The 2019 softball season kicks off today and several local teams are looking to once again make a run at a state championship.
Last season, DeRidder won the Class 4A crown, its first ever, but will have some retooling to do with the loss of pitcher Lauren Parson, catcher Taylor Cobb and outfielder Kailey Lefrere.
"That (new lineup) is a hard question right now," DeRidder head coach Todd Schulz, the 2018 LSWA 4A Coach of the Year, said. "We have worked hard in the off season and continue to try to build on our tradition of winning.
"When I took over, we started that tradition and now it is expected. We are griding it out. We definitely have holes to fill. When you loose a pitcher-catcher combo like Taylor and Lauren it is hard to fill. We have a lot of learning to do and that is what we are doing. We are getting there."
DeRidder does have an experienced core to build this year's team around in seniors Leah Spears (3B), Hadley Allen (SS), Laela Quinones (2B) and Aubrey Joslin (CF) and junior Brooklyn Green (1B).
"They have a lot of experience," Schulz said. "Most have started for me since they were freshmen.
"They know that to expect in our program. They know the tradition of winning, they have always been competitive and they are going to win. They don't like losing. It is definitely a good core to have."
Four Southwest Louisiana teams reached the semifinals last year in Sam Houston, Rosepine, South Cameron and Fairview.
Sam Houston returns could be one of the favorites to take the Class 5A crown this year and its first since winning four from 2011 to 2015 with eight starters back from last year's semifinal run led by senior pitcher Jenny Griggers.
A four-year starter, Griggers, who was the 2018 District 3-5A MVP, went 29-4 last year with a 1.79 earned run average in 199 innings with 139 strikeouts.
The Broncos also have some big hitters returning, including McNeese State signee Jil Poullard (.301 avg., 4 doubles, 3 triples, 5 HR, 39 runs, 34 RBI), Makenah Hamilton (.406 avg., 8 doubles, 2 HR, 28 runs, 40 RBI) and Jordan Lafosse (.452 avg., 7 doubles, 3 HR, 43 runs, 38 RBI).
Fairview's young team made it to the Class B semifinals last year led by District 6-B MVP Rylee Cloud. The sophomore hit a three-run home run in the top of the seventh to beat No. 2 Florien 6-5 in the quarterfinals before the Panthers lost to Forest 6-5 in the semifinals.
Fairview returns six all-district players.
In Class 2A, Rosepine lost to eventual state champion Doyle in the semifinals in 2018 and will have some holes to fill with the loss of power hitters Haylee Brinlee and Desiree Squires. But the Eagles return all-state honorable mention sophomore pitcher Chloe Bennett, eighth grader Jenna Marler in the outfield and junior utility player Peyton Thayer.
1A semifinalist South Cameron returns three all-district players in senior second baseman Karlee Nunez, and juniors Shelby Welch (OF) and Shyla Duplechain (UT).
Other returning LSWA all-state first team players from SWLA to watch this year include Westlake senior pitcher Myka Lester, who led the Rams to the 3A quarterfinals while earning 4-3A MVP honors, South Beauregard senior outfielder Jaclyn Deason and Iota sophomore utility player Makenzie Droddy.