Key players: Senior Emily Dowdall (3B/P); junior Kelly Smith (2B); sophomores Bethany Hewitt (C), and Natalie Raley (CF).
What you need to know: The Golden Bears are hoping to surprise some people this spring with a team that has six starters returning (one opening the season recovering from injury) and has plenty of talented young players.
The team has an inexperienced pitching staff, losing both its starters from last season, but does have some intriguing options. Freshman Brittany Brewer will lead the staff and will be joined by debuting pitchers junior Karina LaCroix and Dowdall. If they can pitch strikes, though, coach Brad Speierman says that the defense behind them is more than capable of making the big plays.
"We will be fielding one of our strongest defenses, with the infield anchored by freshman Taylor Ligouri at short, Kelly Smith at second and Emily Dowdall at third," he said. "(We also have) an outfield anchored by returning starters Natalie Raley in center and Samantha Mesol in right."
Hewitt was the team's top hitter a season ago, posting a .444 batting average to go along with 8 doubles, 20 runs scored and 13 RBI. Dowdall (.378 in 2015) and Smith (.368 in 2015) are also more than capable hitters at the plate.