The Bee's Bill Paterson breaks down the Top 20 area high school softball teams.
THE BEE'S TOP 20
1. WOODCREEK (26-4)
With seven of their top nine hitters back, including All-Metro first-team pitcher Amanda Horbasch and outfielder Jenna Curtan, the Timberwolves will try for their first Sac-Joaquin Section Division I crown after a D-II title run last season.
2. SHELDON (21-9)
Alexis Cooper, the 2012 Bee Player of the Year, has graduated. But the defending D-I section champion Huskies always reload not rebuild for longtime coach Mary Jo Truesdale.
3. WHITNEY (20-12)
All-Metro first-team and Capital Athletic League Pitcher of the Year Taylor Cotton will lead a talented Wildcats team that includes returning all-leaguers Kaylin Mallery, Kayli Shaw and Megan Mello.
4. PONDEROSA (22-9)
Pitchers Paris Hallums, Mackenzie Mueller and Shasta Stinson, along with slugger Giana Bilotta, a Saint Mary's scholarship signee, return for the defending Delta River League champions.
5. CASA ROBLE (18-6)
Anchor infielders Ali Aguilar (Washington signee) and Krystal Aubert (All-Metro first team, Capital Valley Conference co-MVP) and pitcher Kaitlyn Garcia (All-Metro second team, CVC co-MVP) return to lead the Rams.
6. DEL ORO (19-5-2)
The defending Sierra Foothill League champion Golden Eagles return eight of their top 11 hitters, including first-team all-leaguers Hanna Miller, Courtney Smith and Maicy Schwartz.
7. CHRISTIAN BROTHERS (17-13)
All-Metro first-team pitcher Haley Snyder is off to a fast start (.448 batting average, 101 strikeouts in 56 innings) for the CVC title-contending Falcons.
8. ELK GROVE (20-7-1)
With 10 of its top 12 hitters back, including All-Delta Valley Conference pitcher Kimberly Wilburn and infielders Morgan Lamb and Morgan Evangelista, expect the Thundering Herd to contend for the D-I title.
9. ROSEVILLE (18-8-1)
With veteran pitchers Kayla Fields (South Dakota State signee) and Delany DeMello back, the Tigers will be contenders in the ultra-competitive SFL.
10. ST. FRANCIS (15-9-1)
All-DRL catcher Bailey O'Mara (Pacific signee) and pitcher-infielder Alexis Viramontes are back to lead the Troubadours.
11. PLEASANT GROVE (17-11)
The Eagles should be in the thick of the DRL race with Eastern Kentucky signee Amber Murray, Utah State signee Morgan Carter and Oregon verbal commit Autumn Miller.
12. PIONEER (16-4-1)
Veteran coach Linda Merrida continues to turn out Tri-County Conference championship teams (a combined 28-2 in league the last three seasons), and this season should be no different.
13. ROCKLIN (12-13-1)
All-SFL pitcher Maddie Wuelfing returns with No. 2 starter Kendall Chambers to make the Thunder a strong challenger to perennial powers Woodcreek, Roseville and Del Oro.
14. OAK RIDGE (6-17)
The Trojans, winners of a record nine section titles, are poised to rebound from a rare losing season behind Stanford signee Lauren Bertoy (.423, five home runs in 2012) and fellow All-DRL returnee Jackie Schmaeling.
15. DEL CAMPO (16-9-1)
The Cougars, surprise participants in the D-II final last season, return All-CVC pitcher Megan Wantz.
16. DAVIS (21-7)
All-league pitcher-slugger Kaitlyn Lagattuta (10-2 on the mound, 24 RBIs) returns with utility player Stephanie Cello (.348) as leaders of the defending co-DVC champion Blue Devils.
17. BELLA VISTA (14-12)
The Broncos will ride the arm of senior ace Jordan Becker, who struck out 202 batters in 159 2/3 innings and compiled a 1.27 ERA last season.
18. OAKMONT (11-11)
All-CVC standout Savannah Loomis (.433 batting average, 3.19 ERA) returns to lead a Vikings team ready to challenge Casa Roble, Del Campo and Christian Brothers.
19. VISTA DEL LAGO (18-5)
Despite graduating co-SVC MVPs Catherine Guidry and Tayana Mata, the defending champion Eagles have a solid program in place under veteran coach Robert Reed.
20. COSUMNES OAKS (19-7-1)
Malia Roberts, an All-SVC selection as a sophomore, returns to anchor a Wolfpack team that finished second behind Vista del Lago.
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.