Woodcreek's Art Banks and Sheldon's Mary Jo Truesdale have coached softball long enough a combined 1,200 wins to know one season's results don't carry much weight into the next, except for prognosticators putting together preseason polls.
Woodcreek won last year's Sac-Joaquin Section Division II title and earned The Bee's final No. 1 ranking. Sheldon, which almost missed the playoffs after a mediocre regular season, rallied to win its second consecutive D-I title and was ranked second.
That's where both teams sit in The Bee's first Top 20 of the year. They also are the only area teams Woodcreek at No. 4, Sheldon at No. 17 in this week's Cal-Hi Sports state Top 20.
But bidding for a section title repeat has a twist. Woodcreek has been elevated to D-I with other Sierra Foothill League teams. So a Sheldon-Woodcreek playoff meeting is conceivable.
"I don't mind it," said Banks, who's in his 30th varsity season and won his 600th game last season. "I think it's good for our program and for our league. We look forward to the challenge."
Truesdale, who won her 600th game March 5, welcomes Banks and the SFL.
"They're the team to beat," Truesdale said. "His team is loaded, and Art's a great coach. You have to be playing your very best game to even have a chance to beat them."
But getting to the playoffs these days isn't always easy, even for powers such as Woodcreek and Sheldon.
The SFL was so competitive last year that Woodcreek finished second to Del Oro, which was upset by Christian Brothers in a do-or-die playoff opener.
Sheldon didn't fare as well in the Delta River League. The Huskies tied for third with St. Francis but slipped into the postseason based on their sweep of St. Francis in head-to-head meetings.
Sheldon also faces a lot more reloading than Woodcreek.
Woodcreek returns most of its key players, including Bee All-Metro first-team pitcher Amanda Horbasch, a senior, and first-team outfielder Jenna Curtan, a junior.
Back for their senior seasons are All-SFL players Christal Vierra, a third baseman; left fielder Nicole Miller; catcher Frankie Orlando; and pitcher-first baseman Lexi Wilkerson.
Orlando has signed with San Diego State, Wilkerson with Hartford and senior center fielder Alexia Pratt with Willamette. Banks said sophomore shortstop Jessica Nogosek, sister of Woodcreek baseball ace Stephen Nogosek, has verbally committed to Long Beach State.
"We don't have that Pac-12 player, but we have some people who can really play," said Banks, whose team is 6-1. "We don't have a weak spot in the lineup."
Sheldon still is a pipeline for major college talent. But this year's Huskies are young with only one senior, center fielder Erica Lane, and three freshman starters, including shortstop Jordan Fines, who has verbally committed to Cal.
Sacramento State verbal commit Zamari Hinton, a junior second baseman, returns with San Jose State verbal commit Anessa Kaylor, a junior first baseman. Sophomores Brooke Coyne and Gabrielle Montaie are the pitchers.
"Youth can help you or it can hurt you," Truesdale said. "Right now we're 4-0, but on any given day . But it's a good group. They're starting to jell. And they have the desire to win."
Call The Bee's Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.