker, Sr., 3B; Kariann Schiller, Sr., 2B; Ashlinn Jorgensen, Jr., 1B.
Outlook: After winning the sectional two years ago, the core of the Eagles is ready to return to those heights with four talented seniors back for coach Linda Llewellyn’s squad. She also has sophomore twins Rachel and Heather Gillespie to add some speed to the lineup.
Players to watch: Brandy Coleman, Jr., C/OF; Abby Andert, Fr., P/IF; Gracie Beck, Sr., P/IF.
Outlook: Coach Kayla Strain is in her third year with the Blazers and she expects the program to turn the corner this season. After going through the basics in the first two years, Strain believes the players are eager to take the next step. Andert could be one of the best young talents in the area.
Players to watch: Aubrey Spencer, Sr., P; Alyssa Cooper, Sr., C; Hanna Halliar, Jr., OF/P; Jenna Leach, Jr., 1B/P; Emma Hollopeter, Sr., SS; Hayle Ross, Sr., CF.
Outlook: New coach Butch Cain, who has been an assistant coach in the North Newton program for 13 years, hopes to keep the Spartans moving in a winning direction after the team set a school record for wins in recent years. He has plenty of experience coming back, including four pitchers.
Players to watch: Ashley Ogren, Sr., CF; Abbey Bryant, Jr., P; Itzel Nunez, Jr., 3B; Shana Johnson, Fr., SS; Ally Clare, Fr., C.
Outlook: First-year coach Sarah Otero has a challenge with seven players returning with experience and seven freshmen to fill out the roster. Her main goals to start out are to be more aggressive on offense and defense.
Players to watch: Nickole Finch, Sr., P/1B, Karessa Sweeney Sr., 2B; Angelise Vukin, So., C; Hanna Houghtaling Jr., OF.
Outlook: Finch had the Bearcats on the doorstep of another state title appearance last season and the senior is eager to knock down the door this season. Coach Marc Bruner expects another strong season from Vukin. Bruner believes that this group will be one of the better teams he's had in his tenure at Wheeler.
Players to watch: Mollie Lovasko, Sr., P (.458 avg., 29 runs); Michaela Brown, Jr., C (.484 avg.); Jessica Butler, Jr., SS (22 RBIs); Destiny Smith, Sr., 3B (19 RBIs).
Outlook: It all starts with whoever is in the circle and with Lovasko back after three very good seasons that will be good enough for Whiting to stay in games against anyone. The Oilers’ hitting should be improved.
Great Lakes Athletic Conference
Players to watch: Valarie Ruiz, Jr., P (12-7, 147 K, .377 avg.); Celeste Martinez, So., 2B (.367 avg.); Sara Kruszynski, Sr., 3B; Abby Govert, Sr., SS.
Outlook: The Pioneers lost to Griffith in a close game in the sectional final last year. That had coach Christina Delgado optimistic with her standout pitcher (Ruiz) and key position players returning.
Players to watch: Bri Mangerson, Sr., IF/OF; Shelby Geurts, Jr., P/IF; Amber Sanders, Jr., P/IF; Amber Carl, Jr., C; Gabby Zamora, Jr., IF/OF.
Outlook: The Glads lost to Griffith in the sectional for a second straight year, but coach Emily Smith likes the mix of seasoned veterans and new additions going into this season. Team chemistry and generating more offense are her main goals.
Players to watch: Alondra Munoz, Sr., OF; Angelica Silva, Sr., C; Esmerelda Ramos, Sr., 2B; Samantha Burke, Jr., P.
Outlook: First-year coach Tom Niksich takes over and he likes the experienced talent returning, as well as having more than 30 players in the program. “Our team is full of spirit and having fun learning fundamentals,” he said.
Players to watch: Ashlie Rossi, Sr., P; Katie Caldwell, Sr., 1B; Alyssa Garvey, Sr., LF; Pamela Justiniano, So., SS; Justine Ramirez, Jr., 3B.
Outlook: How does coach Penny Bensinger’s team replace five graduated seniors? With seven seniors on this year’s squad led by Rossi in the circle and some talented hitters coming back.
Northwest Crossroads Conference
Players to watch: Brenna Boyle, Sr., P/SS (15-4, 2.07 ERA, 31 RBIs, 8 HR); Madison Lesch, Sr., OF; Cat Murad, Sr. OF; Jessica Adamczyk, So., IF.
Outlook: Coach Brooke Runyon is “very optimistic and enthusiastic about this season” despite about 60 percent of the roster being freshmen to go with three key seniors. But they are very talented freshmen, so look for an Andrean resurgence.
Players to watch: Blair Morton, Jr., P; Erica Yost, Sr., 3B; Rhiannon Kozy, Jr., 2B; Lauren Maynard, Jr., C; Courtney Bell, Jr., OF.
Outlook: The theme for the Panthers this season could be “the shuffle” because that’s what coach Don Bence says he will have to do, at least early on, due to only one senior and three returning starters. But among those returners are the pitcher (Morton) and catcher (Maynard).
Players to watch: Felicity Hillegonds, Jr., C; Courtney Raab, Sr., 2B; Brittney Fowler, Sr., P; Aleysha Slaven, Sr., SS; Bailey Parker, Sr., OF.
Outlook: With an entire new coaching staff led by Sarah Funston, it will be up to the Trojans’ six seniors to lead on and off the field. But Funston is optimistic the kids have the “togetherness and tenacity” to win games.
Players to watch: Maddy Adams, So., P; Hannah Wilson, Jr., 1B; Amanda Sandilla, So., C; Brianna Kraft, Sr., OF; Paige Talian, Sr., OF; Brittany Probasco, Sr., 3B.
Outlook: The last game of last season could carry over to this year as the Brickies lost a thrilling, heartbreaker 6-5 to eventual state champ Portage in the sectional final. Coach Katrina Lucas lost Dana Claussen to graduation, but Adams is ready to take over. The offense should also be improved.
Players to watch: Lauren Stokes, Sr., SS (.443 avg., 28 runs, 22 RBIs); Lexi Eggert, Sr., OF (.299 avg., 19 runs, 22 BB); Morgan Cavinder, Sr., C (.373 avg., 26 RBIs); Lauren Cambe, Jr., P; Mia Stevens, Jr., P.
Outlook: Most of coach Brian Flynn’s offense is back, but like in previous years, his pitchers will be a little inexperienced as Cambe and Stevens combined for just nine games started last season. K.V. has four seniors who were JV players last season.
Players to watch: Alyssa Pokropinski, Sr., 1B; Brandi Faverty, Sr., P; Kristina Rosenbaum, Sr., 2B; Hunter Jusevitch, Jr., SS; Brooke Cummins, Jr., P/3B.
Outlook: Coach Pete Iussig hopes talent and experience will shine through from a squad heavy on upperclassmen. Among the seniors are tough pitcher Faverty and offensive producer Pokropinski.
Players to watch: Sadie Conner, Sr., LF; Taylor Kotso, Jr., SS (.373 avg.); Taylor Michalski, Sr., CF (.371 avg.); Paige Kwasigroch, So., OF; Madelynn Moore, So., 1B (.389 avg.).
Outlook: Losing an all-area battery of Carly Murphy and Emma Hodges from a team that went 24-8 won’t be easy for coach Beth Thornburg, but experience around the rest of the field on offensively should help ease the pain of grooming new battery mates.
Porter County Conference
Players to Watch: Kirsten Spangenberg, Sr., C; Amanda Hawrot, So., P; Sarah Brown, So., SS.
Outlook: The Wolves enter the year with high expectations as Hawrot is back in the circle for her second season. Her battery mate Spangenberg is a four-year starter and coming off an All-Conference season. Coach Ron Saunders is also looking to intergrate four talented freshmen into the mix this season.
Players to watch: Maggie Lindeman, Sr., P; Rachel Pauer, Sr., 2B.
Outlook: Coach Craig Doelling returns to coach his alma mater this season and believes the Hawks have the talent to win the Porter County Conference. Lindeman is a strong pitcher and she'll be aided by a talented freshmen class that Doelling believes could push for early playing time.
Players to watch: Emily Kolb, Sr., C/IF; Alyse Rosenbaum, Sr., IF/OF; Kylie Bruce, Sr., P; Jayla Crump, Jr., IF.
Outlook: Coach Tim McNeil expects the Fillies to deliver another strong season ... once the team gets the feel for the game again. Kouts rarely has players participating in travel ball, so McNeil typically focuses on teaching during the first half of the season before pushing the Fillies into overdrive down the stretch.
Outlook: The Tigers will be looking to restock the program after losing a bulk of seniors to graduation last season.
Players to watch: Katie Bachert, Sr., 1B; Leslee Rassel, Sr., OF; Morgan Lippens, Jr., C.
Outlook: Former Valparaiso University softball player Hayley Bridwell takes over as the new coach this season and expects a solid year from the Cherokees. Bridwell is looking to add stability to a roster that has been through several coaches.
Players to watch: Madi Walter, Sr., P; Sarah Denham, Sr., 3B/OF; Riley Popplewell, So., SS.
Outlook: The Satellites have everyone back from last season's squad and also regain the services of Morgan Wright after she missed last season with a broken wrist. Coach Patrick Fuller has a younger team this season, but is still approaching the year with a sectional or bust mindset.
Players to watch: Corie O'Connor, Sr., 2B; Macy Mullins, Sr., SS; Maddy Johnson, Sr., CF.
Outlook: New coach Ryan Cunningham inherits a program stocked with five impact seniors as well as a healthy group of underclassmen ready to contribute. Cunningham has leaned on the experienced players through preseason workouts and has seen their leadership rub off on the rest of the roster.
Players to watch: Beth Piotrowski, Sr., OF/P; Katie Piotrowski Sr., OF.
Outlook: The Piotrowski sisters will help lead the program along with fellow senior Michaela Shrader. The Blackhawks have eight sophomores on the roster this season.
Players to watch: Ariana Parrish, Jr., P (.254 avg., 11 runs); Kara Bulington, Jr., SS; Ashley Oliver, Jr., P/OF; Riley Davis, Jr., C (.299 avg., 13 SB); McKenzie Coleman, Jr., IF.
Outlook: Fourth-year coach Kim Denton is “pumped up” for a season in which she has no seniors and tons of juniors that have been together playing softball since junior high and want to win more than one or two games. “It’s time for this program to turn things around,” Denton said.
Compiled by Times correspondents Paul Oren and Steve T. Gorches.