For every question mark Francis Scott Key coach Joe Linthicum has found in his lineup, there seems to be a bright spot elsewhere to even things out.
The goal early on for the Eagles is to exploit those strengths and, in the meantime, find answers to the questions in time to make a run at the region playoffs.
The biggest question is pitching. In last year's 13-5 campaign, senior Kathy Bower handled most of the pitching chores with the help of sophomore Amber Smith.
Bower has graduated, and Smith, now a junior, suffered a separated shoulder -- the one she throws with -- during the basketball season and is not expected back until early April.
That leaves the job to seniors Michele Black and Kitty Rupp -- both newcomers to the mound -- until Smith's return.
"They look OK for beginning pitchers. They both have decent velocity and a key will be their control and adapting to the different strike zones each umpire has," Linthicum said.
"It's been difficult to see what they can do because of the weather. They haven't seen an actual batter yet or haven't been in a real-live situation. But all the schools in the state are in the same situation."
Linthicum is hoping to offset his possible pitching woes with a strong defense and more offensive production. The Eagles are particularly strong up the middle, and that is also where they will get most of their offense.
Senior shortstop Erin Murphey hit .493 last year and drove in a county-leading 33 runs as a leadoff hitter. Linthicum likely will drop her to third in the lineup this season in front of senior center fielder Damien Overholser. Batting fourth last year, Overholser led the county with four homers while hitting .367 and driving in 31 runs. Fellow senior Shelley Smith will be behind the plate and probably take over the leadoff spot from Murphey.
"We're going to have to score a whole lot more runs early and just play some good defense," Linthicum said.
Senior third baseman Tina Smith is the only other returning player. She likely will be joined by junior Karen Brooks -- who saw some time at second base last year -- and newcomer Mandy Hansborough at first. Melanie Montgomery will join Overholser in the outfield with Amanda Keeney and Julie LeBrun able to play in either the infield or outfield.
"Defensively, we should be all right," Linthicum said.
"We're very solid up the middle with Shelley, Erin and Damien. Mandy handles the ball well and is a big target at first and our outfield has some good speed."
Throw it all together and Linthicum likes the team's chances of qualifying for the region playoffs.
"I'm optimistically enthusiastic," he said.
"We have the potential that if things go right and we play as a unit, everything can come together. There's eight teams in our region [Class 1A, Region II] and the top four make the playoffs, so we just have to be better than four of them. We're going to try to play consistent and hope to peak at playoff time."