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Gonzaga Prep junior infielder Julia Rambo is a returning All-Greater Spokane League first-team softball player. (Colin Mulvany)

Prep Preview Softball

Greater Spokane League

No matter how many starters or lettermen return, Jon Schuh’s University teams seemingly always are in the hunt for the league title, and this year is no different.

In 11 years, the Titans are 233-68 under Schuh with three league championships. Including one season as head coach at Central Valley, Schuh’s overall record is 248-79.

U-Hi was the unanimous pick among the seven coaches who returned preseason questionnaires. After that, it’s anybody’s guess how the league will shake out. Six teams were given at least one vote for second. In fact, second through fifth could be tightly contested.

• The 4A teams will stay close to home for state this spring with the tournament being held at the new Dwight Merkel complex just north of Albi Stadium.

Returning all-league players

There are seven returning first-team players. They are junior infielder Julia Rambo of Gonzaga Prep; senior pitcher Alisha Meade of Mead; senior infielder Breann Warren of U-Hi; senior infielder Lauren Stewart of Mead; senior outfielder Makena Dodd of Rogers; senior outfielder Jordan Schmerer of U-Hi and senior utility player Lindsey Gibson of CV.

New coach, key transfer

Juju Predisik takes over as head coach at Shadle Park. Predisik is a 1974 Whitworth University graduate and was an assistant coach at his alma mater and at Community Colleges of Spokane.

Predisik will benefit from a transfer – junior Tiffany Lucas, a second-team all-GSL pitcher at East Valley last year. Lucas had a league-leading 181 strikeouts in 115 1/3 innings last year with a 3.64 ERA while posting a 7-10 record.

Statistically speaking

Warren returns with the best batting average of a year ago. Warren finished ranked third at .525. She was the league leader in home runs (six) and finished third in RBIs (27).

The top returning pitcher is Meade, who posted a league-best 13-2 record with a 2.65 ERA.

What they’re saying

U-Hi returns eight starters and four other lettermen.

“Thirteen out of the 14 players on our roster have varsity experience,” Schuh said. “We have a veteran pitching staff and overall team speed. It’s the most competition for sports that I’ve had in 10 years.”

Although the Titans are rich in experience, Schuh said most of the infielders are playing new positions.

“It may take some time for them to feel at home,” Schuh said.

Mead coach John Barrington, whose Panthers captured the league title last spring, reports the return of five starters. So there are a few holes to fill.

“It’s not a group that has played together,” Barrington said. “We will be very young in the outfield. Obviously, we have to make plays behind our pitchers and learn fast.”

Rogers, 6-14 a year ago, returns eight starters.

“We are definitely much better this year returning everyone but my third baseman,” Rogers coach Cris Coffield said. “We will be much more competitive in all aspects of the game.”

Mt. Spokane returns six starters and five other lettermen off a state-qualifying team.

“We have the pieces in place to be a good team,” Mt. Spokane coach Carl Adams said.

G-Prep also returns six starters.

“We are looking to improve upon our success of last year and continue building a program that is considered one of the top in the GSL,” G-Prep co-head coach James Pizelo said.

Inland Empire League

If you were to map the level of play in the Inland Empire League on a graph, it would show a steady rise since the inception of fastpitch in the mid-1990s.

On a state level, 5A IEL teams have been at the top of the heap regularly. Last year, Post Falls broke through to win its first state championship, and the Trojans did it with five freshmen in their starting lineup.

It will be another hotly competitive season among the 5A teams again. Lake City, with standout sophomore pitcher Casey Stangel, is given the nod over Coeur d’Alene. Post Falls will have a say in which teams advance to state, and the Trojans hope to be a playing host at state. The 4A state tourney will be at Ramsey Park in Coeur d’Alene.

Moscow is a slight favorite over Lakeland and ever-improving Sandpoint.

Returning all-leaguers

Six all-league selections return in 5A. They are Stangel, the league most valuable player as a freshman; sophomore outfielder Rachel Collins of Post Falls; senior infielder and four-year starter Jessica Lupinacci of CdA; junior infielder Elli Tindall of CdA; senior catcher Shaundee Garrett of Lewiston; junior shortstop Katie Rowe of LC and senior utility player Becky Short of LC.

Six all-league picks return in 4A. They are junior pitcher Raelynn Gosse of Moscow; junior outfielder Chrissy Hicks of Moscow; senior outfielder Nicolette Redinger of Moscow; senior catcher Dani Wessling of Lakeland; senior utility players Alia Cox of Lakeland and Amy Westberg of Moscow.

What they’re saying

CdA returns eight starters and sophomore Lindsie Scholwinski, the league’s newcomer of the year last spring, will anchor the pitching duties.

“We should be in the hunt for league, district and state championship runs,” CdA coach Larry Bieber said. “I love this team’s attitude and dedication.”

Post Falls returns five starters. Collins moves from the outfield to the mound.

“We have good experience overall,” PF coach Jack Foster said. “We may struggle on defense early, but we should settle in and be good. Our league is extremely tough and it will come down to who makes the plays.”

LC returns six starters. Three freshmen will start and a fourth will see playing time, coach Laura Tolzmann reports.

• In 4A, Sandpoint brings back four starters and will be led on the mound by junior Maggie Kirscher, the newcomer of the year last spring.

“I see a lot of balance in 4A this year,” Sandpoint coach Derek Dickinson said.

GSL predicted finish7. Rogers
1. University4. Shadle Park8. Lewis and Clark
2. Mead5. Mt. Spokane9. Gonzaga Prep
3. Central Valley6. North Central10. Ferris
IEL predicted finish4A
5A3. Post Falls1. Moscow
1. Lake City4. Lewiston2. Lakeland
2. Coeur d’Alene3. Sandpoint