Start is the favorite in the City League softball race this year with, from left, Megan Losh, Chelsey Lautzenheiser, Dani Hamann, Chelsie Randolph, Jasmine Lawler, Cassidy Wilson, and Halie Kinor. THE BLADE/JEREMY WADSWORTH
The predictability of how the City League softball season plays out can be a difficult process.
Teams rise and fall year-in and year-out in the CL.
Start, which has as much returning talent as any team, appears to be the favorite. That's at least the perspective the Spartans have taken.
“We look to finish in the top of the league,” Start coach Hillary Bates said. “The team will continue to strive for the best and will work hard for the top spot. The girls have worked hard in the offseason.”
Chelsie Randolph and Halie Kinor, both All-City performers, are two reasons Start should be strong.
Yet the Spartans are not a lock to win it all.
Defending champion Rogers remains a team to be reckoned with even with the loss of several key players to graduation.
Rams coach Kelli Short thinks it may take some time for the team to gel.
“This year’s overall outlook will be a little rough because we do have a lot of new players that need to learn the speed of the game and overall game knowledge,” Short said.
Woodward and Bowsher have also had success in recent years.
The Polar Bears are coming off a winning season in which they made the CL playoffs.
Bowsher struggled a year ago, but has traditionally been a contender.
“I think Rogers and Woodward will be fighting for the City League championship this year,” Scott coach Kyle Clark said. “It will be pretty open after that.
“I would love to finish in the top four again and make the City League tournament for the second straight year.”
Start (11-14, 9-1) returns a group that understands what it takes to compete for a title. Co-captains Randolph and Kinor are among seven returning letter winners.
Randolph, a senior, batted .425 with 27 RBIs and 10 stolen bases to earn All-CL honorable mention.
Kinor hit .441 with 20 RBIs and 28 stolen bases and was All-CL first team.
Seniors Jazmine Lawler (.423) and Chelsie Lautzenheiser (.333), junior Dani Hammon (.413), and sophomores Megan Losh (.271) and Cassidy Wilson (.389) are also seasoned returners.
“We’re looking for consistent leadership and working on pitching consistency,” Bates said.
Bates has confidence in junior Samantha Roe and freshmen Elizabeth Chagolla, Sabrina Trichinc and Hanna Lawler making an impact as newcomers.
Rogers (11-4, 9-1) has a much different roster from the team last year which captured the school’s first CL title.
Callie Stull and Bailey Davis, who were four-year letter winners, are among five players lost to graduation.
Senior Jamela Warren (.426), who was the CL player of the year, is back along with senior Kirstin Hicks (.471), who was an All-CL first team. Ashlee Wilkerson (.346), a senior and all-league second team, adds to the experience.
“We have some key returning players that if they step up big like last year and help teach and mold the incoming new players we should be a threat again in the City,” Short said.
Junior Artasia Hampton and sophomores Brianna Smith-Pasker and Karissa Machnicki have an opportunity to make a difference.
Woodward (12-10, 6-4) came on strong last season and has six starters returning.
Brittaney Walker, a two-time All-CL first team catcher who batted .585 a year ago, leads the attack.
Colleen Stamper, an all-league outfielder who batted .357, and Cierra Stamper (.386) are also among the league’s best.
Rebbeca Hall and Cali Daniels are also experienced players expected to give the Polar Bears a lift.
“We hope to finish .500 with the new pitching we have and make the City League playoffs,” Polar Bears caoch Richard Hug said.
Cierra Stamper and Walker are expected to handle much of the pitching load.
Bowsher (1-8, 0-10) is optimistic for a turnaround despite the loss of five starters.
Senior Victoria Turnbough, a three-year letter winner, is the top returner. She was All-CL first team after batting .431 with 24 RBIs.
Junior Emma Cowell, a three-year letter winner, hit .426 with 15 RBIs. Shenece Garrett (.333) and Journie Clark (.267) also provide experience.
“We’re looking to have a rebounding year,” Bowsher coach Jolene Brewer said. “We have strong senior leadership with a young varsity squad that will give us a fighting shot against tough competition.”
Mariah McKinney, Cadie Jacobs, Delina Masters, Alexa Boiselle, Ashley Ard and Aubrey Urbina make up a group of underclassmen who could play a key role.
Waite (4-18, 3-7) is looking to rebound from a tough season.
First-year coach Raquel Granados is counting on seniors Sharee Hood and Maddie Bengala to lead the way. Juniors Hannah Rucki and Charlotte Beach, as well as sophomores Kalli Billups and Monica Ray, have a year of experience.
“This is a learning process, and we’re in it for the long haul,” Granados said.
Juniors Jaslynn Juhasz and Alyssa Brookins are newcomers expected to contribute.
“We should be competitive within the City League,” Granados said. “We can only improve on our record from last year, so we are staying positive and working hard.”
Scott (3-12, 3-7) is counting on seniors Royal Mumford and Shi’kera Tall taking the lead role.
Junior Taylor Toney and sophomore Alexis Moore also have experience for the Bulldogs, who finished fourth last season.
“We are looking to keep the momentum going from last year,” Scott coach Kyle Clark said. “The girls would like to finish this season with a winning record.”
Clark is counting on Jhas’mere Lanford, Samiyia Pittmon, Bre Munn, and Kamaria Glover for depth this season.