Coach: Michael DeAngelo, fourth year, 17-43
Last season: 9-11 (6-10 Sideling Hill League, 6-8 Inter-County Conference)
Returning starters: Morgan Ritchey (so., SS, P.O. Second Team); Emily Metcalfe (sr., 2B, P.O. honorable mention); Brooke Harris (sr., P, P.O. honorable mention); Makayla O'Donel (sr., CF); Kassie Holtry (jr., 3B); Taylor Coffman (jr., LF); Jamie Adams (so., RF)
Other top players: Claudia Umbrell (jr., C); Jade Rhodes (fr., 3B/P)
Outlook: DeAngelo said, "One of the season goals this year to get back to the playoffs and be above .500. We should have good team speed, and it's one of the best hitting lineups since I've been there without a doubt. Brooke took over the role as the top pitcher last year and threw almost every inning for us, but we'll see if we can work (freshman) Jade in to relieve some of the workload from Brooke."
Notes: F-M went from 3-17 in 2015 to 9-11 last year and was just one win from making the District 5 Class 1A playoffs ... The Tigers ended last season on a four-game losing skid ... DeAngelo expects Chestnut Ridge, Southern Huntingdon and Everett to be the top teams in the Sideling Hill League.
Season opener: Friday, at Forbes Road, 4:30
Forbes Road Cardinals
Coach: Pete Hall, second year
Last season: 5-15 (4-12 Sideling Hill League, 4-10 Inter-County Conference)
Returning starters: Olivia Hall (sr., IF); Tina Parsons (sr., INF/P); Maiah Mellott (sr., utility); Lilith Wilt (sr., C/OF); Courtney Schoen (jr., P/INF); Maddie Miller (jr., OF); Mara Broadwater (so., INF); Brianna Waters (so., OF)
Other top players: Kyra Duvall (jr., OF); Brier Truax (jr., OF); Shelby Harnish (fr., OF/P); Harlie Strait (fr., OF/P); Payton Watkins (so., C/utility)
Outlook: Hall said, "In addition to having more bodies, we have a little more flexibility this season. A number of girls can and will play multiple positions. We will still put a very young, inexperienced lineup on the field. I expect the league to be competitive. Our goal is to scratch our way back to the playoffs after failing to qualify in 2016."
Notes: Mellott is returning after missing 2016 due to an injury ... There are 13 players on the roster, but more than half of those girls are in their first or second year of varsity play ... Hall expects the league to look much different after a few quality No. 1 pitchers graduated in 2016.
Season opener: Friday, at home vs. Fannett-Metal, 4:30
Coach: Junior Swope, third year, 7-33 (.175)
Last year: 6-15 (4-12 Sideling Hill League, 3-11 Inter-County Conference)
Returning starters: Carly Swope (sr., P/CF, P.O. honorable mention); Bridgette Ritchey (sr., 3B); Justice Seville (sr., C); Madison Koontz (jr., SS); Jessica Stallman (so., OF); Carlie Lynch (so., OF); Samantha Hensley (so., P/2B)
Outlook: Junior Swope said, "Well, talent-wise, we have some talent; it's just that we need to get some field time. We're definitely going to do better than we did last year. Right now, all the spots are open, and we have a good group of freshmen. We're going to have to work and play some great defense until we get everything going."
Notes: The Spartans have eight freshmen on the roster ... Carly Swope, who has been a team leader, is battling an injury, and Junior said he doesn't want to push her ... Freshman Destiny Hall could see some time in the circle.
Season opener: Tuesday, at home vs. Forbes Road, 4
Coach: Melissa Mackel, second year
Last year: 4-15 (3-13 Sideling Hill League, 3-11 Inter-County Conference)
Returning starters: Cheyenne Miller (so., P, P.O. honorable mention); Erica Hoffman (sr., SS); Maddie Baker (sr., CF/P); Janelle Appel (jr., LF); Kierstyn Morton (jr., C); Macey Ward (jr., 1B)
Other top players: Hailee Strait (fr., 3B); Jessie Covalt (so., IF)
Outlook: Mackel said, "Cheyenne pitched 16 or 17 out of our 19 games last year as a freshman, so I'm hoping that experience moves into this year. I'm hoping she has a lot more confidence. I have a good corps of girls playing a lot more softball than I have in the past, so that experience and confidence could play a big role in our success."
Notes: Many of the SF softball players just started practicing Friday after a run in the girls basketballl state playoffs ... Hoffman, Baker and Miller all play travel ball ... Jessie Covalt (so., IF) tore her ACL during the offseason and should return mid-April .... Morton is coming off an ACL tear that caused her to miss all of last season.
Season opener: Friday, at Tussey Mountain, 4:30