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April 11. 2014 11:57PM

NHIAA Softball Preview: Timberlane looks to repeat in Div. I

Timberlane’s Kate Hoadley pitches against Manchester Central last year in Manchester. (UNION LEADER FILE)

The Scoop

Players to Watch: Keysey Bird, P/1B (Franklin); Skylar Bonnette, SS (Hinsdale); Julia Bowman, C (Woodsville); Emily Brosseau, P (Colebrook); Lexi Colpack, SS (Franklin); Kianna Daudelin, P (Coe-Brown); Abrie Davis, INF (Souhegan); Ashley Deyo, C/INF (Dover); Caroline Eyman, C (Profile); Courtney Fisher, P (Con-Val); Maddy Greene, P (Moultonborough); Lauren Jones, INF (Coe-Brown); Kate Hoadley, P (Timberlane); Meghan Kissinger, P/INF (Bishop Brady); Sarah Lavalllee, P (Manchester Central); Hannah McNicholas, CF (Raymond); Brittany McNulla, C (Campbell); Erica Millet, P (White Mountains); Hannah Neverett, INF (Nashua North); Hailey Psareas, INF (Windham); Rebecca Shatney, P (Hopkinton); Caroline Shoenbucher, INF (Dover); Jennelle Thompson, P (Farmington); Sami West, P/OF (Spaulding); Rachel Willcutt, C (Winnisquam).

Defending champions: Timberlane (Division I), Con-Val (Division II), Campbell (Division III) and Woodsville (Division IV).

Noteworthy: Farmington pitcher Jennelle Thompson pitched every inning for the Tigers last season. She also batted .529 from the leadoff position and was successful in 26 of 27 stolen-base attempts. ... Franklin has qualified for postseason play in each of the 17 seasons Skip Dubois has been the program’s head coach. The Golden Tornadoes have reached the semifinals in 10 of those 17 seasons. ... Con-Val pitcher Courtney Fisher, a senior, will enter the season with 581 career strikeouts. ... Harold Sachs has a 540-75 record in 29 seasons as Salem’s head coach. ... Former Souhegan coach Jim Rines is in his first season as Milford’s head coach. Rines led the Sabres to five Class I championship game appearances and one state title (2003). ... Woodsville has made it to at least the Division IV semifinals in each of the last four seasons. The Engineers won the championship in 2010 and 2013. ... Glen Miller is in his first season as the head coach at Oyster River of Durham. The Bobcats have lost their last 98 games.

At this time a year ago not even Timberlane Regional of Plaistow softball coach Jim Clavette was mentioning his team among the preseason favorites in Division I, but the Owls stunned Clavette - and many other people - by winning the Division I title.

It shouldn't come as a shock if Timberlane wins another championship this season.

Although the Owls must replace four starters, sophomore pitcher Kate Hoadley is among the returnees. All Hoadley did as a freshman was post a 16-3 record with a 1.90 ERA, and strike out 155 batters in 128 innings. She picked up the win when Timberlane beat Concord 4-1 in the Division I championship game.

"Last year was a surprise," Clavette said. "Kate was a surprise. She has command of her pitches and hits her spots. Her rise ball was very good last year, and she wasn't afraid to throw inside on the batter's hands."

Shortstop is the biggest hole the Owls have to fill. Masha Lange, last year's shortstop, is playing at Plymouth State University. Lange was the Division I Player of the Year last season."

Infielder Ally Collins (.460), first baseman Madison Bishop (.338) and outfielder Christina Nye (.333) are the leading hitters among returning players.

"It's hitting that I need," Clavette said. "My goal is the final four, but there are good teams out there."

Salem, Londonderry, Spaulding of Rochester and Dover are among those good teams. Londonderry may be the best of that group. The Lancers returned eight starters from last year's team, including outfielder/pitcher Leah Hunt, who has committed to play at St. Anselm College.

ConVal of Peterborough must replace five starters from a team that won last year's Division II title, but the Cougars still have one of the state's top pitchers in Courtney Fisher.

"In our program the faces may be different, but the goal is always the same," ConVal coach Jim Coppo said. "We want the championship to go through Peterborough. Having Courtney makes it a little easier."

Division II appears to be more wide open than the state's three other divisions. Kennett of Conway, Coe-Brown of Northwood, Goffstown, Hollis-Brookline, Milford, Souhegan of Amherst and Windham are all expected to field strong teams.

"They're all legitimate championship contenders," Coppo said.

Campbell of Litchfield looks like the clear favorite in Division III. First baseman Chelsea Caynon is the only player who graduated from last year's team, which beat White Mountains of Whitefield in the Division III title game. The returnees include catcher Brittany McNulla, who has committed to play at the University of Virginia.

Campbell is seeking its third state championship in the last four years, and could find itself battling White Mountains for the title again this season. White Mountains returns pitcher Erika Millett, who was the Player of the Year in Division III in 2013.

Woodsville, last year's Division IV champion, must replace five starters, but will build around catcher Julia Bowman. Junior Lottie Page, last year's No. 2 starter, will be the ace of this year's staff.

"Pitching is always a question, but it was last year as well," Woodsville coach Dana Huntington said. "I'm confident that we will be competitive."

Colebrook, Lisbon and Profile of Bethlehem are other teams that could win this year's Division IV title.

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