1. Benet: The Redwings have seven Division-I players, led by 2012 Player of the Year Maeve McGuire. Kendall Duffy, now at Bradley University, is the only player not returning from the East Suburban Catholic champs that went 32-5 last season, but were stunned by Neuqua Valley 1-0 in a Class 4A regional final.
2. Trinity: Seven starters are back from a 30-8 team that lost in a supersectional to eventual Class 4A champion Marist. Michigan-bound SS Abby Ramirez, Lewis-bound P Chase Machain, and Illinois-bound CF Nicole Evans lead a stacked lineup.
3. Downers North: With two of the best pitchers in the state — Elaine Heflin and Dale Ryndak — the Trojans will be a tough team to score against. They bring back 28 wins and 339 strikeouts. Eight starters are back from a 30-7 team.
4. Marengo: The Class 3A runner-up returns six starters from a 36-6 team that lost 2-1 in the title game to Glenbard South. Five of those players started on the 2011 state champs. Senior pitcher Bethany Hart returns a 10-0 record from last season.
5. Providence: DePaul-bound pitcher Amanda Wilson is one seven starters back from a 29-13 team that finished third in Class 3A. The Celtics move up to Class 4A, and according to coach Jay Biesterfeld, are more than primed for the challenge.
6. Manteno: Seven starters are back from a 32-2 team, including WIU-bound junior pitcher Brooke Stulga, and University of Indianapolis-bound junior catcher Sammy Beckwith. The junior class won state as eighth graders.
7. Conant: Oklahoma State-bound catcher Miranda Cavin is back for her senior year. She’ll be joined by five other starters from a 33-3 team, including two other Division-I players. Keep an eye on the freshman duo of Dream Aaron and Kali Schumacher.
8. Marist: The defending Class 4A champions are riding a 12-game winning streak, return six starters and add Lemont-transfer Erica Nagel and freshman infielder Madison Naujokas. Loyola-bound SS Brooke Wyderski leads a stacked lineup.
9. Fremd: Five starters, including three Division-I players — Michelle Mazur (Georgia Southern), Mandi Matsumoto (Charleston Southern), and Leigh Farina (Illinois) — return from a 30-8 team that won a regional title. The Vikings went Downstate in 2009 and 2010 and are hoping to return to East Peoria.
10. Beecher: Seven starters are back, including pitchers Savannah Soppet and Sarah Crews. Both return with all 29 wins from last season. Coach Kevin Hayhurst doesn’t need a lot to win, but this season he has plenty. Back from injury is junior Isabella Woolslayer.
11. Andrew: A regional final loss last season will give the five returning starters, including three Top 100 players, plenty to chew on this year. Michigan-bound senior CF Kelly Christner returns her .526 average, six home runs, and 43 RBIs.
12. Glenbard South: The defending Class 3A champions were hit hard by graduation, but coach Julie Fonda usually figures things out pretty quickly. Back is pitcher Stephanie Chitkowski and two other starters from that 37-4 team.
13. Bartlett: The Class 4A runner-up brings back six starters, but it should have been seven. Senior catcher Kaylyn Zierke is out for the season due to an injury that required surgery. Junior Holly Pagen will take over the pitching duties.
14. Maine West: Lost a Class 4A supersectional to eventual state runner-up Bartlett and returns seven starters, including pitcher Ariel Valles. Valles pitched 17 innings in less than 24 hours to help the program win its first sectional title last year.
15. Sandburg: A 21-16 season in Orland Park doesn’t cut it, and nobody knows that better than coach Jim Fabianski. St. Peter’s-bound SS Candice Koch and Syracuse-bound catcher Elllie Forkin lead six returning starters for the Eagles.
16. Mother McAuley: Emily Powers and Megan Bush lead a talented, young team that bowed out of the Class 4A playoffs in the sectional final 4-3 to neighborhood-rival Marist. Keep an eye on sophomore Emily Rux.
17. Glenbard North: Pitcher Lilly Fecho graduated, but seven starters return from a 34-3 team that advanced to a sectional final. Senior P Lindsey Cherry posted a 7-0 record last season, but keep an eye on junior fireballer CeCe Dopart.
18. Richards: The Bulldogs were hit hard by graduation, including P Brianna LeBeau (Northwestern), and return just three starters from a 30-5 team that advanced to a supersectional. Coach Julie Folliard is high on senior P Stephanie Waller.
19. Cary-Grove: The battery of Lindsay Efflandt and Sarah Leudo have a three-year combined record of 90-17. They are two of six starters back from a 28-8 team that fell short of expectations last season, losing in a Class 4A regional final.
20. Loyola: Finally back on the radar this season? Could be as it returns five starters from a 28-8 team that won a conference title, a regional and beat highly-regarded Trinity twice on the road. Junior P Jamie Kiefer returns an 18-4 record and a 1.50 ERA.
21. Marian Catholic: If the five freshmen Keri Evans brought up develop quickly, the Spartans could be a factor. C Meghan Henson and OF Susie Baranski lead that class and are expected to make an impact. They’ll complement five returning starters.
22. DeKalb: Junior P Katie Kowalski is healthy again and that’s not good news for opposing teams. Kowalski throws 61 mph, and she’ll get some relief from freshman P Morgan Newport, who throws 58. Seven other starters are back.
23. St. Charles North: The 2011 Class 4A runner-up went 23-13 last season but appear to have rebuilt. Five starters are back from a team that will have a good balance of speed and power. Northwestern-bound P Sabrina Rabin leads the way.
24. Lane: The pride of the Public League have plenty to be excited about. Six starters are back, including slugger Hailey Pieruccini, who pounded out nine home runs last season. Keep an eye on freshman slugger 3B/C Kayla Garcia, who is already gaining Division-I attention.
25. Antioch: Nine starters are back from a team that won 21 games, finished third in conference, but bowed out of the first round of the Class 3A playoffs. Sophomore C Jessica Tyrell has speed and power, and is expected to be an impact player this season.