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2014 prep softball preview

04/10/2014, 11:36am EDT

A look around the leagues at this season's contenders

Clay finished 26-3 last year and reached the Division I regional final. The Eagles have eight starters returning with, from left, Hayley Schiavone, Danielle Lorenzen, Haley Dominique, Honnah Susor, Brooke Gyori, Brooke Gallaher, Jamie Miller, and Harleigh

8 returning starters make Clay a strong favorite to win TRAC

Picking Clay to win this year’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference softball championship was like one of those Captain Obvious TV commercials.

The Eagles return eight starters — including the conference player of the year and pitcher of the year — from last year’s TRAC champions, a team that was ranked No. 6 in the final state coaches poll, after losing to eventual Division I state runner-up Elyria in the regional final.

Yes, Captain Obvious, Clay is favored to repeat its TRAC championship. READ MORE

Springfield Blue Devils seek 3rd straight NLL title

The seasoned Springfield softball team will feature powerful hitting and strong pitching as the Blue Devils strive for a third straight Northern Lakes League title.

The Blue Devils have won five of the last nine titles and reached the state semifinals in 2010. With 12 players returning, including two of the NLL’s top pitchers and hitters, Springfield is the favorite to win the league championship again. READ MORE

Start Spartans picked to finish first in the City League

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.” READ MORE

Elmwood aims to repeat NBC championship

Elmwood worked its way back to the top of the Northern Buckeye Conference last season and looks to have all three facets of the game to stay there.

The Royals have eight starters returning, including four players that earned All-NBC first-team honors. Junior Miranda Benschoter, the league's pitcher of the year, is back, and junior shortstop Rebecca Harvey leads the offense.

Elmwood coach Matt Hoiles, whose team has won three of the last four titles, said his pitching, defense, and offense are all strong. The Royals are the favorite to repeat, according to a preseason coaches poll. READ MORE

Gibsonburg ready to defend TAAC title

Gibsonburg ran the table en route to a Toledo Area Athletic Conference softball championship last year and, with six starters returning, is favored to repeat that title this season.

The Golden Bears received five of the seven first-place votes in a preseason poll of TAAC coaches. Cardinal Stritch and Northwood picked up the other two first-place votes.

Gibsonburg (20-7, 12-0 NBC last year) will be guided by first-year coach Martin Brown. READ MORE

Archbold, Evergreen expected to battle for top spot in the NWOAL

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." READ MORE

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Tag(s): High School