"When you lose a pitcher who's given you 41 wins and tell me you're not going to feel it, then there's something funny going on. I think we still may be in the hunt this year, but Chichester and Sun Valley will be the teams to beat in our league," said Interboro coach Ray Spafford.
Said Academy Park coach Robert Lawser, "He certainly lost some big guns; that should give teams like us a chance to be in a few games with them this year."
The star pitcher from the Southern Chester County League has not graduated, however, at least according to Garnet Valley coach Bud Pruitt. Pruitt says that with senior hurler Sue Palo the Jaguars can easily duplicate their success of last year. The Jaguars fell to St. Pius, 2-1, in the second round of the District 1 class AAAA tournament.
"In Sue Palo I think we have the best pitcher in the area. She's extremely quick and has three great pitches."
Garnet Valley is just one of 15 area teams, representing five leagues, that will be competing for a chance to make the state or district playoffs this year.
ACADEMY PARK. The Knights could be a surprise this year after finishing with a 3-8 league and 4-12 overall mark in 1988. Third-year coach Lawser is shooting for a .500 record with the return of senior pitcher Tracey Brooks, who showed great improvement last season, senior infielder Amy Warren, junior catcher Dena Dellarocca and junior utility player Lorraine Green.
The Knights will need a successor for first baseman Kim Rambo, who graduated.
CHESTER. The Clippers have a new coach in former boys' junior varsity coach Lloyd Lisk and will hope for a new record after going winless in 14 tries last season.
"I think my first objective will be to try and get us to be competitve and not blown out of games," Lisk said.
That shouldn't be a major problem for Lisk. The Clippers' semiexperienced squad is counting on six upperclassman.
They are seniors second baseman Lavette Todd, catcher Rhonda Pitts and outfielder Stacy Hall and juniors shortstop Nikkata George, and newcomers first baseman Yulatta Blalock and pitcher Donna West.
"There are some good looking players here, and with my assistant (Guy Battinieri) helping out, I think we can surprise some people this year," Lisk said.
CHICHESTER. If either Interboro or Sun Valley tumble, many observers say the Eagles can fly to the title. Coach Walt Perekupka is cautious about boasting, however, after losing star pitcher Sue Leonard to Lebanon Valley
College this year.
"Losing Leonard will hurt a lot, but I'm confident one of our kids will come through for us pitching-wise," Perekupka said. "I think this year will be a toss-up in the league for the top spot. Anybody can win. . . ."
That includes Chichester, which is coming off a fine 11-3 (8-2 league) year. And with the return of all-league senior shortstop Penny McCullough and her .400 batting average, Perekupka should still have a strong team.
INTERBORO. Spafford, in his fifth season, still has plenty of talent around, even with the loss of the Deserable sisters. Spafford is looking at three pitchers to replace Colleen - senior Jean Marie Quintelliano, junior Stacie O'Donnell and sophomore Jen Razzi.
"We're hoping they can do the job," Spafford said.
The Bucs are solid elsewhere, with senior Shannon Zucker at shortstop, junior second baseman Kim Laird and junior catcher Diane Smith.
PENN WOOD. The Patriots struggled to a 5-6 league record (6-10 overall) last year and may be in for another difficult year because of a lack of experience.
"We have two seniors coming back to go along with two ninth graders, five sophomores and a bunch of juniors," coach Sue Pierson said. "It's definitely a rebuilding year, but I think we're halfway there already."
If they are halfway there, that means two key sophomores, third baseman- pitcher Bridget Dougherty and outfielder Kim Shaffer are learning quickly.
"Both of those girls are keys to our season, and I think they will do well," Pierson said.
The Patriots also expect a contribution from junior hurler Katie Polant and senior utility man Kim Hatzfield to help replace pitcher Sheri Love and outfielder Gail Haynie.
SUN VALLEY. Fifth-year coach Bud Frampton isn't ready to call his team the top club in the league just yet. But then again, he's not saying it isn't either.
"We'll be competitve as always," Frampton said. "And if our pitching comes around we'll be OK, but we need to mesh as a team early."
Frampton returns senior first baseman Kristy Sipple and junior catcher Sandy Robbins, an all-Inquirer selection from last year's 10-7 (7-3 league) squad, but loses the valuable leadership of shortstop Missy Greisser and outfielder Alicia Anderson, who graduated.
But if one of three seniors - Dana Bailey, Lori McGinley or newcomer Michelle Clements - comes through pitching, the Vanguards could surpass Interboro this year.
PENNCREST. Elaine Jay returns for her second season with the Lions after a rough first year (4-15, 3-14 league) coaching the youngest team in the area. Jay has only one three-year player coming back, third baseman Kristen Korutz. And she has only three seniors who have played at the varsity level before. They are pitcher outfielder Carol Sachar, centerfielder Amy Baker and second baseman Jerri Jackson. She also has her daughter, sophomore Sue Jay as a pitcher-second baseman, and junior third baseman Amy Thurber.
"We're very young again, which should make things interesting," Jay said. ''We certainly don't want to finish seventh in the league again. But with the experience I got and the team got last year, I think we'll be more competitive."
RIDLEY. Ron DeFelice has 119 wins to his credit over the last 13 years at Ridley. But a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to Downingtown in the first round of the class AAAA playoffs last year put the much-desired 120th on hold.
"We had a strong year last year (13-6 overall, 13-5 and fourth place in the league) but it was unfortunate to lose that last one for our seniors (outfielder Shawn Turoski, pitcher-shortstop Robyn Chappell and utility player Lisa Bevan)."
Losing them could hurt DeFelice's chances for a sixth Central League title.
"We lost some important players, and we're not exactly championship caliber, but then again, I don't think we'll be pushovers either."
The coach added that Ridley's hopes would rest on sophomore pitcher Sue Parker and seniors Marla Sheerin (utility), Dawn Crumley (outfield) and Stacy Orr (first base).
SPRINGFIELD. Paula Petrie has come back to her alma mater to coach, replacing Sue Pervis, who is on maternity leave. Petrie is no stranger to the profession though, having coached hockey and lacrosse at Drexel University.
She inherits a 9-10 squad that placed sixth in the league last season but includes four experienced seniors.
Leading the charge is pitcher Patti Hoffman back for her fourth varsity season, along with infielders Stacy Kasparian, Marg Lyons and outfielder Barb Salerno.
Those players will be expected to carry the load after the graduation of infielders Janet Brown, Shannon Speicher and Dori Bothe.
"We have a solid nucleus in the infield and at pitcher, but the outfield is young with only Salerno coming back," Petrie said. "But I think we will do well once we . . . get a feel for each other's aspirations and expectations."
STRATH HAVEN. Coach Mark Brewster already knows the Panthers' softball program is on the rise.
"We had 35 to 40 girls out last year, I've already got 61 out (in preseason)," he said. "The administrators at the school say this is the first time we're going to have to make some cuts."
Brewster is confident that some of the newcomers can fill the voids left by all-Central shortstop Pam Borsch and designated hitter Julie Sanday, the team's most valuable player.
"Those are two outstanding players we lost," Brewster said. "But overall we have much better athletes out this year. I think we can field a solid player at every position."
Some of the players who could help improve on last season's 3-15 mark are senior infielders Anne Marie Stanley, Becky Carey, Lisa Bair, and the senior battery of catcher Kim Walter and pitcher Michelle Ryder, who pitched in only 5 games last season after breaking a toe.
UPPER DARBY. Upper Darby suffered its first major setback a month before the preseason began when No. 1 pitcher Molly Monaghan underwent knee surgery. She will probably miss the season. That's not good news for Royals' coach Karin Bosch, who was hoping to get off to a good start after the Royals lost five of their first six games last season. The Royals did recover to finish at 12-9 (10-8 league) and make it to the Class AAAA district playoffs, in which they lost 4-1 to Quakertown in the first round.
"Losing Monaghan will hurt a lot," Bosch said. "But hopefully someone like (senior) Maureen Rybnik will be able to pitch."
Bosch is also counting on seniors catcher Debbie Utz, shortstop Lisa Ryan, third baseman Andrea Stango and senior outfielder Doreen Dougherty to contribute.
ARCHBISHOP PRENDERGAST. Pandas' coach Charlie Wieners says it will take some time before his 1989 squad plays to its potential, but when it does, he says it could be just as good as the team that lost to Little Flower 4-3 last season in the Catholic League South championship game.
"I think we're very unsettled right now, but we should build up and have a chance for the playoffs come May," Wieners said.
The coach cited the loss of four all-Catholic selections - pitcher Kelly Dougherty, catcher Mary Jo Ely, first baseman Cathy Wieners and shortstop Veronica Donegan - as the reason for an anticipated slow start. However, if one of the following - juniors Erin McLaughlin and Teresa McIlvaine, sophomore Lisa Hedtke or freshman Lynda Longo - pan out at pitcher, Wieners said the team would be competitive.
CARDINAL O'HARA. As leadoff hitters go, Lions senior centerfielder Theresa Kovach is about as good as they get. Her on-base percentage of .800 last year was a key reason the team usually could outscore its opponents during an 8-4 league season (9-10 overall).
"Theresa is pretty amazing getting our offense going," said coach Barbara Loughery. "Now if our defense improves, we may be able to make the playoffs again."
Last season the Lions finished fourth in the league but lost to Little Flower in the semifinals.
They also lost all-Catholic third baseman Mary Menuchi and centerfielder Gail Charlesworth, but return junior second baseman Lori Boyd, senior third baseman Maureen Hayburn and junior pitcher Jen Foote to this year's squad.
KEYSTONE SCHOLASTIC ATHLETIC ASSOCIATION
THE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY. Its hopes rest on the arm of sophomore all-league pitcher Jenny Quillen who last season carried the Crusaders (9-6) into the league championship game, which they lost, 7-2, to Philmont Christian.
With junior shortstop Debbie Grau, senior catcher Tammy Wallace and the potent bat of junior second baseman Tina Urie, the Crusaders should be in the hunt for a championship season.
"We have strong pitching and strong offense," said coach Sheri Andrews. ''If we improve our defense, we can play with any team in the league."
SOUTHERN CHESTER COUNTY LEAGUE
GARNET VALLEY. On paper and in theory, the forthcoming season could have been perceived as a disastrous one for Garnet Valley.
Last fall Chris Cianci, the team's centerfielder, was killed in an automobile accident.
"Sure it's on the minds of the kids and myself all the time . . . but softball-wise we have to try and overcome it," said coach Bud Pruitt.
Pruitt said the Jaguars' catcher, Paula Korenkiwicz, graduated, but that he hoped Kim Kwaszkiewicz, a transfer from Chichester, could fill in.
Even if Kwaszkiewicz doesn't handle the position, Pruitt said that the presence of the star pitcher Palo should solve most of the team's problems. ''If I could start her every day, we could win every game," said Pruitt, whose team (14-3) advanced to the second round of the class AA district playoffs last May, losing to St. Pius 2-1.
"But I'm hoping to use some other people such as (junior) Carole Sperone to keep Palo rested when needed."