Each division of the YAIAA returns its softball players of the year. Taylor Rohrbaugh returns for her fourth season at Central York, where the Panthers look for a third straight Division I title.
In fact, each player of the year helped guide her team to a division title last year. Hayley Norton did it for Spring Grove in Division II, as did Kennard-Dale pitcher Julia D'Arrigo in Division III and Delone Catholic's Cassie Rickrode in Division IV.
Here is a look at them and the rest of the YAIAA with this season preview:
Central a power >> Rohrbaugh isn't all the Panthers bring back from last year's 20-3 season. In all they have seven returning starters for first-year head coach Shane Walker, who takes the reins from Barry Brenneman.
Rohrbaugh is a four-year starter slated to pitch at La Salle University next season. Her catcher, Ally Dziwis, and center fielder Angie Delise are also four-year starters.
Rebuilding or reloading >> Dallastown (13-6, 9-4) graduated an experienced senior class but returns senior catcher Sam Hartman, a .534 hitter. Senior first baseman Kayla Merriman, a .441 hitter, and junior right fielder Haylee Anders also are back for seventh-year coach Jeff Deardorff.
Among coaches polled in the preseason, many favored Dallastown's lineup as the league's toughest.
The Wildcats finished in a second-place tie in Division I last year with Red Lion, which brings back pitcher Katie Shultz and speedster Ali Posey.
State of Division IV >> Defending champion Delone Catholic returns five starters, including Rickrode, third baseman Deanna Laughman — also a former player of the year — shortstop Shelbee Holcomb, second baseman Katie Laughman and outfielder Shayna Rider.
The Squirettes (18-2, 15-0) could be challenged by York Catholic and Fairfield.
The Fighting Irish (8-9, 7-8) bring back senior Carrie Fix, junior Liz Lynch and sophomore Brooke Ricks. Fix pitches and plays shortstop. Lynch pitches and plays outfield. Ricks slides to shortstop when Fix enters the pitchers' circle.
Fairfield (10-9, 9-6) returns pitchers Nicole Kinjerski and sophomore Alexis Lansford, who will throw to all-star catcher Kaitlin Barron — a .519 hitter.
Chasing K-D >> Kennard-Dale not only returns D'Arrigo but her catcher, senior Sara Driggers. While D'Arrigo struck out a division-best 128 batters, she also batted .392. Junior shortstop Rhiannon McGlone also returns after an all-star season, giving this Rams team plenty of pop after a 13-7, 12-1 run in 2013.
Eastern won 10 of its games in divisional play and brings back junior pitcher Sierra Arnold, senior third baseman Mariah Miller and junior shortstop Lauren Reichard, who hit .556 last year.
Offensive opportunity >> New Oxford (9-11, 6-7) must contend in Division I after graduating its two top offensive producers in Sarah Groft and Lindsey Miller, plus pitcher Nicole Ayers.
However such a task is not new for Ken Shafer's Colonials, who have repeatedly sent athletes to college. Seniors Sarah Smith, a pitcher/infielder, and Taylor Bange, an outfielder, should provide leadership for a team that expects to add some youth. One, in particular, is freshman Madison Smith, who will play catcher and shortstop.
Have a blast >> Spring Grove goes for a fifth straight Division II title and brings back seven starters from last year's 13-9 team.
Jenna Jacoby — an 11-game winner — is joined by Norton, who hit .594 with nine home runs as a sophomore. Rockets coach Mark Hull is high on freshman Caraline Cornman and Julia Wivell as potential impact players.
Looking up >> Susquehannock was the last Division II champion since Spring Grove's recent title run. The Warriors return a pair of all-stars in sophomore shortstop Mallory Lebo and senior first baseman Megan Rogers.
Dover, which picked up momentum in the second half of last year, had two freshmen make the league all-star team. Shortstop Natalie Cutright and outfielder Alyssa Lawton are now sophomores. Junior pitcher Lexi Gohn also returns for the Eagles (9-11).
Another Division II rival, Northeastern, has seven starters back from an 8-11 squad. Junior Alli Sweitzer and senior Madyson Renard are the probable pitchers for coach Lisa Baker, who will have juniors Caitlynn Reinoehl in center and Katelyn Reed behind the plate. Reinoehl is projected as the Bobcats' cleanup hitter.
In Division III, Bermudian Springs looks to improve after a 6-14 season with a number of key returning players. The Eagles had three players make the Division III all-star team, and all three are back: sophomore third baseman Jackie Faircloth, junior second baseman Molly Shuchart and sophomore catcher Morgan Williams.
Hanover brings back seven starters from a 6-14 team, and it would be eight but sophomore pitcher Sara Durkia is currently recovering from injury. Juniors Emily Albright, a catcher, and Lauren Smith, a third baseman, will be leaned upon to provide offense without the all-star pitcher/shortstop.
All-star third baseman Cheyanne White is among the players back for Littlestown after a 10-8 year. Senior second baseman Caitlin Price also is back for her fourth year on the varsity team.
Biglerville returns five starters, including senior all-star shortstop Maddie Wenk, from an 0-17 team. Bill Woodward is the first-year coach looking to build that Division IV program.
Preseason top five
1. Central York
2. Spring Grove
3. Delone Catholic
4. Red Lion
Save the dates
Friday, April 4 >> Red Lion visits Central York for the first time. Their rematch is Monday, April 28 at Red Lion. Dallastown gets its shots at the Panthers on Wednesday, April 9 (at Dallastown) and Friday, May 2 (at Central).
Saturday, April 12 >> Kennard-Dale and Spring Grove trek to Red Lion for its four-team tournament.
Friday, May 2 >> Spring Grove visits Susquehannock in a league finale, which could have Division II title implications. Wednesday, April 9 is their first matchup at Spring Grove.