Welcome to Varsity Sports Network’s 2011 preseason Top 20 softball poll.  VSN ranks the top teams in the Baltimore region which covers public and private schools in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Carroll County, Cecil County, Harford County and Howard County.

1. Chesapeake-Anne Arundel (20-3 last season)

Players to watch: Megan Hyson, Sr., Pitcher; Gabrielle Couture, Sr., Catcher

Fast pitch: With All-County battery mates Hyson and Couture returning, the Cougars look to challenge for the Anne Arundel league title in 2011. Chesapeake returns seven starters including Brianna Prince (Sr., SS), Lauren Timlin (Sr., P-OF), All-Metro Kimberly Federowicz (Jr., 2B-3B), Olivia Ravadge (So., OF) and Jacqueline Richards (So., 1B).


2. Broadneck (21-2)

Players to watch: Adrienne Gebele, Sr., Catcher; Rebekah Kiser, Sr., Pitcher

Fast pitch: Behind the pitching and catching tandem of Kiser and Gebele, the Bruins are looking to win their third straight Class 4A state championship. Returners include: Tyler Thompson (Sr., CF), Lauren Tolliver (Sr., RF), Nikole Blackwell (Jr., LF), Kimber Salvas (Jr., SS), Jordan Thompson (So., 2B).  Big things are expected of newcomer Kristina Dillard (So., 3B-C).


3. Archbishop Spalding (17-3)

Players to watch: Emily Weiman, Sr., Pitcher; Melanie Gunning, Jr., Shortstop

Fast pitch: Weiman, last season’s All-Met Player of the Year who averaged 15 strikeouts per game, returns to pace the Cavaliers in the IAAM A Conference. The loss of four starters leaves the team with a lot of youth but All-Metro selection Gunning, Kelsie Traylor (So., C), Lainey Miller (So., OF), Bailey Rouk (So., Utility) and Anna Gartner (So., OF) are back as starters.


4. C. Milton Wright (23-3)

Players to watch: Jessica Lucas, Jr., Third Base; Brittany Stein, Jr., Pitcher

Fast pitch: The Mustangs lost three starters from last year’s Class 3A state finalist team, but with the core of the infield returning and the addition of Kayleigh Allender (transfer from John Carroll) along with other newcomers, C. Milton Wright will be a force in the UCBAC league and 3A North Region. Returners include Amanda Ator (Jr., C), Alicia McMahon (Jr., 1B), Emmie Burke (Sr., 2B), Lindsay Resnik (Jr., SS), Jessica Canami (Jr., CF), MacKenzie Fitzgerald (So., 3B).


5. Howard (19-3)

Players to watch: Julianna Natoli, Jr., Infield; Sage McGrann, Jr., Infield

Fast pitch: With several All-County players returning, including Natoli, McGrann, Kensey O’Neill (Jr., P), Kaci Frick (Sr., C) and Brea Curley (Sr., OF), the Lions appear to be the front-runners in the Howard County race, after falling 6-3 to Glenelg for last year’s title.


6. Glen Burnie (15-6)

Players to watch: Caitlyn Kirby, So., Third Base; Melanie Slowinski, Jr., Pitcher

Fast pitch: Slowinski is one of the top pitchers in Anne Arundel County and will look to lead the Gophers past No. 1 Chesapeake and No. 2 Broadneck in the league race and Class 4A East Region.


7. Seton Keough (13-10)

Players to watch: Robbie Zimmerman, Jr., P; Mikki Kouneski, So., Catcher

Fast pitch: The Gators are trying to find a way to overtake No. 3 Spalding in the IAAM A Conference, after falling to the Cavaliers 4-3 in last year’s championship game.  Zimmerman and Kouneski are returning All-league All-Stars.


8. Franklin (19-1)

Players to watch: Kim Dorsey, Jr., Third Base; Mary Sobota, Sr., Pitcher

Fast pitch: Franklin, led by All-Met selections Dorsey and Sobota, is determined to pick up where it left off, in pursuit of a state title.  Returning starters include Miranda Miller (Sr., C), Amber Lahay (So., 1B), Jordan Monck (Jr., 2B), Victoria Sobota (So., SS), Rachel Rubin (Sr., LF) and Jackie White (Jr., CF).


9. North Carroll (17-8)

Players to watch: Samantha Stitely, Sr., Pitcher; Holly Buckel, Sr., Catcher

Fast pitch: The Panthers won the Class 2A West Regional title in 2010 before falling to Easton in the state finals. North Carroll has played in back-to-back state title games and returns five All-Carroll County players including Stitely, Buckel, Lauren Capece (Jr., INF), Amanda Hennessee (Sr., INF) and Jena Ruby (Sr., INF).


10. Lansdowne (17-3)

Players to watch: Maude McCourry Jr., Pitcher/Shortstop; Kelli Pease Sr., Center Field

Fast pitch:  The core players for the Vikings have been intact for three years and goals of winning the Baltimore County league, repeating as 2A North Region champs and returning to College Park for the states are on their list.  Jesse Dore (Sr., 3B), Stephanie Lohmeyer (Sr., P/1B), Hunter Long (Sr., P/2B), Ashlie Smith (Sr., Utility), Sera Stull (Jr., C), and Marlaina McCourry (So., SS/C) all return.


11. Glenelg (21-3)

Players to watch: Amanda Segrist, Sr., Pitcher; Leah Allen (So., Infield)

Fast pitch: Segrist will lead the Gladiators not only on the mound (1.18 ERA last season) but also at the plate (30 RBI). Glenelg won two of the last three Howard County titles and took the Class 2A South Regional crown last season.


12. Century (16-7)

Players to watch: Alyssa Dixon, Jr., Pitcher; Mary Hartman, Sr., Pitcher-Infielder

Fast pitch: The Knights fell to league rival North Carroll in the Class 2A West Regional finals a year ago.  Dixon and Hartman are joined by Megan Beane (So., OF), Katie Pugh (Sr., INF) and Stephanie Whealton (Jr., OF) as All-Carroll County performers that are back in the mix.


13. Eastern Tech (14-6)

Players to watch: Lindsay Meyers, So., Outfield; Carly Wheat, Sr., First Base

Fast pitch: Wheat and Meyers combined for 53 RBI last season and return to lead a potent lineup that includes Michelle Mohr (Sr., 3B), Allison Williams (Jr., 2B), Alexis Peay (Jr., Utility), Ashley Saurwein (Jr., C) and Liz Bondarenko (Sr., P).  The Mavericks are looking to repeat as Class 2A North Regional champs.


14. River Hill (13-9)

Players to watch: Emily Posey, Sr., Pitcher; Paige Pritchard Sr., Center Field.

Fast pitch:  The Hawks return seven starters from last year including Kat Varga (So., 2B), Katie Woolls ( Jr., 3B), Megan Rosburg (Sr. C), Megan Sterling (So., 3B/OF), Lauren Black (Jr., 1B) and welcome transfer Abbey DeFeo (Sr., SS) from Long Reach.


15. John Carroll (11-10)

Players to watch: Jenna Fiamingo, So., Outfield; Emily Soller Jr., Shortstop

Fast pitch: IAAM A Conference All-Stars Soller and Fiamingo will be counted on to lead the Patriots offensively. Seniors Becca Miles (C), Danielle Ryan (2B), juniors Clare Puopolo (P), Amanda Norris (3B), Maria Edwards (OF) and sophomore Darien Exter make up a group of experienced players.


16.  Marriotts Ridge (15-7)

Players to watch: Brianna Freeman, Sr.; Pitcher; Amy Mitchell, Sr., Infield

Fast pitch: Coach Renard Parson believes that his team’s strengths this season will come from defensive versatility and pitching.  Anchored by Freeman (SR), the pitching staff will also consist of freshman Katy Smith.  Returners include Beth Wehr (Jr., IF) and Felicia Pereira (Jr., OF).


17. Arundel (13-8)

Players to watch: Jill Funkhouser, Sr., Shortstop; McKenzi Heger, Sr., First Base

Fast pitch: This looks to be a rebuilding year for the Wildcats.  Returning starters Layne Nicholson (Sr., Utility), Elizabeth Cox (Sr., P-C), Erica Henkel (Jr., 3B) and Brienna Ossman (Jr., 2B) will look to provide leadership for nine newcomers.


18. Severna Park (12-7)

Players to watch: Paige Briganti, Jr., Outfield; Taylor Daveport, Sr., Outfield

Fast pitch:  For the first time in several years, a large group of upperclassmen dominate the Falcons’ team, offering intelligence and composure on the mound, a quick outfield and solid infield. Seniors Dana Senholzi (OF), Katie Seibel (SS), Janie Thrift (1B), Morgan Strennen (C) and Casey Beck (Sr., 3B) look to lead the team.


19. Reservoir (13-7)

Players to watch: Molly Garza, Sr., Infield; Rachel Brown, Jr., Pitcher

Fast pitch: Returning pitchers Brown and junior Natalie Leffler will look to have the Gators in the thick of the Howard County race.  All-Howard County second baseman Garza is a four-year starter.


20.  Pikesville (8-10)

Players to watch:  Abby Molofsky, Sr., Center Field; Ty Baxter, Sr. Catcher

Fast pitch: Rachel Hoffman (Jr., SS), Ronje’ James (Sr., 2B) Emily Friedlander (Jr., OF), Jessica Rubin (Jr., 1B) and Solomiya Tsymbalyuk (So. IF) all return to lead a veteran fielding team with young pitching.