Spalding's Sammi Johnson flys out in the first inning. Archbishop Spalding defeated Mount de Sales, 14-2, to win the IAAM A Conference Girls High School Softball Championship Saturday at Stevenson University, Weinberg-Fine Stadium.
Spalding's Sammi Johnson flys out in the first inning. Archbishop Spalding defeated Mount de Sales, 14-2, to win the IAAM A Conference Girls High School Softball Championship Saturday at Stevenson University, Weinberg-Fine Stadium. (By Paul W. Gillespie / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

1. Archbishop Spalding

Coach: Nicole Trumpler

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Last season: 16-5, ranked No. 1

Postseason: IAAM A Conference champion

Outlook: The Cavaliers lost All-Metro first-team pick Ali Caulkins to graduation and will miss her pitching and offense, but the nucleus of the area's top team from a year ago returns. All-Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference third baseman Jill Berkshire (.421, 26 RBIs) is back, as are senior shortstop Sammi Johnson and senior pitcher-first baseman Katie Seidl. Having won eight A Conference titles since 2000, the Cavaliers are the team to beat, as usual.

2. Mount Hebron

Coach: Chuck Struhar

Last season: 17-5, No. 15

Postseason: Class 3A East finalist

Outlook: After a one-run loss in the regional final ended a strong 2015 season, the Vikings return a lot and appear to be the team to beat in Howard County. Leadoff hitter Evvie Buehlman pitched and hit her way to an All-Metro first-team nod a year ago, and middle infielders Rachel Cadigan (.557) and Rylee Kinsella (.564) were first team all-county. Senior third baseman Stephanie Bluhm is a four-year starter. If the pitching approaches the hitting and defense, watch out.

3. Eastern Tech

Coach: Jack Meyers

Last season: 20-1, No. 4

Postseason: Class 2A North finalist

Outlook: The Mavericks return six players from a team that tore through the regular season unbeaten a year ago. Among them are senior catcher Sarah Heagy, a second-team All-Metro pick who batted .629 with eight homers and 48 RBIs, second baseman Brooke Retkowksi (.485, 24 RBIs) and top pitcher Jodie Bronushas (20 wins). The team gets a boost with the return of first baseman Allie Meyers, who was injured last year after earning all-county honors as a freshman and sophomore.

4. Arundel

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Coach: Lisa Mills

Last season: 18-5, No. 13

Postseason: Class 4A East finalist

Outlook: With nine returning offensive starters, six of whom batted .400 or better, the Wildcats appears to be loaded. All-Metro second-team catcher Tiffany Jerman (.483) and three-time all-county outfielder Mikayla Meehan are among the returnees. Returning sophomore pitchers Caroline Mills and Grace Palmieri combined for 189 strikeouts. Arundel did well last year when it was young. Its time to contend for a county, region and perhaps even a state crown is now.

5. Liberty

Coach: Chris Szocik

Last season: 20-3, No. 6

Postseason: Class 2A West finalist

Outlook: The Lions were among the top teams in the metro area last season but suddenly struggled to shut teams down in the playoffs. There's an abundance of returning talent that starts with junior pitcher Lexi Trail, an All-Metro first-team pick last year. The Lions also bring back a trio of all-countians in outfielder Kasey Bost (.437), catcher Meghan Jacobs (.351) and infielder Lexi Jones (.623). If the defense backs Trail, the Lions could go a long way.

6. Severna Park

Coach: Meredith McAlister

Last season: 16-4, No. 8

Postseason: Class 4A East quarterfinalist

Outlook: After a great regular season that included the Anne Arundel County championship, the Falcons lost their first playoff game a year ago and no doubt will use that as motivation this season. They lost an All-Metro second-team selection, Gracie Logan, to graduation but return All-Metro first-team pitcher Haley Simonds, who picked up every Falcons win a year ago while batting .508.

7. Mount de Sales

Coach: Pete Waskiewicz

Last season: 14-6, No. 10

Postseason: IAAM A Conference finalist

Outlook: The Sailors return All-Metro second-team pick Taylor Forgen (.410) in center field as well as four-year starters Hannah Cimerola (.397) at third base and Kellie Schinzel (.425) at second. With Emily Fitzsimmons back for her senior year after pitching to a decision in every Mount de Sales game a year ago, 22nd-year coach Waskiewicz appears to have another team capable of competing for the A Conference title.

8. Manchester Valley

Coach: Mike Hernandez

Last season: 19-4, No. 2

Postseason: Class 1A state champion

Outlook: The Mavericks will be going after their third consecutive 1A state title, but they'll be doing it without graduated All-Metro Player of the Year Madison Grimm. There's a lot of talent still here, however. Catcher Kayla Geho (.474) led Carroll County with 55 RBIs, just four off the state single-season record. Also back are all-county infielders Jessica Swistock (.580) and Lauren Vogel (.439). If the Mavs can get good pitching, they should remain in the mix.

9. Seton Keough

Coach: Chuck Snee

Last season: 16-4, No. 11

Postseason: IAAM semifinalist

Outlook: The Gators lost a pair of All-IAAM A Conference performers to graduation but return a lot of talent. Junior Imani Dawson (.525, 30 RBIs) was all-conference at third base last year and moves to shortstop this season. Center fielder Jillian Boyd, catcher Sarah Minnis and Kelly Lynch all hit over .400 as well. Lynch and Abby Reubling handle the pitching for this perennial contender.

10. C. Milton Wright

Coach: Russell Kovach

Last season: 21-4, No. 3

Postseason: Class 3A state finalist

Outlook: The Mustangs lost seven starters to graduation and start 2016 with nine varsity newcomers, including five freshmen. But C. Milton Wright does return Morghan Fulton, who pitched the team to the state tournament the past two years and is 15 wins away from the school record, as well as slick-fielding shortstop Emily Kim, who batted .372 as a freshman. The young Mustangs might struggle early but could be in a familiar spot come May.

11. Perry Hall

Coach: Brian Radcliffe

Last season: 15-3, No. 9

Postseason: Class 4A North finalist

Outlook: The Gators have 10 players back, including five starters, but they'll have to replace the winningest pitcher in program history: Miranda Lobus, who graduated. Senior Ally Kordon will try fill Lobus' cleats and keep things rolling for Perry Hall. She'll get a lot of help from senior center fielder Hannah Lewis, a three-time All-Metro outfielder who has made just two errors in her career.

12. North County

Coach: Kelly Guarnieri

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Last season: 16-7, No. 14

Postseason: Class 4A East quarterfinalist

Outlook: The Knights had an excellent regular season but didn't go far in the postseason. With eight starters returning, they should have the experience to post another good season and, perhaps, put together a deeper postseason run. Shortstop Alyssa Allender (.415) was one of North County's top hitters and pitched occasionally. She is one of five seniors primed to make a run at going out on top.

13. Dulaney

Coach: Dave Barwick

Last season: 13-6, not ranked

Postseason: Class 4A North semifinalist

Outlook: Eight starters return for the Lions, led by Millersville-bound pitcher Emma Bevard, an All-Baltimore County pick last year, and hard-hitting catcher Maura McGinn. Together with senior first baseman Danielle Naumann and a trio of talented sophomores, Dulaney is expecting its best team in years.

14. Broadneck

Coach: Deanna Romeo-Hamilton

Last season: 15-6, not ranked

Postseason: Class 4A East semifinalist

Outlook: Junior pitcher Ally Thompson returns after an All-Metro first-team season that included a no-hitter and 11 wins. Her batterymate, junior Madi Christie, is also back. Other standouts include senior returnees Jules Rudkin and Hailey Rust at the corner infield spots and fellow senior Sarah Givens in the outfield. The Bruins should be among the top teams in highly competitive Anne Arundel County.

15. Lansdowne

Coach: Ken Goodman

Last season: 13-7, No. 7

Postseason: Class 2A state semifinalist

Outlook: A young but strong core returns for the Vikings, who move up to Class 3A after having advanced at least to the Class 2A state semifinals four times since 2009. Despite having just two seniors, Goodman's squad is full of quick and knowledgeable athletes capable of playing multiple positions.

Also considered: Bel Air (16-4), Bryn Mawr (18-0), Glen Burnie (10-6), Hereford (13-5), Howard (17-5), McDonogh (6-10), Northeast (13-6), Westminster (10-7)

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