Wauseon hopes to break through with its first Northwest Ohio Athletic League title since 2001, while Archbold and Evergreen look to keep recent success rolling.
Archbold, which won league titles in 2006 and 2007, tied Evergreen for the championship last season. Both return solid player and are expected to contend again.
But with five infielders, a starting pitcher and one outfielder back, Wauseon should give both Evergreen and Archbold a good run for the 09 crown.
We are in the running for the league, Wauseon coach Joe Henson said. People are looking at us because of our returning letter winners and pitcher.
Archbold coach Joe Frank believes his team can be competitive in the league. The NWOAL is going to be very tough this year, he said.
Patrick Henry, which made a run to the Division IV regional semis last year, has never won an NWOAL title.
Wauseon (19-7 overall, 6-2 NWOAL last year) has six returning starters and three seniors.
Senior Chelsea Woten, All-NWOAL first team last season, finished with a .455 average and drove in 27 runs. Junior CF Megan Dennis also made the first team after batting .443 with 34 RBIs.
Junior P Chloe Stiriz (17-6 with a 2.05 ERA) is in her third year as the starter. Senior 1B Sabrina Kessler (.330, 18 RBI) and senior C Paige Stiriz (.321, 19) also return.
Chloe moves the ball around well and her control is decent, said first-year coach Henson, who was an assistant for six years. Our three through six batters are solid. Right now we need to find hitting at the top and bottom. That will determine our success.
Archbold (21-7, 7-1), which won a Division III district title, has good team speed and an experienced pitcher back.
We have a mix of returning players along with some promising younger players, Frank said.
Senior P Lauren Kern had a 12-5 record with a 1.63 ERA last season and was all-district first team. Kern also batted .424 with 15 RBIs.
Junior OF Stacy Wyse finished third in the league with a .470 average and 22 RBIs. Junior 3B Andrea Allen (.409), sophomore OF Courtney Day (.382), junior 1B Abbey Graber, sophomore OF Alyssa Schaub and junior C Morgan Ducey all batted over .300.
Evergreen (20-5, 7-1) will have five starters back to make another run at the title.
Senior OF Ashley Herr batted .407 with 16 RBIs en route to all-district first-team honors. Senior 1B/P Nicole Natter earned All-NWOAL first team after driving in 34 runs with a .380 average.
Senior C Megan Schwyn (.380, 22 RBI) and senior IF Taylor Langenderfer (.329, 10) also bring great leadership, according to coach Michelle Mattin. Junior Mackenzie Pinkelman also is a returning letter winner.
I feel there is potential to have a competitive season, she said. Inexperience will be our biggest weakness.
Patrick Henry (21-6, 4-4) is off to a 6-0 start under second-year coach Mike Meyer. The Patriots will be led by three seniors and eight returning starters.
CF Chelsea Reese (.419, 18 RBI), 3B Ariel Kinder (.368, 15) and 1B Chelsea Gershutz are the seniors. Sophomore P Tori Meyer, the coach s daughter, started as a freshman (10-5, 3.12 ERA).
Juniors Hailey Phillips (SS) and Tiffany Ehlers (C) earned all-district honors.
Our defense and pitching are strong, Meyer said. We need consistency at the plate. I think we are a dark horse. We have not proved ourselves in the big games in the league.
Delta (13-7, 4-4) should be good offensively, but lack of speed is a concern, according to second-year coach Stephanie Rayfield. The Panthers have five starters.
Senior P Michelle Thiel (8-2, 0.90 ERA) earned all-district second team. Thiel already has thrown a one hitter with 10 strikeouts. Junior C Adrienne Dick (.462, 17 RBI) was all-district first team.
Bryan (17-7, 6-2) returns nearly its entire infield and should be strong offensively. Senior SS Brigitte Kuszmaul led the Golden Bears with a .412 average. Junior P Darcie Held takes over on the mound. Mandie Butler (.370, 16 RBI) is the lone returning outfielder. C Meagan Keeler, 3B Rachel Wisler (.301) and 2B Andi Yahraus form a solid infield.
Swanton (8-14, 1-7) will be led offensively by Amanda Taylor (.370, 16 RBI), Heather Hilton (.319, 14 RBI) and Paige Onweller. Kristen Martinez returns on the mound after going 4-8 with a 2.26 ERA. Seven Bulldog seniors return, but players need to step up at short and first base.
Liberty Center (4-14, 1-7) has six returning letter winners including Arika Hoffman, Elesha Lulfs, Chelsea Mesiter and Christi Miller. Offensive capabilities are a concern for coach Kara Kellermeier. But experience is a plus for the Tigers.
Montpelier (4-14, 1-7) has two solid hitters back in Brooke Willibey (.388, 8 RBI) and Kim Clark (.356, 3). Heather Delong also should help offensively. Experience is a strong point, but depth is a potential downfall.