Morgan Noad, Conestoga, catcher. A broken pinkie derailed her junior season, but Noad remains one of the area's top power threats. After three seasons, she boasts a career .461 batting average with nine home runs, 58 RBIs, and 49 stolen bases.
Sammy Esque, Springfield, pitcher. Esque dominated as both a pitcher and hitter last season. She has followed up a 16-win, 0.80-ERA, 139-strikeout junior campaign by winning each of Springfield's first five games thus far in 2012. Last year, she hit .476 with two home runs and 23 RBIs.
Lauren Quense, Neshaminy, pitcher. If her numbers after three games of 2012 - 17 innings, 8 hits allowed, 28 strikeouts, no walks - are any indication, the junior is in for an incredible year. Her 2011 season included a 1.07 ERA and .506 batting average. That helped the Redskins to a state-semifinal appearance.
Sarah Yoos, Archbishop Wood, shortstop. Yoos is considered one of the best shortstops, if not the best, in the area. A defensive whiz with a bat to match, the senior will look to lead Wood out of the middle of the Catholic League pack.
Heather Forward, Archbishop Ryan, centerfielder. The senior, who also plays second base, led the Raiders in hits, home runs, and RBIs last season. Of her 25 hits, 11 went for extra bases, as she compiled a .759 slugging percentage and drove in 29 runs for the Catholic League runner-up.
Katie Wenger, Agnes Irwin, pitcher. Now a sophomore, Wenger has been playing on the varsity since the eighth grade. She helped the Owls to their fourth straight Inter-Ac League crown last season, going 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA and hitting .400 with 22 RBIs.
Mackenzie Obert, Pennsbury, shortstop. On a team loaded with young talent, Obert provides the spark at the top of the lineup and in the field. The junior came up clutch throughout last season's run to the state final, blasting her only home run of the year in the quarterfinals.
Christy Von Pusch, Radnor, pitcher. The senior is simply a strikeout machine, with an astounding 548 over the past two seasons. And Von Pusch might be saving her best for last, as she struck out 41 in her first 19 innings this season, with five hits and one earned run allowed.
Teams to Watch
Hatboro-Horsham. The Hatters lost The Inquirer's 2011 player of the year, Julie Wambold, but retained the core of last season's PIAA Class AAAA champions. Seniors Jackie DiPietro and Val Sadowl make for a reliable double-play duo up the middle, backing standout pitcher Maggie Shaffer for second-year coach Joe DiFilippo's squad.
Pennsbury. Last season, coach of three decades Frank McSherry rode a group of star sophomores to the district and state finals. Pennsbury lost to Hatboro-Horsham in heartbreaking fashion both times - in extra innings in districts, then by blowing a 3-1, sixth-inning lead in states. The youngsters are a year older, and pitcher Val Buehler could carry them all the way.
Central Bucks South. The Titans were expected to contend for the state title last season. They didn't even make it that far, falling in the second round of districts. But interim coach Danny Hayes has a very talented group, including senior battery mates Haileigh Stocks and Lauren Klepchick.
Owen J. Roberts. Kevin Kerby has compiled a 148-37 record during his eight seasons as Wildcats coach. He won his fourth Pioneer Athletic Conference title last season, but the graduation of six starters leaves major shoes to fill. Senior Maddie Galdi has moved from centerfield to pitcher, replaced by junior Sarah Dowd in center.
Nazareth Academy. After an 18-1 regular season and a fifth straight Catholic Academies title, the Pandas entered the District 1 Class AAA tournament as the No. 1 seed. They lost, 4-2, to Pottstown in the first round. Taylor Lichtenhahn and Emily Shellenberger offer coach Joe Cipolloni a dynamic 1-2 pitching punch.
Lansdale Catholic. In coach Paul Suder's 16th season, the Crusaders captured their first Catholic League title last year. Five starters graduated, but sophomores Lexi Mayo and Greta Sheridan could break out at second base and in centerfield, respectively. Senior ace Mary Cate Scott remains arguably the league's best pitcher.
- Brian Kotloff