A season preview for the Mt. Hebron softball team heading into the 2016 season

2015 record: 14-3 county, 17-5 overall

Coach: Chuck Struhar


Key players: Seniors Stephanie Bluhm (3B), Evvie Buehlman (P), Rachel Cadigan (2B) and Rachel Veslany (LF); junior Rylee Kinsella (SS/P); sophomore Meghan Holquist (C).

What you need to know: Whether its experienced seniors, strong pitching, powerful bats, sparkling defense or talented young players, this year's Vikings' squad literally has all the ingredients needed to put together a special season. The team has made the regional championship game each of the last two years, losing twice in heartbreaking fashion. But this year's group is determined to get back onto the state's biggest stage and make some noise.

"These four seniors are probably the best group of seniors I've ever had as a whole," Mt. Hebron coach Chuck Struhar said. "They've had great success, they've been to the region finals every year and been to states once. They know what they want and what the goals are — they want to get down to Bachman and play on that stage again.

"And the best part is that they know what it takes in order to reach those goals."

Buehlman, Cadigan and Bluhm are the three captains and all are four-year varsity starters.

Buehlman has made first-team all-county each season since she was a freshman and is headed to play at UMBC next year. At the plate, she hit .540 a season ago with 10 extra-base hits (4 home runs), 35 runs scored and 24 RBI. She also excelled in the circle, posting a 2.48 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched.

But she will have plenty of help. Both Cadigan (.557 average with 32 runs scored and 10 stolen bases last season) and Bluhm (.449 average and 18 runs scored) are accomplished hitters in their own right. But they are even more valuable as elite defenders, with Struhar putting Cadigan up there with the best defensive players he's ever coached.

The best hitter on the team, however, may just be Kinsella. During a monster sophomore campaign last spring she finished second in the county with a .630 batting average, 20 extra-base hits (county-leading six triples) and 39 RBI. She primarily plays shortstop, but will also pitch some this year.

Throw in sophomore catcher Holquist, who hit .456 with seven doubles in her inaugural campaign and this is a team that is capable of scoring runs in bunches.

"We spend much of our practice time hitting, and it has paid off," Struhar said.

Other names to keep an eye on for breakout years are junior Julie Miller, who will play first, and freshman Kieran Davis, who will play centerfield.

The team's non-county schedule features tough tests against Northeast, Eastern Tech and CM Wright.