Archbold has ruled the Northwest Ohio Athletic League for half a decade, and the Blue Streaks are expected to continue their dominance this spring.
Last season, Archbold captured its fifth straight NWOAL championship. The Blue Streaks then rode that momentum all the way to the state semifinals, the eighth appearance in school history.
But Archbold fell 3-2 to West Liberty-Salem in the Division III semis.
Evergreen and Patrick Henry are expected to give Archbold the biggest challenge.
"The league will be very competitive from top to bottom," Archbold coach Joe Frank said. "I think we will be a factor in the race, but we have a lot of work ahead us. We have a lot of question marks, but I am confident that our first-year players will step up to the challenge."
Archbold (26-5 overall, 8-0 NWOAL) has five returning letter winners.
Pitcher Sarah Wyse, a senior, led the march last season and returns on the mound. She was 19-5, struck out 168 batters in 118 innings and had a 2.34 ERA. Wyse also was productive at the plate with a .462 batting average and 31 RBIs.
Senior center fielder Courtney Day earned All-Ohio first team after hitting .417 with five home runs and 37 RBIs. She also stole 17 bases.
Senior Alyssa Schaub (3B) was All-NWOAL after batting .462 with 34 RBIs, and 24 stolen bases. Junior Morgan Cody (OF/1B) had a .421 average (4 HR, 29 RBIs). Junior Chelsea Goebel returns at second base.
But Frank, who has a 191-60 record in nine seasons, also lost six starters to graduation.
"We have some huge holes to fill defensively," said Frank. "I think we will improve as the season progresses."
Evergreen (18-9, 7-1) finished second last season and lost just two to graduation.
The Vikings have seven starters back led by senior pitcher Kelsey Pierce and senior infielder/pitcher Kelsey Ducat.
"The league is strong as always and very competitive," said Evergreen coach Michelle Egan, who has a 59-19 record in three years.
"This year the team brings with them a strong work ethic and positive attitude.
Pierce (13-5, 137 strikeouts) had the second lowest ERA in the league (1.72). Ducat led the Vikings with a .429 average and drove in 25 runs.
The other seven returning letter winners are: juniors Brittany Herr (IF/OF), Lauren Langenderfer (IF), Megan Mosiniak (OF/C), and sophomores Lesley Ducat (P/IF) and Kenya Keller (IF/OF).
Patrick Henry (20-5, 5-3) has seven returning letter winners and strong pitching.
The Patriots also should be in the mix with senior pitcher Tori Meyer, who was 16-5 and led the NWOAL with a 0.67 ERA.
Coach Mike Meyer, who has a record of 58-16 in four years, is counting on five seniors.
The returning starters are Tori Meyer (P), Jessie Moll (SS), Hillary Koppenhofer (IF), Jen Wagner (OF), Emily Nagel (OF), Katie Hammer (3B), and Lindsey Meyer (OF).
Meyer had 225 strikeouts in 136 innings. She also had a .390 average. Moll, also a senior, batted .380 average, while Hammer hit .400.
"We hope to be competitive in all games," Meyer said. "Archbold and Evergreen look to be the front runners in the league race."
Bryan (13-9, 6-2) returns only two letter winners for coach Craig Polter, who is in his 12th season.
"At this time we are in a major rebuilding period," he said. "We have a good group of young players who will get playing time."
His top returning players are senior Emily Robinson (SS), junior Megan Roberts (3B), and sophomore Abbie Davenport (2B). Senior Kaitlin Spiess and junior Elayna Firestone also earned letters last year.
Sophomore Stevie Paine and Firestone will pitch. Junior Andrea Rickenburg, sophomores Olivia Trubey, Lydia Snavely, and Cassie Lawson and freshman Rachel Fruth are promising newcomers.
Wauseon (11-13, 4-4) lost its leading hitter and top pitcher, Chloe Stiriz, to graduation.
Justine Johnston takes over as coach at her alma mater.
But she also lost a third year starter at second base, Lacee Lovins.
The Indians shared the title in 2009.
Delta (10-15, 2-6) has five returning starters and four seniors back for Stephanie Rayfield, who is in her 14th season.
The seniors are Taylor Shindorf (P/1B), Kathleen Przelsawski (CF), Kali Schuler (SS), and Caitlin Friess (1B/P).
Shindorf hit .445 to earn All-NWOAL. Przelsawski batted .469, with Schuler at .333 and Friess at .323.
Sophomore Kelsey Walter (2B) batted .425 to earn all-NWOAL second team.
"We're looking to be competitive in every game," Rayfield said. "We need to improve our hitting with runners in scoring position."
Liberty Center (10-16, 2-6) looks to be competitive under first-year coach Brooke Perry.
The returning letter winners are: senior April Decant (3B/P), sophomore Katie Thomas (C), junior Ashley Bowers (2B), junior Ali Busick (OF), senior Janessa Martinez (1B), senior Mallory Spieth (OF), and senior Aubrey Maneval (IF).
Thomas finished third in the league in batting average (.467). She also had 15 stolen bases.
Promising new players include sophomores Kaila Sturgell (P/IF), Haley Polsdorfer (IF), Abbie Hill (OF), and junior Anna Lulfs (utility).
Montpelier (6-18, 2-6) will rely on pitching and defense to be competitive as coach Mike Cleland has three returning starters.
Junior catcher Morgan Rockey batted .417 and had 19 RBIs. Other top returnees are seniors Kait Schmitt (OF/P) and Alicia Bowman (OF), junior Brea Henry (3B), and sophomore Lauren Dye (OF/P).
"We need to score runs on a consistent basis," Cleland said.
Swanton (6-18, 0-8) looks to improve under first-year coach Anita Williams. Five letter winners were lost to graduation. But there are five returning starters with Dominique Smith, Courtney Barker, Paige Dziengelewski, Ashtin Staler, and Chelsea Martinez.
Williams said pitching and catching should be strengths.
-- Mark Monroe