Greater Spokane League
Outlook: As many as five teams could challenge for the league championship in what should be a deep, competitive league this spring. A slight nod is given to defending champ Shadle Park. University returns the best hitting lineup and will be on the Highlanders’ heels. … Shadle Park brings back six starters including two-time league most valuable player and four-year starter Jaya Allen (pitcher), who has signed to play at Yavapai College, one of the top two-year programs in the nation. Allen led the GSL in victories (15) and strikeouts (148) last year. Also back are first team all-league picks Kaitlyn Scoble (outfield) and Meghan Keenan (infield). “We’ve got to fill some holes on defense with the loss of key seniors,” coach Guy Perham said. “We should be fine. We will need to have key players raise the level of play and the freshmen will have to grow up quick.” … U-Hi returns eight starters. The Titans are led by Kirsten Anstrom, a first-team all-league pick at three different positions the last three years. Coach Jon Schuh is asking her to start at a fourth different position this year – pitcher. Also back are first-team selections Gracee Dwyer (inf), Sierra Apodaca (of) and Alex Surby (of). Dwyer led the GSL in home runs (nine) and RBI (32) a year ago. “We will have to score some runs and play solid defense to help out our pitchers,” Schuh said. U-Hi scored 53 runs in its first three games. … Mead brings back eight starters led by first-team picks Ashley Hammond (inf) and Shannon Payne (of). Hammond led the GSL in batting average last year (.509). “The core group has played together for three years,” coach Steve Bagdon said. “I think we can compete with anyone.” … Central Valley returns six starters including Kelsey Gumm (p) and Macie Reynolds (c), both first-team all-league picks. The battery alone will allow the Bears to challenge for the league title. Gumm had the lowest ERA (1.65) last year and had the second-most strikeouts (147), one behind Allen. Coach Joe Stanton cites pitching and catching as his team’s strengths. He said the Bears could struggle to score runs. … Lewis and Clark has five starters back in Savannah McConnell (c), Allison Harvey (of), Shea Coston (inf), Peris Oschner (inf) and Taylor John (p). “Taylor John will be one of the better pitchers in the league,” coach Paul Neff said. “The league will be strong in hitting but a little down in pitching.” … Jimmy Day takes over as coach at Ferris. The Saxons will start two freshmen, one at pitcher, and three sophomores. “We’re redefining success, looking to compete and get better every day,” Day said. … Rogers returns its lineup intact. Leading the way are Gracie Olsen (inf), Macey Finch (inf), Dori Wacker (of) and Cassandra Shaw (p). “We will be much improved this year and compete in every game,” coach Cris Coffield said. “Hitting and defense are now strengths instead of weaknesses like last year. We are one of the best bunting teams in the league.” … Gonzaga Prep has seven starters back including pitcher Rachel Valdez, Maddy DeMarco, Julieanne Young, Arianna Daniels, Josie Kobluk and Sarah Tweedy. “The group has the possibility to do great things,” coach Jill Benson said. “We need to maintain our focus on playing at a consistent yet aggressive level. We made great strides forward last season.” … Mt. Spokane returns five starters including first-team all-league picks Makenzie Funk (inf) and Hannah Bell (utility). Also back are pitchers Jesse Dupuis and Riley Barnes. “We have a strong nucleus returning from a team that enjoyed success, and we also have some important roles to be filled by our new players,” coach Carl Adams said. “As we get some innings and learn to play together, I’m optimistic that we will get better as we go.” … North Central boasts all-league first-team picks Alex Horn (designated hitter) and Paula Pintler (inf), who finished with the second-best batting average (.508) last year.
Great Northern League
Outlook: When it comes to the GNL, the conversation usually begins with West Valley. It’s no different this year. The defending champ is picked to repeat. It should be an entertaining season with 10 of the 16 first-team all-league picks back. … WV returns seven starters. At the front of the pack are returning first-team picks Jocelynn Taylor (p), Trinity Moore (inf), Julie Mitchell (of) and Maddison Thompson (u). Coach Paul Cooley says veteran players, athleticism and team speed are team strengths. … Pullman finished a game behind WV last year. The Greyhounds bring back six starters led by returning all-league pitcher Desi Tennant. “We have a strong returning pitcher and infield, good team chemistry and will be working on integrating some great new young players to fill out our lineup,” coach Tara Briggs said. … Cheney returns six starters led by first-team picks Rachel Barsness (inf) and Meghan Krantz (of). The Blackhawks peaked at the right time last year, winning the district title. “We have an experienced group,” coach Gary Blake said. “It may be a little rocky at the beginning of the season as we try to get our pitching staff some experience, but we will be very competitive as the season develops.” … Clarkston returns five starters, led by returning all-league pick Mikayla Hill (inf). … East Valley brings back all-league picks Abby Brake (inf) and Georgia Robinson (u).
Outlook: Is this the year to catch and surpass traditional power Lakeside? Maybe, but probably not. The Eagles have been given a slight nod over Colville. … Lakeside graduated seven including five starters. The Eagles’ roster features five freshmen and two sophomores. First-team all-league pick Saelor Dvorak is back along with Katelynn Clark and Shelby Claassen. “We will surprise teams and turn heads in doing so,” coach Chuck Moffatt said. “We lost seven players and are expected to rebuild but it appears we will likely rather reload. We have a young, competitive bunch passionate about the game, eager to learn, work hard and have no fear of failure. We will have a better-than-expected offense, a strong pitching tandem and a solid defense.” … Medical Lake returns five starters and is led by Hailey Hostetter, Sarah Mayer, Taylor Pavao, Hannah Petek, Annika Reddell, Alexandria Steinmetz, Ashlyn Tamietti and Taylor Carpenter. “Offense and defense look strong due to seasoned and dedicated new players,” coach Tim Blakely said. … Deer Park returns four starters, led by returning all-league pick Payton Erickson along with Kristina Carlson and Oliveah Erickson. “We have players who love the game and are willing to put the work in to achieve success,” coach Desiree Sweeney said. “Very optimistic. We have the elements to have a successful season.” … Colville brings back four starters including first-team all-league picks Rylee Merritt and Gracie Schauls. The Indians also have a new coach. “We return a strong pitching lineup and some good varsity experience,” coach Maria Swinger-Inskeep said. … Freeman returns four starters. Leading the way are Hanna Hansen, Hannah Brock and Lexi Johnson. “We’re young, athletic and competitive,” coach Scott Carolan said. “We hope for no injuries. We should be able to compete in all games.” … Newport has six starters back. “With a lot of new faces and talent levels this year we would like to be more competitive and win those close-scoring games,” coach Randy Wyrobek said.
Outlook: In the Northeast 2B, Northwest Christian is favored in the North and will be challenged by Kettle Falls. Colfax and Lind-Ritzville/Sprague should challenge for the South title. … Pitcher Mattea Nelson is back for NWC. She was the league most valuable player last year, hitting .685 while going undefeated in league and striking out 152. Also back is first-team pick Amree Tibbetts. The Crusaders graduated one starter. “We bring back a strong team,” coach Renee Stewart said. “We should finish strong and make a good run in the postseason.” … LRS returns seven starters. They are Emma Aldrich, Lacey Miller, Alisha Baker, Emily Rosen, Tessa O’Brien, Emily Kinney and Alarah Pulliam. “Should be a good year for growth,” coach Todd O’Brien said. “Of the seven returning starters, six are juniors and have played varsity-level softball since their eighth grade year.” … Kettle Falls brings back eight starters. The Bulldogs are led by returning all-league pick Kendall Elliott along with Nichole Tallman, Kennedy McKern and Mallory Pounds. Kettle Falls broke through and won the district title last year. “We have plenty of depth and a lot of experience,” coach R.J. Glover said. “Pitching and catching will be our strength.” … Wilbur-Creston returns nine starters, all seniors. The Wildcats are led by Bee Elliot and Amber Starzman. … In the Northeast 1B, Almira/Coulee-Hartline and Selkirk should battle for the league title. … Curlew returns six starters including all-league pick Annaliese Fanning. “Our pitching struggled all last year but improved each day,” coach Charlie Groth said. “I’m looking for it to be our main strength this year.”
Outlook: Coeur d’Alene went 25-2 last year, winning a league title and finishing third at state. The Vikings graduated four key starters including league most valuable player Bre Burke (p). The Vikings return Kylie Smith and Kaylin Donovan, both first-team all-league picks. … Lake City returns six starters including all-league picks Bailey Cavanagh, Haley Loffer, Reilly Williams and Emma Gray. “We will hit the ball and score runs,” coach Jesse Lenz said. “We are reloading for another run through the tough 5A league. If we get through the league I like our chances as we go through the playoffs.” … Post Falls returns eight starters including all-league picks Casey Goleeke and Brook Bowers. “Our strength should be experience and offense,” coach Brian Stranger said. “After two years of rebuilding we are ready to take Post Falls to another level. We are expecting to compete for a state berth.” … Sandpoint won the 4A league title last year and returns six starters led by all-league picks Sierra Nicholson and Bri Baldree. “Our major strength is having six returning starters, which makes our defense strong,” coach Elizabeth Hawkins-Williams said. “Another strength is our pitching.” … Moscow brings back five starters, led by all-league picks Reese Bentley and Nina Cook. “We should be improved in all areas,” coach Ted Matsuoka said. … Timberlake returns seven starters. Matrara Rocheleau, Glori Cheevers, Shelby Starr and Jacquelyn Mallet are returning all-league picks. “We’re looking to build on our success at the end of the season last year,” coach Casi Reisenauer said. “We’ve learned a lot in a year, myself included.” … Priest River brings back all nine starters including all-league pick Morgan DeMent. “We are solid with a good mix of speed and power,” coach Rob DeMent said. “We shouldn’t be intimidated like we were a year ago.” … Kellogg brings back four starters. The Wildcats are led by Rylee Rikenau, Eylssa Bradley and Kali Cates. Kellogg will have five freshmen at various spots. “We have talent but we might be a year away,” coach Craig Turbak said. … St. Maries captured the Central Idaho League and district titles last year. St. Maries returns five starters led by all-league picks Kelsey Auer and Paige Sines. “We have seven returners who saw significant time last year,” coach Todd Bitterman said. “I like our chances at another state appearance. Our mindset is on improvement every day.”
-Compiled by Staff writer Greg Lee