Coach: Don Ellenberger Last season: 20-3, No. 3
Postseason: Class 4A East regional finalist
Outlook: The Cougars will be one of the teams to beat in the state. They return pitcher Megan Hyson, who dominated hitters with a 1.12 ERA and 139 strikeouts. The Chesapeake-Broadneck rivalry has traditionally been one of the best in the Class 4A East region, with the teams combining for the past four state championships.
2. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Kristin Dulay Last season: 18-3, No. 2
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: The Cavaliers are the favorite in the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland AConference with the return of last season's Player of the Year Emily Weiman, who was 17-3 and has committed to North Carolina State.
Coach: Deanna Romeo Last season: 22-2, No. 1
Postseason: Class 4A state champion
Outlook: Despite losing some of their top players to graduation, the Bruins will be looking for their third consecutive Class 4A state championship with eight returning players, including pitcher Rebekah Kiser and three-year starting catcher Adrienne Gebele.
4. Glen Burnie
Coach: Doug Schreiber Last season: 15-6, No. 10
Postseason: Class 4A East regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Gophers will challenge for the Class 4A title with nine returning starters. "With a lot of returning experience and the addition of strong newcomers, we expect to have a chance to win every game we play," Schreiber said.
Coach: David Vezzi Last season: 19-3, No. 7
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Lions are on everyone's radar after last season's dominant run through the regular season and regional playoffs. Howard lost just one senior and returns six All-County players, including Kensey O'Neill, Sami O'Connor, Kaci Frick, Julianna Natoli, Sage McGrann and Brea Culey.
6. Seton Keough
Coach: Jackie Boswell Last season: 13-10, No. 4
Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist
Outlook: The Gators should challenge Spalding in the league after falling short against the Cavaliers in last season's title game. Seton Keough returns a solid lineup and effective pitching.
7. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Russ Kovach Last season: 23-3, No. 5
Postseason: Class 3A state finalist
Outlook: The Mustangs have eight returning starters whose goal is to get back to the Class 3A state championship after falling just short last season to powerful Northern of Calvert County. Jessica Lucas and Emmie Burke, who returns after suffering a back injury last season, will help anchor the lineup.
Coach: Ed Lahay Last season: 19-1, No. 9
Postseason: Class 3A regional finalist
Outlook: The Indians have eight returning starters, including Kim Dorsey, a first-team All-Metro pick last season after batting .481. In Baltimore County, Franklin will face challenges from Catonsville, Eastern Tech, Perry Hall, Dulaney and Lansdowne.
9. North Carroll
Coach: Lloyd Ford Last season: 17-8, No. 8
Postseason: Class 2A state finalist
Outlook: The Panthers, who lost to Easton in the 2A state title game last season, are trying to regain the conference championship and get back to the state tournament behind catcher Holly Buckel and pitcher Sam Stitely (1.54ERA). Shortstop Jena Ruby also returns after batting .351 last season.
Coach: Richard Seaborg Last season: 16-7, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A West finalist
Outlook: The Knights have played in four of the past five regional finals, winning three of them, and could make a run to the state championship with the return of Alyssa Dixon. Century also has 11 other returning players from last season, including seniors Mary Hartman, Katie Pugh, Christa Giannaccini, Jenn Straitz and Sam Straitz.
Coach: Jamie Izdebski Last season: 15-4, No. 13
Postseason: Class 2A North semifinalist
Outlook: The Vikings have eight returning players and will lean heavily on the dominant pitching of Maude McCourry. The goal is to win the Class 2A North region, setting up another run in the state playoffs.
Coach: Dean Sheridan Last season: 21-3, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Gladiators should challenge Howard for the Howard County title. They return pitcher and four-year starter Amanda Segrist. Glenelg lost in the state semifinals after an impressive run through the regional tournament.
13. Eastern Tech
Coach: Jack Meyers Last season 14-6, No. 11
Postseason: Class 2A semifinalist
Outlook: The Mavericks surged through the playoffs before losing in the state semifinals to eventual champion and undefeated Easton. Eastern Tech has an experienced lineup that includes Lindsay Meyers, who batted .464 and was a second-team All-Metro pick.
14. North County
Coach: Tommy Thompson Last season: 7-10, unranked
Postseason: Class 4A East first round
Outlook: The Knights have experience with nine returning players, including Brittany Jones, the returning Most Valuable Player and second-team All-County pick. "There is plenty of strong competition, and we welcome all comers," Thompson said.
15. Marriotts Ridge
Coach: Renard Parson Last season: 15-7, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A South finalist
Outlook: Six of the Mustangs' seven losses were by two runs or fewer, including a 1-0 setback to defending state champion McDonough of Charles County in the regional quarterfinals. Marriotts Ridge has eight returning players, including pitcher Bri Freeman.
OTHERS CONSIDERED: Atholton (13-7), Dunbar (17-1), John Carroll (10-7), Northeast (14-7), River Hill (13-9), Reservoir (13-7), Westminster (12-8)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun