Girls’ softball teams to watch
Central Catholic: After a 17-4 regular season, Central Catholic lost to eventual Division 1 EMass. champion Malden in the North semifinals, 4-0. The Raiders return sophomore pitcher Olivia Antczak to a team that should make noise in the Merrimack Valley Conference once again.
Dracut: The Middies lost a 5-4 decision to Abington in the Division 2 state semis, but will be competitive this season with a young team that features just one senior — ace Lauren Ramirez.
Malden: The Golden Tornadoes graduated their starting battery (pitcher Kiara Amos/catcher Emily Hoffman) from last year’s run to the Division 1 state final against Milford, but have the building blocks for another successsful season.
Matignon: The Warriors managed to win the Division 3 North crown last season despite finishing the regular season at 12-8. Their run ended in the state semis with a 4-3 loss to Case.
Winchester: The Sachems were derailed with a 6-0 loss to Dracut in the Division 2 North final, but there is plenty of promise with senior Rachael Smith slinging in the circle.
Girls’ softball players to watch
Olivia Antczak, Central Catholic: The sophomore looks to build off a strong 16-5 first season that helped carry the Raiders to the Division 1 North semifinals.
Terri Ferrazzani, North Reading: Last season, as a junior, she compiled a 17-3 record with an 0.84 earned run average while also batting .382. She needs only 21 strikeouts for 300 in her career.
Kayla Maloney, Phillips Andover: After pitching Phillips to its second straight Big East tournament title — striking out 46 batters over 27 innings last May — the Columbia-bound senior is back for her final year. She started the season with a seven-inning, 11-strikeout performance in which she also delivered 3 hits and 2 RBIs in a 4-3 defeat of Noble & Greenough.
Lauren Ramirez, Dracut: After an 18-1 campaign last season, Ramirez opened her 2013 slate with a 5-inning no-hitter, followed by a 2-hit shutout.
Rachael Smith, Winchester: The Sachems welcome back their ace, who put together a 16-6 mark last spring. The junior, who is also a captain on the volleyball team, opened her season with five no-hit innings and 13 strikeouts in a 12-0 victory over Watertown. Pat Bradley
Pat Bradley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.