Archbold shared the NWOAL title last season and looks to win it again with, from left, Jesse Fidler, Paige Peterson, Becca Gerig, Cassidy Williams, Cassidy Wyse, Desi Newman, and Jen Gerken. THE BLADE/JETTA FRASER
Five of the nine softball teams in the Northwest Ohio Athletic League remained in contention for the title for most of last season.
Ultimately Evergreen and Archbold shared the crown. This spring could easily play out the same way.
Archbold is the preseason pick based on experience and talent level.
"The league will again be very competitive from top to bottom," Archbold coach Joe Frank said. "Based on returnees, Evergreen will be one of the favorites. I think we will be a factor in the race but have a lot of hard work ahead of us."
Bryan first-year coach Beth Yahraus expects the the league to be competitve, but sees the Blue Streaks as clear-cut favorites.
"Archbold is the team to beat," Yahraus said. "Evergreen also returns some key players.
Archbold (25-2, 7-1 NWOAL last year) has 12 returning players and seven are seniors. including All-Ohio first- team selection Cassidy Wyse (.511, 37 RBI) and All-NWOAL first-team pick Becca Gerig (.426, 39 RBI).
Seniors Jesse Fidler (.443, 8 HRs), Natalie Beck (.581), Jen Gerken (.347), Desi Newman (.333) and Paige Peterson (.440) also return. Junior Cassidy Williams (.240) and sophomore Payton Robinson (.388) are back. Peyton Driver and Madison Kohler also figure to contribute.
"We hope to improve as the season goes on and to challenge for the NWOAL title," Frank said. "I think we will be solid offensively and we hope to be solid defensively as well."
Evergreen (18-5, 7-1) lost two key players to graduation — Kenya Keller (.447) and Lesley Ducat (.426, 1.04 ERA).
The Vikings will leand on Taylor Monahan, an All-Ohio pick, for leadership. She led the league in hitting with a .675 batting average and stole 37 bases.
Patrick Henry (15-9, 5-3) also lost top players to graduation — Katy Hammer (.588) and Lindsey Meyer (.407).
Kristin Bostelman. a junior, batted .388 last year. Rachel Dye and Katie Kurtz are also returners expected to be leaders.
Bryan (12-2, 5-3) has the potential to compete for the title under first-year co-coaches Beth Yahraus and Chad Savage.
Seniors Bre Kline, Tiffani Rickenberg. and Sierra Hughes, as well as juniors Tasha Tworek and Hannah Wieland are top returners. Tworek was all-league second team.
Bethany Eck, Madison Stockman, Cami Sanchez, Mollie Lirot and Olivia Tusko are among a group of newcomers that could make a difference.
Delta (12-7, 3-5) has six players back who were regular contributors last year.
Seniors Nikole Kern and Morgan Macionsky and junior Haley Wanless are two-year letter winners, while senior Marisa Lantz and junior Alexa Lauch and Haley Shindorf have a year of varsity experience.
Delta coach Sam Keesey will also call on senior Tessa Osterhout, sophomore Rebecca Mattimore and freshmen Alexia Rudnicki, Haley Callahan and Lauren Heil-Myers for contributions.
Liberty Center (19-5, 6-2) has only four letter winners back.
The Tigers are led by seniors Katie Gilson, Haleigh Hoffman and Courtney Bowers. Junior Amelia Gilson is also a key returner. Senior Erika Wheatley, junior Jenna Jeffers and sophomore Hailey Ley will need to contrbute
"Overall, we're very young and inexperienced," Liberty Center coach Brooke Perry said. "We have to rebuild and learn from every game. Staying healthy will be key."
Wauseon (8-15, 2-6) lost several starters to graduation, but there's still plenty of experience.
Ashley Smith (.447) and Brooke Whipple (.436) are among the to players. Samantha Norman, Tiffany King and Faith Hicks are two-year letter winners.
Junior Alex Whipple and sophomores Oliviah Banister and Brianna Coblentz are also returners.
"This group has the potential to do some really great things this season," Wauseon coach Shelly Cain said.
Montpelier (10-16, 1-7) returns eight letter winners but are one of the league's least experienced groups.
Leslie Clark (.384) was one of the NWOAL’s top hitters.
Regan Steffes, Marinna Mercer, Sidney Houk, Taylor Wells, Christy Duchene, Jesse Duchene and Haley Suffel make up the returners for first-year coach Darrin Repp i.
Swanton (5-16, 0-8) is looking to improve under second-year coach Marisa Everitt. It will hinge on the play of returners Tori Roth, Emily Maier, Brooke Eitnear, Taylor Pelland and Emily Callicote.
Maier (.261) and Pelland (.250) are the top returning hitters.
"We should be OK as long as we commit ourselves to learning everything we can about the game," Everitt said.