FORT WAYNE – Even though Woodlan reached the championship game of the Class 2A state finals last season, Warriors coach Barry Ehle sensed that the season ended too soon after the 5-1, nine-inning loss to South Putnam.
Although they had to wait out the winter, the Warriors are back at it, this time as a 3A team. In the preseason poll, Woodlan was ranked 10th. Most of the players from last year’s 26-3 team return, led by senior outfielder Madelynne Hostetler and junior pitcher Hannah Robbins, both of whom were All-ACAC players last season.
Lakewood Park : The Panthers fell in the Class A state title game 5-1 to Tecumseh but graduated only three starters and could make another run in the postseason.
Woodlan: Last season’s Class 2A state runner-up, the Warriors are led by all-state prospects Hostetler and Robbins. Logan Smead (.393), Burgundy Price (.382), Haley Hostetler (.345) and Lily Keller (.320) also return.
East Noble: Led by Mackenzie Williams, the Knights posted a 23-6 record last season, including winning the NHC with a 7-0 record and claiming the sectional at Snider. Kerri Schrock (.360) and Alison Lang (.317) also return.
Homestead: In addition to Hillary Kartman, junior pitcher Tori Strelec gives the Spartans another solid player. Strelec posted a .404 batting average last season, along with a 16-5 pitching record with 184 strikeouts and a 1.55 ERA. Bailey Wills (.348) returns at second base.
Leo: The Lions closed last season with a 22-8 record and are No. 6 in the Class 3A preseason poll. Returning pitcher Jessica Claxton leads the way, but joining her are Breanna Carpenter and Kali Irving.
Jessica Claxton, Leo: The junior pitcher who posted 24 strikeouts in an 11-inning win last season returns for the Lions. Claxton had more than 20 wins last season, including a 1-0, one-hit victory over Bishop Dwenger in the Class 3A sectional.
Kasey Gibson, Churubusco: The junior center fielder is a two-time All-NECC player who led the state with 46 stolen bases and was fourth in hits with 55. She hit .579 for the season and will play next season at Lipscomb University.
Madelynne Hostetler, Woodlan: A four-year starter for the Warriors headed to Eastern Michigan, the a center fielder has a .411 career batting average, including .462 last season.
Hillary Kartman, Homestead: The senior shortstop had 49 hits for a .462 average last season and scored 37 runs.
Hannah Robbins, Woodlan: Posted a 24-3 record as a pitcher last season, with a 0.48 ERA and 297 strikeouts in 190 innings pitched. She also had a .310 batting average.
Columbia City’s impact: The Eagles peaked at the end of last season by winning sectional and regional titles. Senior pitcher Cassie Vodde struck out 175 batters last season and had a 0.90 ERA. Also back are sophomore Allie Vodde, who hit .378, and junior Alyssa Brandt (.325).
Is it Adams Central’s turn? The Jets were 16-7 last season, which included a loss to Woodlan in the sectional final. Talent abounds with junior Bess Fiechter (.444 average), Alyssa Keller (.433) and pitcher Sydnee Peterson (13-5, 1.73 ERA).
East Noble defending NHC title: The Knights were 23-6 last season and 7-0 in the NHC and have enough returning to make another run at the NHC title. Senior Mackenzie Williams is back with a .378 average and six home runs from last season and had a 1.50 ERA.
DePew looking for help: Despite the efforts of Katie DePew, Garrett had a 13-14 record last season. DePew, a senior, had a .391 batting average and struck out twice in 96 at-bats.
Saints alive: Bishop Dwenger spent most of last season as the No. 1 team in Class 3A, but the 2010 state champs were ousted by Leo in the sectional. All-SAC center fielder Erica Miller leads the Saints’ returnees.