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After repeated attempts for comment, Grace Christian could not be reached by press time to be included into these previews. Once Grace Christian can be reached, their preview will be printed.

Lackey

Head coach: Jerry Barron (third season)

Last year: 2-15, 2-9 (12th in SMAC)

Athletes to watch: C/1B Melody Gibbons (Sr.), P Kiera Heleva (Sr.), C/3B Alexis Clark (Jr.), P/2B/SS Abigail Richardson (So.), 2B/SS Kayla Clark (So.)

Key personnel losses: P/U Allison Clark, 3B/SS Jodi Sweeney

Strengths: Experience is always a welcome addition, particularly for the Chargers as Barron and company attempt to rebuild the program. Several experienced players have joined the team this spring, and that promises to result in an improved defense, which in turn will support Lackey’s pitching. The Chargers also exhibit a sound work ethic, and the dynamic surrounding team chemistry is at a high level.

Weaknesses: Despite quality senior leadership, this is still a young team. Barron is prepared for the learning curve of maturity to take some time for the Chargers, who want to change the program’s culture of regularly finishing in the bottom half of the league.

Coach’s comments: “Although our record last year was not great, we were an improved team from the previous year. This year, I look for more improvement. I would consider us still in the building mode. We have a good mix of players.”

Key games: March 21 vs. McDonough, March 28 at Westlake

DALLAS COGLE

La Plata

Head coach: Garry Krahling (third season)

Last year: 15-5, 8-4 (fifth in SMAC)

Athletes to watch: Krahling elected not to give athletes to watch.

Key personnel losses: 1B Samantha Krahling (All-County), 3B/C Tori Nicol (All-County)

Strengths: The Warriors have 10 returning players from last year’s team and possess a ton of experience in the lineup. With a mixture of pitching and defense, the team will look to make strides in the SMAC ranks and want to compete for a Class 3A South Region title and earn a berth to states.

The roster is full of junior and senior players who are familiar with Krahling’s system, while some young players can make an immediate impact.

Weaknesses: Krahling said that his team must improve on their hitting and will miss All-County standouts Krahling and Nicol, who brought very senior leadership to the program a year ago. However, the objective this season is to blend the returning players and new acquisitions together.

Coach’s comments: “Our goal is to eventually get to states. We have to compete with SMAC, which is one of the top conferences in the state. Our [3A South] region is very tough, so we have to get through it to reach our goal.”

Key games: April 8 at McDonough, April 10 at Huntingtown, April 12 at Chopticon, May 2 at Northern

AJ MASON

McDonough

Head coach: Julie Snavely (eighth season, All-County COY)

Last year: 18-6, 9-3 (third in SMAC, Class 2A South Region champion, Class 2A state runner-up)

Athletes to watch: C Taylor Blare (Jr., All-SMAC, All-County), SS/P Erin Parlett (Jr.), 1B Abby Corrado (Sr.), OF Rachel Drummond (Jr.), P/U Lori Sturgill (So.)

Key personnel losses: 3B Molly Simpson (All-SMAC, All-County), P Jazzmyn Hayden (All-SMAC, All-County AOY), 2B Kelsea Morris (All-SMAC, All-County), C Vicki McKenzie (All-SMAC, All-County)

Strengths: The Rams feature highly experienced returners, particularly with big-game resumes in the postseason. The team has played in states the last two years and was three outs away from winning its second Maryland crown in five years a postseason ago before yielding three runs in the final inning of a 3-2 heartbreaking loss. This is a program used to winning.

Corrado is a four-year starter, while Blare — coming off an impressive sophomore campaign as a first-team All-SMAC and All-County selection — joins Parlett and Drummond as players who have started since their freshman years. The last seven years have seen McDonough contend in the SMAC, region and states, and it hopes to continue such a trend.

Weaknesses: Graduating four key pieces in Hayden, McKenzie, Morris and Simpson, who were each All-SMAC and All-County selections a year ago, leaves a major void of talent and leadership. Despite the experience of the Rams returners, they still have key spots that need filling defensively.

That quartet, largely responsible for fueling the team to its back-to-back state berths, posed lethal bats in the lineup that could strike with big, extra-base hits at any moment. The Rams won’t have that constant luxury this season, needing to manufacture offense. Hayden’s talent on the mound will also be sorely missed.

Coach’s comments: “SMAC is always a tough conference, but we expect to be in every ballgame. I believe this is a rebuilding year with some players playing new positions.”

Key games: April 17 vs. North Point, May 6 at La Plata

DALLAS COGLE

North Point

Head coach: Tony Jones (sixth season)

Last year: 7-13, 4-8 (tied for seventh in SMAC with Calvert, Great Mills, Leonardtown and Thomas Stone)

Athletes to watch: P Ashley Thompson (Jr.), C Kelsey Bovard (Jr.), IF Marquella Allen (Sr.), IF Jasmine Carmon (Sr.), P Breauna Smith (Sr.)

Key personnel losses: SS Emily Subocz (Jr., All-County, transfer), 1B Madison Zabiegalski (Sr., All-SMAC, All-County, elected not to play this season)

Strengths: North Point will return eight seniors, according to Jones, and the senior leadership is intact, which should make a real impact this season. The Eagles will have strong pitching in Thompson and a strong catcher in Bovard to help lead the defense. Jones said that with an experienced team he also has a lot of seasoned players who have been playing softball a lot in the offseason, which is a bonus.

Weaknesses: It will be a transition for the Eagles in trying to fill positions on the field. With the loss of All-SMAC and All-County selection Zabiegalski, who chose to not play her senior season, and All-County standout Subocz, who transferred, the team will have to fill gaps in those areas.

Coach’s comments: “The goal is that we want to go deeper in the [Class 4A East Region] playoffs than last year. We are going to go out and play quality softball and take it game by game.”

Key games: March 22 vs. McDonough, April 15 vs. Northern, May 3 at Huntingtown

AJ MASON

Thomas Stone

Head coach: Dave Reilly (sixth season)

Last year: 9-11, 4-8 (tied for seventh in SMAC with Calvert, Great Mills, Leonardtown and North Point)

Athletes to watch: SS Miranda Wood (Sr., All-County)

Key personnel losses: OF Alexis Albert (All-SMAC, All-County), U Kaitlyn Keyser (All-SMAC, All-County), C Lindsey Gateau (All-SMAC, All-County), OF Candace Burch

Strengths: The Cougars have a young unit, but according to Reilly, they will improve as the season progresses. With strong leadership from Wood, a Queens (N.C.) commit for track and softball, Stone can have a promising spring in the SMAC ranks. This year’s group has five sophomores and juniors, along with two freshmen.

Weaknesses: Stone will lack experience and depth on the roster. There are only three returning starters from last year’s team, with two of them playing different positions.

Coach’s comments: “We have a young team with a positive attitude that gets along well. We will get better as the season goes on, and we will gain experience.”

Key games: April 10 vs. Calvert, May 1 vs. North Point

AJ MASON

Westlake

Head coach: Carl Bowman (third season)

Last year: 0-18, 0-12 (13th in SMAC)

Athletes to watch: SS Maddie Webb (Jr.), P/SS/1B Amber Jordan (Sr.), 1B DeAna Florence (Sr.)

Key personnel loss: SS Kim Brown

Strengths: Westlake will have seven returning starters on the roster and bring back experience. Bowman pointed out that the biggest improvement is the pitching, where they are throwing more strikes. The Wolverines are also aggressive at the plate, swinging the bats well, and possess speed in the lineup.

Weaknesses: As the season gets underway, the Wolverines will need to improve on their base running and fielding.

Coach’s comments: “I’m expecting our team to be more competitive than last year. Most of these girls started as freshmen and sophomores. I think we are going to surprise some teams this year. We need to give it our all and fight hard every game.”

Key games: March 28 vs. Lackey, April 26 vs. North Point

AJ MASON