Ten teams worth watching

Chanhassen (4A): The defending Class 4A champs might be better than last year.

Buffalo (4A): Morgan DeMarais, Emily Hanson and company are experienced and dangerous.

Bloomington Jefferson (4A): Can pitcher Hailey Martinez top her 12-2, 1.08 ERA stats from last season?

Hopkins (4A): Senior pitcher MaKenzie Merritt is one of the metro’s best-kept secrets.

Maple Grove (4A): No longer young with 11 of their top 12 players back from 2016.

Rogers (4A): Replacing 2016 Star Tribune Metro Player of the Year Katelyn Kemmetmueller is first and foremost.

Delano (3A): Shortstop Tori Hanson (.532 in 2016) is one of the metro’s most feared hitters.

Orono (3A): Eleven players are back from last year, led by senior captain/3B Megan Geelan.

Annandale (2A): The Cardinals have eight of nine starters returning, led by pitcher Sarah Johnson.

West Lutheran (1A): The Warriors are a small-school power, but can they escape rugged Section 4 of Class 1A?

10 indispensable players

(Listed alphabetically. All are seniors unless noted)

 

Charlie Bailey, Mound Westonka, C/1B: Seven home runs last season set the school single-season record.

Natalie DenHartog, Hopkins, SS: Strong-armed shortstop recently committed to Augustana.

Emily Hanson, Buffalo, 3B, jr: Has already committed to Minnesota.

Sarah Johnson, Annandale, P, jr: 16-9 with a 0.35 ERA and 229 strikeouts in 2016.

Taylor Manno, Chanhassen, P: The top hurler for the state’s best team is Rutgers-bound.

Molly McGarry, Edina, C: Hit .479 with four home runs in 2016.

Anne Miller, Bloomington Jefferson, C: Hits for average and power, has a cannon for an arm.

Lauren York, Delano, P, jr. : 16-7 record, 144 strikeouts as a sophomore.

Kati Waalk, Wayzata,CF, jr. : Leadoff hitter who gets on base and hits with power.

Afton Zemke, West Lutheran, P, so.: 2016 team MVP is a sophomore but already in her fourth year as a pitcher.

Circle the date

April 20: Bloomington Jefferson at Chanhassen, 4:30 p.m.

April 25: Hopkins at Rosemount, 4:30 p.m.

April 28: Chanhassen at Buffalo, 7:30 p.m.

May 9: Delano at New Prague, 4:30 p.m.

May 11: West Lutheran at New Life Academy, 4 p.m.

May 18: Anoka at Maple Grove, 4:30 p.m.

Five things worth knowing

1. Minnetonka’s Mary Beth Wiig is entering her 28th year as head coach and is 16 victories shy of 400 for her career.

2. Maple Grove sophomore infielder Jade Tomashek moved to Minnesota from Irvine, Calif.

3. St. Michael-Albertville juniors Riley Carlson and Brooke Burditt are entering their fourth season together as a pitching tandem.

4. Numbers are up at Minnehaha Academy, which is fielding a JV team for the first time in three seasons.

5. Blake coach Joseph Waalk is the father of Wayzata standout Kati Waalk.

Jim Paulsen