Lakewood Park and Adams Central have played in the last two state finals but a third straight trip will have to occur in a higher class.
Because of the IHSAA success factor, the 2012 and 2013 Class A state champion Panthers will move up to 2A, while the 2012 and 2013 2A state runners-up Jets will be playing in 3A.
The top player returning will be Huntington North senior Erin Rethlake, who was named the 2013 Gatorade Softball Player of the Year.
Here’s a look at the top area players, teams and storylines for this season:
Erin Rethlake, Huntington North: The senior pitcher was 23-1 with a 0.18 ERA and 317 strikeouts.
Katy Guebard, Carroll: The senior pitcher was a school-record 20-4 and a 1.09 ERA last year.
Mikeila Boroff, Lakewood Park: The senior pitcher was 27-2 with a 0.90 ERA with 290 strikeouts.
Liz Luginbill, Adams Central: The senior hit .460 last year for the Jets.
Alex Springer, Concordia: The senior holds the school career record with 11 home runs, nine of which she hit last year.
Huntington North: The Vikings come into the season ranked No. 2 in 4A behind Rethlake, seniors Kaylynn Rosen and Alyssa Hiple, juniors Tasha Grover and Maddi Kennedy.
Lakewood Park: The 2A No. 9 Panthers return Boroff, seniors Hannah Priskom, Kelsey Mosley and Jaclyn Delagrange and juniors Brittan Carnahan and Jamie Budreau.
Carroll: The Chargers have won back-to-back sectional titles and were 1-0 losers in the regional against Huntington North. Guebard and seniors Emily Catanzarite, Jacie Phipps, Mackenzie DiPrimio and Ali Richard all return.
Adams Central: The Jets are looking for a third straight trip to the state finals with Luginbill, seniors Whitney Baller and Abby Busse and junior Madi Schwartz.
Bishop Dwenger: The 3A No. 9 Saints went 23-3 last year with a sectional title and a regional loss.
Brumbaugh’s back: Allie Brumbaugh is back for New Haven nine months after a broken back suffered in a zip line accident and being told she may never walk again.
Record-breaker: Guebard holds school records for ERA, opponent batting average, complete games and shutouts and is on pace for all-time school records in wins, appearances, innings pitched and strikeouts.
Tough-luck Jets: Not only has Adams Central been the 2A state runner-up the last two years, but the Jets were moved up to 3A this year because of the IHSAA success factor.
Youth is served: Of the 26 players on Homestead’s roster, 13 are freshmen.
Changing places: Dave Moyer left Bishop Dwenger to coach his daughter at Angola.