Coach: Don Ellenberger
Last season: 21-6, No. 3
Postseason: Class 4A state runner-up
Outlook: The Cougars have won seven state championships, and they have advanced to the state final in six of the past 11 years. Crystal White and Emily Muller lead the pitching staff, while All-Metro first-team choice Olivia Ravadge carries a loaded offensive squad.
2. Seton Keough
Coach: Chuck Snee
Last season: 15-2, No. 2
Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion
Outlook: The Gators return a lot of talent as they attempt to repeat as IAAM A Conference champion. In addition to senior pitcher Hannah Tavik, Seton Keough returns sophomores Amber Cosgrove and Kelly Lynch, along with juniors Allison Clampitt and Morgan Scardina.
3. Eastern Tech
Coach: Jack Meyers
Last season: 22-3, No. 4
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Mavericks have a strong group of returning players, including junior pitcher Jordan Cargile and first baseman Laura Thacker (.385 average, 18 RBIs). Eastern Tech gets another boost as infielders Lindsay Meyers and Nicole Dell return from injuries.
Coach: Joe Hart
Last season: 14-7, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A East regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Eagles have been developing a group of young players over the past three years, and that work could pay off this season with a strong run through the playoffs. Senior catcher Taylor Dittmar leads the returning players.
5. Archbishop Spalding
Coach: Nicki Trumpler
Last season: 13-10, No. 10
Postseason: IAAM A Conference runner-up
Outlook: The Cavaliers lost only two starters and return several key players, including pitcher Ali Caulkins, outfielder Sara Mercado and catcher Kelsie Traylor. Spalding will again challenge for the IAAM A Conference title in Trumpler's return as coach.
Coach: Chris Szocik
Last season: 21-2, No. 1
Postseason: Class 2A state champion
Outlook: With seniors Mackenzie Thompson and Sammy Bost returning, and the addition of freshmen Kasey Bost, Lexi Jones and Meghan Jacobs, the Lions appear to have a good shot at defending their state title. "We are well-rounded with good experience at all positions," Szocik said.
Coach: Julie Frisvold
Last season: 20-4, No. 5
Postseason: Class 3A state semifinalist
Outlook: The Gators return four important starters -- first baseman Caroline Winand, center fielder Tara Thompson, second baseman Hannah Pinion and catcher Anna Bennett. "We are a very young team, but a talented team," Frisvold said.
Coach: Chuck Rice
Last season: 17-4, No. 6
Postseason: Class 3A East regional finalist
Outlook: With All-Metro first-team selection Katie Wilkinson leading the team, the Lions should remain competitive in Howard County. Despite a relatively young squad, Rice said his team has "a few girls that might carry us through this year."
Coach: Deanna Romeo-Hamilton
Last season: 17-9, No. 7
Postseason: Class 4A East regional finalist
Outlook: The Bruins remain one of the most dominant teams in the state. They return a core group of seniors, including All-Metro first-team pick Kristina Dillard, third baseman Jordan Thompson, outfielder Maja Henson and first baseman Brianna Dennis.
10. Glen Burnie
Coach: Doug Schreiber
Last season: 17-6, No. 12
Postseason: Class 4A East regional semifinalist
Outlook: With seven returning starters, including junior ace Ali Moos, the Gophers will compete again this season. Senior Caitlyn Kirby, who batted .468 with 20 RBIs last year, and junior Jessica Robinson, who hit .410 with 23 RBIs, lead the offense.
11. C. Milton Wright
Coach: Russ Kovach
Last season: Class 3A North regional semifinalist
Postseason: 13-7, No. 14
Outlook: Seniors MacKenzie Fitzgerald, Jordan Pross and Holli Rutkowski should help the Mustangs compete with two-time Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference champion Rising Sun. Making the state final four is their ultimate goal, Kovach said.
12. North County
Coach: Linda Parks
Last season: 13-9, No. 13
Postseason: Class 4A East regional quarterfinalist
Outlook: The Knights have 10 returning players, including senior Brittany Jones, who has developed into one of the top pitchers in the area. Senior catcher Ruth Connelly, sophomore first baseman Brooke Baxter and junior shortstop Chynna Boeren also return.
Coach: Ray Gerstner
Last season: 16-7, unranked
Postseason: Class 2A South regional quarterfinalist
Outlook: The Gladiators have their sights on a Class 2A state championship with a talented group of returning players. Shortstop Leah Allen leads Glenelg, which also brings back Marisa Saglimbeni, Morgan Perry and Colleen Regan.
14. South Carroll
Coach: Matt Cannistraci
Last season: 15-5, No. 9
Postseason: Class 2A West regional semifinalist
Outlook: An experienced squad, the Cavaliers return junior pitcher Kristen Griffith, one of the top players in Carroll County. She had a 15-5 record with a 1.79 ERA and 178 strikeouts in 133 innings last season.
Coach: Laura Blama
Last season: 12-5, unranked
Postseason: Class 3A North regional semifinalist
Outlook: The Bulls will be one of the stronger teams in Baltimore County with the return of LeAnne Collins, Maddie Crowley, Melissa Wallace and Caprice Roche. Blama said Hereford hopes to "gain experience by playing more competitive teams."
Other teams considered: Lansdowne (14-8, No. 15), Mercy (11-5, unranked), Mount de Sales (12-12, unranked), Mount Hebron (12-4, unranked), North Carroll (18-6, unranked), North Harford (15-5, No. 11), River Hill (9-11, unranked), Severna Park (17-5, No. 8)Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun