(Listed with win-loss record from 2013)
Breanna Macha from Red Mountain High is going for a three-peat in Arizona.
1. Red Mountain (Mesa, Ariz.) 33-5
In addition to Breanna Macha, the Mountain Lions will be led by senior catcher and four-year starter Jordan Beck. The Southern Mississippi-bound standout hit .474 last season with 10 homers and 41 RBI. The team’s No. 2 pitcher, Marian Ruf, also is back and also batted .421. Senior infielder Alex Hill (.397, 41 RBI) and junior Alex Wiley (.471, 26 RBI) are among the returnees as well.
2. Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, Calif.) 26-2
Just about everyone is back from a Diablos’ squad that was ranked No. 1 in the state last season until an upset loss in the CIF Southern Section Division II playoffs. Junior Alyssa Palomino was the Orange County Player of the Year, ripped a county record 17 homers and is headed to Arizona. Pitcher Taylor McQuillen also is a junior, also is bound for Arizona and is one of the nation’s top college prospects.
3. Pacifica (Garden Grove, Calif.) 26-6
There are a couple of departures such as first team all-state first baseman Rebecca Lee and shortstop Ruby Rivera (Illinois), but the Mariners remain absolutely loaded with top college prospects. The pitching starts with Kaylee Carlson (North Carolina), who will be a four-year starter with a career record of 55-6, and Kaley Winegarner (Stanford), who missed most of last season with a knee injury. Coach Mark Campbell also has senior infielder Nicole DeWitt (Florida), who hit .490 last season with seven homers, and junior outfielder Faith Canfield (Michigan).
4. Northern (Owings Mills, Md.) 23-0
This is a tough team to rank because on one hand it’s a group with a 76-game winning streak, six straight state titles and a pitcher, Jessica Cummings, who is bound for Penn State. On the other hand, the Patriots don’t exactly face the same type of competition that there is in California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. We’ll continue to put them in the top five, but to be No. 1 in our rankings will require a stronger schedule. Cummings is back this season after not allowing an earned run as a junior.
5. Hoover (North Canton, Ohio) 31-0
Ohio’s No. 1 team and the best program in the Midwest for the last few years isn’t going anywhere in 2014. The Patriots return most of their top players from last season, including pitcher Tara Thacker, who went 21-0 and had 135 strikeouts in 124 innings. Hoover also has won three straight Division I state titles.
6. Alexander Central (Taylorsville, N.C.) 33-1
Coach Monte Sherrill’s phenomenal program won its eighth state title last season and only had one senior on the roster. The Cougars will feature state tourney MVP Bailey Rhoney, a junior and the winning pitcher in the final, along with pitcher-hitter Kiana Millsaps, who also is still just a junior.
Johanna Grauer of Amador Valley (Calif.)
7. Amador Valley (Pleasanton, Calif.) 22-3
The Dons are the logical preseason pick in Northern California since they return one of the nation’s top pitchers in UCLA-bound Johanna Grauer. It was tough ending to the season a year ago when Grauer couldn’t pitch in a key playoff game after stepping into a gopher hole and twisting her ankle. She’s not the only key returnee, either. Amador Valley has one of the state’s top catchers in Stanford-bound Victoria Molina. It’s also a deep senior class that includes infielder Ashley Lotosynzki (UC Davis), outfielder Nicole Yozzo (Lehigh) and outfielder Hanna Moreno (Colgate).
8. Lewisville (Lewisville, Texas) 31-13
The Lady Farmers are a solid choice to start out No. 1 in Texas because they are the defending Class 5A state champs and their dominating pitcher is back. Most of their losses occurred when that pitcher, Maribeth Gorsuch, was injured. The sophomore, who has committed to LSU, was the Dallas Morning News Player of the Year with a 22-4 record, 1.24 ERA and had a 0.53 ERA in the playoffs.
9. Columbia (Lake City, Fla.) 28-4
The Tigers will be tough to beat as they have two talented junior pitchers returning in Erin Anderson and Ashley Shoup. The pair combined on a no-hitter in the Class 6A state title win – the first ever for the softball program – over Pembroke Pines Charter, the defending state champ.
10. Archbishop Mitty (San Jose, Calif.) 27-1
Another squad that figures to battle for top rankings’ positioning in California is the Monarchs. They didn’t win a CIF Central Coast Section title last season due an upset loss to Gilroy, but will be led by California Ms. Softball candidate Jazmyn Jackson, a four-year starter who is headed to Cal. She was the San Jose Mercury-News Player of the Year as a junior. Pitcher Desiree Severance also is among the returnees.
11. Deer Park (Deer Park, Texas) 37-5
Two years ago, Deer Park was the Class 5A state champion and should be a prime contender to make it two titles in three years with a veteran roster returning. Houston Chronicle Player of the Year Caitlin Plocheck, who hits and pitches, leads the cast along with sophomore outfielder Payton McBride (committed to Texas A&M) and junior infielder Rhonda Jarvis (Baylor).
Gwen Svekis of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.)
12. St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) 22-5
Six starters return, including two of the top 25 seniors in the country in lefty pitcher Meghan King and catcher Gwen Svekis. King threw a one-hitter in the 1-0 state championship win over Tampa Freedom as the Raiders took the 7A crown. Aquinas has nine seniors with seven of those set to play at the next level.
13. Horizon (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 29-6
Arizona-bound junior pitcher Tamara Statman leads the way for the Huskies, who return seven of their top 10 players from last year’s team that reached the semifinals of the Division I state playoffs. Statman went 24-6 with a 1.72 ERA with 286 Ks and 10 shutouts. She also hit .481. Outfielder Kaila Jacobi also has some pop in her bat as she clubbed 10 home runs with 26 RBI.
14. Esperanza (Anaheim, Calif.) 24-4
Just two seniors were on the roster for the Aztecs last season, which makes them a possible major force to be reckoned with in Southern California. They’ll be led by all-state pitcher Hayley Copeland, who went 18-4 in the circle as a junior with 228 strikeouts. She’ll play next at South Carolina.
15. John Curtis Christian (River Ridge, La.) 31-0
Pitcher Katie Brignac, who has signed with Memphis and went 20-0 in the circle last season in leading the Patriots to their second straight Class 2A state title, is among a strong cast of returning starters. She’ll be joined at Memphis by current teammate Brooke Lee, who batted .430 and also was chosen to the Class 2A all-state team.
16. St. John Vianney (Holmdel, N.J.) 29-2
Another heavy favorite in a state we consider second-tier for softball but still capable of producing top 10 teams is the Lancers. They won their third NJSIAA Non-Public A state championship in the last four years and return the entire team minus one player. They also have Notre Dame-bound Katie Beriont back to pitch. The senior left-hander went 26-2 with a 0.62 ERA with 229 strikeouts and just 29 walks last season.
17. Harmony (Harmony, Fla.) 26-4
The Lady Longhorns pushed eventual 7A state champion St. Thomas Aquinas to nine innings before falling and finishing third at the 7A tourney. With senior pitcher Lele Ocasio (Florida), a 1st Team All-State pick, leading the way and junior outfielder Lily Mann, who hit .506 last year, sparking the offense, Harmony could easily challenge for the state title this year.
Emily Oestreich from Vintage (Calif.) Photo by Lisa James/Napa Valley Register
18. Vintage (Napa, Calif.) 34-1
Coach Rick Robben’s team was the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Division I champion last season and will be led by several notable returnees, including his daughter, Baylee, a junior who led the team with five homers and 57 RBI. Pitcher Emily Oestreich also is back after going 33-1 with a 1.50 ERA. This year, the Crushers could finish much higher in the state and national rankings because they are playing in the Livermore Stampede, the top tourney in Northern California and one of the best in the nation.
19. The Woodlands (Conroe, Texas) 30-9
This is another of those rare teams in which two pitchers are headed to major colleges. Junior Abby Langkamp is one of the best in Texas and is going to Baylor. Senior Caitlin Bartsch has signed with Nebraska. Coach Richard Jorgensen (who had the 2011 FAB 50 national champions) also has several top position players returning, including junior Aubrey Leach, who led the team with a .509 batting average and has committed to Tennessee.
20. Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.) 31-4
It can get confusing in Arizona because both Mountain Ridge and Red Mountain are the Mountain Lions. We’re not confused, however, in choosing both of them for the FAB 50. Mountain Ridge doesn’t have quite as much back as Red Mountain so it’s lower than the No. 13 final ranking from last year. The lineup should remain as potent as ever, with Georgia-bound shortstop Alyssa Di Carlo leading the way. The junior hit .532 last year and had 66 RBI.
21. Olathe East (Olathe, Kan.) 24-1
The Hawks repeated as the Class 6A state champs in Kansas last season and are a logical favorite with Allison Stewart back for her senior season. She’s already been the Gatorade State Player of the Year twice. The Arkansas-bound standout batted .487 with 42 RBI as a junior and also had a 0.39 ERA in the circle.
22. Norco (Norco, Calif.) 27-8
The Cougars get the nod as the team to beat in California’s rugged Inland Empire. They lose Ms. Softball State Player of the Year Kylie Reed to Cal, but return top hitters such as Abby Lockman, Ashley Goodwin and Kristen Voller. Sophomore pitcher Kerissa Viramontes had a tough outing in the CIF Southern Section Division I final, but earlier in the playoffs she was the winning pitcher against both Mission Viejo and Pacifica. Norco also could have one of the nation’s top freshmen, Taylor Dockins, who will eventually be a big-time pitcher-hitter.
23. Greenwood (Bowling Green, Ky.) 44-0
A dominating team from Kentucky that is ranked much higher nationally from others, the Gators just don’t have the strength of schedule to be in the top 15 in the FAB 50. Still, watch out for more huge numbers from outfielder Raley Stone (83 hits, .533 average) and pitcher Elizabeth Moss (0.32 ERA).
24. Basha (Glendale, Ariz.) 26-6
The Bears have nine of their top 10 players returning, including a pair of senior pitchers in Lynea Klemmedson (13-3, 13 complete games) and Kelsey Tidwell (12-3, nine complete games). The one player to replace is a key one, infielder Kylie Shull (Grand Canyon University), who hit .459 with 51 RBI.
25. American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) 23-5
The Patriots are deep and young, but return two key pitchers who helped them compile a 0.89 team ERA in junior Jenna Goodrich (14-3, 0.83 ERA, 109 innings pitched) and sophomore Madison Canby (9-2, 1.24 ERA). Junior shortstop A.J. Belans (Florida International) hit .451 with 31 RBI and leads the offense.
26. Marina (Huntington Beach, Calif.) 25-4
Only a handful of seniors departed the roster after last season, which is just one reason we like the Vikings. The main one, though, is that senior pitcher Tera Blanco is back. She’s another SoCal powerhouse among the best in the nation, headed to Michigan.
27. Bloom-Carroll (Carroll, Ohio) 30-3
Ohio’s Division II state champs from last year (North Canton Hoover was D1) were more than solid and should be even better this season. University of Washington commit Taran Alvelo is among the returnees. As a sophomore, she went 27-3 and struck out 363 batters.
28. Yorba Linda (Yorba Linda, Calif.) 24-4
It was a breakout season a year ago for the Mustangs. They should remain among the best in the CIF Southern Section due to the return of pitcher Paige Von Sprecken. She was first team All-Orange County, had three no-hitters and 228 strikeouts in 168 innings.
Lauren Buchanan of Bishop Carroll (Kan.)
29. Bishop Carroll (Wichita, Kan.) 22-2
The Golden Eagles are going for their fourth straight Class 5A state title this year and return a core of five players who are college-bound, including two outstanding pitchers in junior Brittany Finney (Oklahoma) and senior Jessie Haffner, who also hit .517. Junior catcher Lauren Buchanon (Colorado State) is also returning after she batted .537 and helped Carroll compile a .463 team average.
30. Naperville Central (Naperville, Ill.) 32-4
It wasn’t easy deciding on a team from Illinois to put in the FAB 50, but ended up including the Redhawks. They were among the best in the state last season and return pitcher Keegan Hayes, a Northern Illinois recruit who won her first 20 decisions, and outfielder Maddie Doan, a Syracuse recruit who batted .492 with 21 doubles, seven triples, three homers and 32 RBI.
31. California (San Ramon, Calif.) 21-5
Even before Amador Valley’s Johanna Grauer got hurt last year, the Grizzlies were right there with the Dons in the East Bay Athletic League and they were the ones that eventually made it to the CIF North Coast Section Division I final. Two-time champion James Logan of Union City (No. 3 in last year’s final FAB 50) graduated the bulk of its roster and could be rebuilding. Like Amador Valley, California also returns a strong core, including Cal Poly San Luis Obispo-bound pitcher Lindsey Chalmers.
32. Smyrna (Smyrna, Tenn.) 40-10
The Bulldogs were the Class AAA state champs last season and were No. 1 at the finish overall in Tennessee. It’s safe to choose them to start No. 1 in the state again due to the return of pitcher Makenzie Prince. The senior whiffed 370 batters in 252 innings as a junior and also hit .400 with five homers.
33. Cinco Ranch (Katy, Texas) 26-8
This is one team we’re cheating on a bit for the preseason because they’ve already started playing and are 3-0. The Cougars have high expections with returning district player of the year Kayla Ober returning in the circle plus a stacked group of returnees. Also back is senior infielder Savanna Warren, who is headed to Arkansas.
34. Immaculate Heart (Washington Township, N.J.) 31-2
Pitcher Steph Thomas is on pace to break the New Jersey state record for career wins after notching 22 shutouts last season. The team can’t be in front of St. John Vianney in the rankings until there’s a head-to-head win, but like St. John Vianney there are a lot of other top returning players this season.
35. Copper Hills (West Jordan, Utah) 24-8
The Grizzlies only lost three players from their 2013 Class 5A state title team and therefore are the team to beat in Utah. One of those back is pitcher Payten Davies. Another is sophomore Ashlee Anderson, who had two doubles in the state title-clinching win.
36. Chaparral (Scottsdale, Ariz.) 28-12
The Firebirds reached the Division 1 title game last year and are loaded with experience, including senior Dallas McBride (New Mexico State) who hit .500 with 13 homers and 43 RBI while going 20-8 in the circle with 194 Ks in 183 innings. Three other returnees also hit over .400: outfielder Alana Anderson (.454), second baseman Lauren LaTerra (.421) and infielder Maggie Roche (.453).
37. Sherwood (Sandy Springs, Md.) 21-0
With Northern of Owings Mills seemingly capturing all of the attention in Maryland with its 76-game win streak, we can’t forget about the Warriors, who have two straight crowns in Class 4A and start this spring with 42 straight wins. Junior Nicole Stockinger is back after hitting 12 homers in the 21 games while senior Meggie Dejter had 12 shutouts and a 0.90 ERA.
38. Santiago (Corona, Calif.) 30-5
This was California’s No. 1 team from last season after another memorable run to the CIF Southern Section Division I title. Head coach John Perez loses some key players and there are questions about pitching, but it’s too hard to leave off the Sharks in any preseason ranking such as this. Several top hitters do return, including junior Rachel Minogue (.471) and senior Randel Leahy (team best eight homers).
39. Hays (Buda, Texas) 31-11
The Rebels won the Class 4A state title last season and return the Central Texas Player of the Year in pitcher Sarah Leal. She went 26-4 last season, including three postseason shutouts.
Vanessa Shippy from Lake City (Idaho)
40. Lake City (Couer d’Alene, Idaho) 28-0
Dominating pitcher-hitter Casey Stangel is now at Missouri, but the Timberwolves (who were 20th in last year’s final rankings) still look strong due to those who are back. Topping the charts is Arkansas-bound senior Vanessa Shippy, who went 54-for-54 on stolen base attempts last season and also batted a whopping .774. Junior JaeCie Wilson also is back after she had 55 hits and a .604 average.
41. Ironwood Ridge (Tucson, Arizona) 28-11
There were only two seniors on the roster last year and although the Nighthawks lost 7-0 to Sunrise Mountain of Peoria in the Division II state final, we’ll put them in the FAB 50 to start since Sunrise Mountain was mostly seniors. Auburn-bound first baseman Erin Rocker leads a group of five players who all hit .400 or better. Sophomore Merilee Miller topped the group at .455.
42. Portage Central (Portage, Mich.) 29-6
Two first team all-state players are back for the Mustangs, who beat state champion Mattawan three times in the regular season last year only to lose 5-4 in the playoffs. Junior pitcher Gina Verduzco and senior outfielder Lea Foerster (Ball State) are the all-staters. Portage Central also will be coached once again by Tom Hamilton, a Michigan softball Hall of Famer.
43. Centennial (Las Vegas, Nev.) 36-6
The Bulldogs will need some pitching to develop, but they are good to go as the preseason No. 1 team in Nevada due to the return of Gatorade State Player of the Year Savannah Horvath. She tied a state record last year with 87 RBIs and went 17-for-22 in the playoffs alone.
44. Chino (Chino, Calif.) 26-2
There are some key position players that head coach Mike Smith must replace, but with Utah-bound pitcher Miranda Viramontes back it’s a team that will be among the best in California. Viramontes has led the Cowgirls to two straight CIF Southern Section Division II titles. She had three one-hitters the playoffs alone.
45. Las Cruces (Las Cruces, N.M.) 30-1
Although the Bulldawgs lost both Audrey Velasquez and Alexis Dotson to graduation, they return some key ingredients and are a team to watch, especially after last year’s dominating run to the Class 5A state title. Pitcher Erica Polanco (a junior) and infielder Kat Padilla (a senior) are the leading returnees.
Kristen Cuyos of Pearland (Texas)
46. Pearland (Pearland, Texas) 36-4
If junior Samantha Show had not left the school and transferred to East Bernard (she has now been ruled ineligible there), it’s safe to say the Lady Oilers might be in the top 10 or higher to start. Show, after all, was the Texas Gatorade State Player of the Year. Still, Pearland has most of its other top players returning, including preseason All-Greater Houston picks Sydney McKay (junior catcher) and Kristen Cuyos (senior infielder).
47. South Salem (Salem, Ore.) 26-3
This team was second in Oregon in 2011 and 2012 and after finishing in third-place in Class 6A in 2013 could be the team to beat in 2014. University of Utah-bound Katie Donovan leads the way. She pitched five no-hitters with two perfect games and hit two grand slams in another game. All-State infielder Kelly Burdick also is back.
48. Southington (Southington, Conn.) 25-1
Last year, the Lady Knights captured their 15th Class LL state title and will be led this year by new coach Davina Hernandez, a former UMass standout and the first female head coach in school history. The city, which borders Bristol, headquarters of ESPN, draws on a feeder program of over 600 girls playing rec ball.
49. Conley (Greenville, N.C.) 23-6
The Vikings welcome back most of their squad from last season that won the Class 3A state title. Four players also are back with all-state honors: Rachel Weidner (junior P), Danielle Nadeau (senior OF), Julia Allsbrook (senior 1B) and Caroline Roberson (senior P).
50. Estrella Foothills (Goodyear, Ariz.) 33-2
The Wolves return the core of their team that won the Division III state championship last year, including No. 1 pitcher and hitter Dustie Durham, a junior who went 29-2 in the circle and hit .462 with 40 runs scored.