FORT WAYNE – Look in any direction this season and you’ll find loaded teams.
Out east is Woodlan and Leo, the two ACAC rivals who shared the conference title last year. They own two of the top pitchers in the area in seniors Hannah Robbins (Woodlan) and Jessica Claxton (Leo).
Up north is Lakewood Park Christian, which won the Class A championship.
Take the southern route, and you’ll run into a Huntington North team that has five players returning from the Class 4A state runner-up team. Junior pitcher Erin Rethlake averages nearly 10 strikeouts per seven innings and hits .367.
And around the city, there are defending SAC champion Concordia and runner-up Bishop Dwenger, as well as Homestead to the near west. The Spartans fell 1-0 to Huntington North in the sectional final last season.
Jessica Claxton, Leo: Led the Lions with a 24-3 pitching record with a 0.99 ERA and 188 strikeouts.
Haley Hostetler, Woodlan: Junior second baseman with a batting average last season near .400.
Erin Rethlake, Huntington North: Junior pitcher averaged 9.8 strikeouts and added a .367 batting average.
Hannah Robbins, Woodlan: Posted 29 victories last season for the Warriors and averaged 12 strikeouts.
Anna Schillinger, Concordia: First-team All-SAC returnee who had 148 strikeouts in 15 pitching wins last season.
Bishop Dwenger: There were no seniors on last year’s team that finished 17-7 and was the SAC runner-up. Erica Miller, who signed to attend Marian University, leads the Saints.
Concordia: Pitcher Anna Schillinger, shortstop Taylor Sparks, outfielder Alex Rosswurm and first baseman Allyson Smith were All-SAC first-team members last season who return. Catcher Alex Springer was named to the second team.
Lakewood Park Christian: Seven starters return from last year’s team that claimed the Class A state title with a 27-5 record.
Leo: The Lions, ACAC co-champs with Woodlan, lost to the Warriors in the sectional finals. In addition to being the team’s top pitcher, Claxton also hit .525, with 41 RBI.
Woodlan: Catcher Lauren Ehle is part of the talent-laden Woodlan team that returns. Ehle has the school record for most putouts and also has a chance at setting the home run record.
A Lakewood Park repeat: Two seniors graduated from last year’s team that won the Class A state title. Returning this season are Hannah Priskorn, Courtney Sliger, Brittany Carnahan and Mikela Buroff.
Woodlan – again: How much will Woodlan miss Madelynne Hostetler? The center fielder has left for Eastern Michigan. The Warriors hope to pick up the offensive slack with her sister Haley, who is also committed to Eastern Michigan.
A Carroll resurgence: The Chargers came on strong last year to win their first sectional title in six years. They have six players returning from the team that lost to Class 4A state runner-up Huntington North.
Vikings could be strong: Even though five seniors graduated from last year’s Huntington North team that was 23-8 and finished as the Class 4A runner-up, Rethlake, already committed to Kentucky, gives the Vikes a head start. Kaylynn Rosen (.400) and Audrey Hiner (.390) return.
Snider a sleeper? The Panthers finished 14-14 last season, but have youth and talent returning. Sophomores to watch are Apryl Smith, Taylor Dienelt, Breanna Vance and Brittany Sandel.