LOWER BUCKS >> How much of the season will be played remains to be seen, but as of now the Lower Bucks County high school softball teams are still scheduled to get regular-season play underway next week.
In terms of the Suburban One National race, it's a familiar story with Pennsbury and Neshaminy both ready to battle once again. Pennsbury is the defending champion and probably a slight favorite, but both teams are back in force and this could go either way.
In terms of the other schools, Bristol will be favored to repeat in the Bicentennial Athletic League while Conwell-Egan appears capable of having a successful season in Philadelphia Catholic League play.
Coach: Dan Schram.
Last year: (11-8), No. 19 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Haley Keenan (Sr. OF); Deja Seilhamer (Sr., OF); Rachel Bordone (Sr., OF); Maddie Buechner (Jr., 1B); Jessica Klein (Jr., 2B); Mackayla Edwards (Jr., OF); Emma Lostracco (Jr., C); Maggie Formichelli (So., P); Chloe Munyon (Sr., OF).
Newcomers: Marlena Hacker (Fr., 3B); Mia Keshanech (So., U).
Strengths: The Owls are back in force and have plenty of hitting. A Caldwell University recruit, Klein will spark the offense out of the lead-off spot. She forms an excellent right side of the infield along with Buechner at first. Hacker is a freshman who can really hit and projects as an impact player. Formichelli split the pitching duties last year, but showed plenty of promise as a freshman.
Outlook: This is a team nobody should overlook and a district playoff berth is an achievable goal. "We don't have a lot of travel ball players, but we do have athletes,'' said coach Schram. "I really think we can have a good year.''
Coach: Mike Lalli.
Last year: (19-4), BAL and District 1 champion, No. 17 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Kacie Pinelli (Sr., 1B); Jess Fusco (Jr., 2B); Andee Perseponko (Jr., C); Emma Boggi (Jr., CF); Rachael Freas (Sr., 3B); Kerrigan Reilly (Jr., P).
Newcomers: Taylor McClain (Fr., SS).
Strengths: As usual, the Warriors are going to score a ton of runs. Fusco is a dynamite lead-off hitter who collected 11 doubles a year ago. Pinelli has a great swing with plenty of power (nine home runs last year). Perseponko collected nine doubles. McClain is an excellent freshman addition who will handle some of the pitching along with Reilly.
Outlook: Bristol graduated an excellent pitcher in Haley Sweeney and for the first time in a long time does not enter the season with proven and dominating pitcher. Still, the team is going to put up big offensive numbers and win a lot of games. Its chief challenge should come from Faith Christian. More so than in many of the previous seasons, Bristol's defense will be tested and must be solid.
Coach: Sandy Hart.
Last year: (8-12), District 12 champion, No. 22 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Cori Jones (Sr., 3B); Alyssa Fagans (Sr., SS); Devyn Savage (Sr., OF); Liz Shire (Sr., OF); Ange Bresnan (So., 2B); Laura Wang (Jr., 1B).
Newcomers: Riley Worthington (Sr., 2B); Ahlana Sesar (Fr., P).
Strengths: Jones is a returning all-area player who just tears it up at the plate. Headed to Hartford on scholarship, she easily led the area with nine triples last year while belting six home runs. Along with the La Salle University-bound Fagans, Jones is part of one of the best left side of the infields around. Fagans hits very well and is an exceptional shortstop with great range. Worthington will help in the infield after transferring from Bristol and Sesar is a promising freshman pitcher.
Outlook: If the pitching holds up, this Conwell-Egan team definitely looks capable of picking it up a notch. It should be one of the better teams in the PCL and could make a bit of a run in states.
COUNCIL ROCK NORTH
Coach: Susan Yee.
Last year: (9-10), No. 21 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Emma Zoldi (So., SS); Rachel Lorence (Sr., CF); Katheryn Hastings (Jr., 1B/P); Kayla Schram (Sr., C); Sofia Shields (So., IF).
Newcomers: Jayme Bordner (So., OF/C); Gabriellia Cohen (Jr., P/OF/1B); Bella Pellitta (Jr., 3B); Noelle Wood (So., OF); Sophia Levy (Jr., IF); April Zarutskie (Fr., U/IF/OF).
Strengths: Lorence is a proven player and capable lead-off batter. Hastings, Zoldi and Schram are among those who will provide some punch at the plate. In terms of the pitching, Hastings is the harder thrower while Cohen does a good job of hitting her spots.
Outlook: It's like a whole new look at Rock North with a new coach and bunch of first-year varsity players after heavy losses to graduation. "The team's attitude has been terrific,'' said Yee, who has spent the last 10 years coaching summer ball after also briefly coaching at Pennsbury. "We're still working on figuring out where to put certain pieces in the puzzle, but we could surprise some people. I'm excited about this group.''
Coach: Ken Gurysh.
Last year: (17-6), No. 8 ranking in the area
Returnees: Asia Barnard (Sr., LF); Liana Jones (Sr., CF); Kylee Jones (Jr., SS); Kylie Siwak (Jr., P/SS); Kiley Gurysh (Sr., 3B); Kennedie Ruth (So., P); Mia Barone (Jr., P); Amanda Slabicki (So., P); Carena Barr (So., P); Rachel Kohler (Sr., C); Giana Pickens (Sr., RF); Danielle Monaco (Jr., C/3B); Laura Chorba (So., C/IF); Darby Brandt (Jr., C).
Strengths: Neshaminy has the type of pitching depth rarely seen on the high school level. Ruth was 13-6 a year ago with 138 strikeouts, but there are four other pitchers in the fold many schools would love to have. An exceptional defensive outfielder and lethal hitter, Liana Jones was all-area last year. Kylee Jones is coming off a big sophomore season in which she hit five home runs along with Liana Jones. There are productive hitters up and down the lineup and the Redskins are strong in the field as well.
Outlook: If Neshaminy can at least split with Pennsbury after losing twice to the Falcons last year, a league title is a real possibility. The Redskins will also be a force in district play.
Coach: Frank McSherry.
Last year: (19-5), Suburban One National champion, No. 3 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Riley Mahoney (So., CF); Caitlyn Martel (So., SS); Kaylie Capriotti (Sr., C); Ainsley McClure (So., P); Liz Pingor (Sr., 3B); Casey Glynn (Sr., LF); Karissa Turk (Sr., DP); Quinn McGonigle (So., U); Jess James (Sr., 3B/2B); Rowan Mulholland (So., 2B/C); Allie Charlier (So., P/IF).
Newcomers: Taylor Askey (Fr., OF).
Strengths: There are a lot of them with this bunch. McClure had an 18-4 record as a freshman with 123 strikeouts as the Falcons went undefeated in the league. Coming off a strong freshman season, Martel is just one of many hitters in a deep lineup. Pennsbury is loaded with speed and Askey gives them even more in that department. This team is used to winning and will play with a ton of confidence knowing it can get the job done.
Outlook: It will be very difficult to stop the Falcons in league play. Deep district and state tournament runs are certainly a possibility.
Coach: Rick Palmer.
Last year: (9-12), No. 16 ranking in the area.
Returnees: Chrissy Huhn (Sr., SS); Elle Olivero (Sr., 1B); Jalecia Blackston (Jr., P); Jada Moran (Jr., 2B); Mara McKeon (Jr., OF); Emily Kavulic (Jr., 3B) Teyanna Towner (So., OF).
Newcomers: Courtney Nau (So., 2B/OF); Emily Merrigan (Jr., C); Maddie Hower (Sr., C).
Strengths: Huhn is a premier player who both hits and plays an excellent shortstop. She can also run and bats leadoff. Olivero projects as the possible clean-up hitter, while Towner and Nau are also high in the order. Towner has excellent speed and is a young player to really keep your eye on. Blackston throws pretty hard and has the potential to be one of the better pitchers in the league.
Outlook: Truman wasn't far away last year with nine wins and this team has the capability to improve that total. If it does, it will win its share of league games and land a playoff berth.