Unbeaten in the Toledo Area Athletic Conference last spring, Ottawa Hills seems to have a roster capable of repeating as champions.
The Green Bears lost three of their best players to graduation but return a talented group of upperclassmen who contributed significantly last season as they snapped Cardinal Stritch's seven-year reign atop the TAAC.
Ottawa Hills (16-2, 8-0 TAAC last year) is led by senior pitcher Natalie Temme, a 15-game winner in 2010 who posted a 0.96 ERA. She is nearing 400 career strikeouts and possibly could reach 500.
"I would hope that we would repeat as champions and make a run in the tournament," Ottawa Hills coach Paul Komisarek said. "We have a team that's experienced, and the more we play, hopefully, the better we'll get."
Other key contributors back for their senior season are: third baseman Lauren Abendroth (.409 in 2010), shortstop Tessa Deckebach (.333), and catcher Nikki Schoenberger, a reliable backup in recent seasons behind All-TAAC player Karla Dixon.
Juniors Mary Zimmerman (.512), Nancy Rumpf (.462) and Haley Jarecki (.453) were the Green Bears' top three hitters last spring.
"I would say if we stay focused, good things should happen," Komisarek said.
Cardinal Stritch (11-16, 5-3) lost just one player to graduation and seems primed to show considerable improvement. Senior center fielder Amanda Sinay (.506) is a four-year starter, junior pitcher Katie Turski posted a 1.88 ERA last spring, and senior Sara Inderrieden (4-4; 3.07 ERA) can also pitch.
Scoring runs was an issue a year ago, but there is promise in sophomore catcher Alex Veres (.364) and junior second baseman Emily Lorton (.320, 12 stolen bases).
"I think if the girls keep doing what they're doing right now, as far as being aggressive at the plate, they'll hit the ball a lot better than they did last year, and I think we'll have a chance," Stritch coach Don Zbierajewski said.
Danbury (11-10, 4-4) lost 10 seniors, including six starters, and has already lost leading hitter Angela Lancaster to a broken hand. Second-year coach Chris Matta said the objective for this season is to build a foundation for the program, which she says her players are receptive to doing.
"We're just trying to develop a program," Matta said. "We have a lot of good interest and kids who are working hard. Right now, it's teaching them the game. These new ones that came in have a real desire to play ball, but they have a lot to learn as far as defense and playing small ball."
Shortstop Tori England (.383) was the team's second leading hitter last year and is one of three seniors along with catcher Felecia Beverick and pitcher Morgan Scott. Matta is trying to develop pitching depth, but as is, Scott is her only option on the mound.
Northwood (8-15, 3-5) struggled last season but coach Dan Fuller hopes the experience gained by his sophomores -- now juniors -- will pay off this year. Sammie Brisbin, a two-year All-TAAC third baseman, is the only senior on the team.
Of the juniors, Fuller is counting on productivity from first baseman Allison Burch (.340), center fielder Cindy Szyterski (.310), shortstop Becca Gwin, and pitcher Jordan Edwards, a three-year varsity player.
The Rangers, who have six staters back, won three of their first five games this spring.
"A lot of these kids played last year," Fuller said. "The last couple of years we struggled but things are looking really promising."
Emmanuel Christian (1-16, 0-8) has just one senior, a newcomer in second baseman Sarah Perkins, and no returning pitchers with experience.
"It's going to be a season where we're going to have to work and grow and improve every game," coach Michelle Dick said. "It's not going to be easy for us. We're stepping on the field against a bunch of people who have played for six or eight or 10 years."
Returning for the Warriors are sophomore pitcher/shortstop Madi Smith, who could be the team's best all-around player; sophomore pitcher/shortstop Mackenzie Arbogast; junior first baseman/pitcher Kara Nietz; and sophomore center fielder Mylynn Allen.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade,com or 419-724-6160.