I know some might not agree, with some or all of the following, but this is just MY take on how things look in the 9th Region/NKY for the 2017 season. I will apologize in advance.....I know I will probably forget someone and my familiarity with a few teams and it's players is a little scarce, so I hope folks understand.

NKAC Division III

Bellevue Tigers – Head Coach Jerry Rardin returns for his 2nd season at the helm of the Tigers, and has been working hard over the summer to get the Bellevue program back in the hunt for a Division III title. Fortunately for the Lady Tigers, they will return a few good athletes in Sr. Linzie Murphy, Jr. Regan Atwood, & So. Arianna Dotson however the loss to graduation of the best all-around athlete, Kira Ross, will be hard to replace.

Calvary Christian Cougars – With the departure of head coach Chip Gregg to Holy Cross, word has it that Dr. Bobby Sparks is now in charge. The Cougars return a few starters from last year’s squad in Sr. Bree Fain & So. Olivia Palasek. A key loss to graduation for the Cougars was Laura Leichter.

Covington Latin Trojans - Head Coach Carey Heuer and the Lady Trojans will be without the services of Angela Warning & Kennedy McGuire for the first time in 5 years, but he has back Jr. Leah Benne So. Ashley Zalla, & Fr. Marianna Rozell. They will also be playing a full varsity schedule unlike last year playing only JV.

Dayton Greendevils – Head Coach Beth Fields-Hunt and the Lady Greendevils, return 8 of 9 starters from last years 13-6 team that were the NKAC DIII Champs. Returning back for the 2017 campaign, DIII POY runner-up (2nd year in a row), So. Grace Workman, and 4 members of either the DIII 1st or 2nd Team, So. Emma Donelan, Sr. Kilee Donelan, So. Gabby Matthews, & Jr. Megan Downard. They might not pass the “eye test”, but make no mistake; they are well coached and will never give up no matter the score.

Heritage Academy Eagles - Head Coach Joe Mullins, still has 2 daughters on the team 8th grader Grace & Sr. Maddie Mullins (DIII 1st Team. However, finding replacements for the departed Siera Berkemeier, Isabella Worley, and Hayley Mullins (DIII 1st Team) will be a challenge for the Eagles right out of the gate.

Ludlow Panthers – After only 2 seasons at the helm Head Coach Jason Stallkamp has stepped down, and taking over is men’s slow-pitch legend Butch Hayes. The former 9th Region umpire will add his vast softball knowledge to the Ludlow team. The Panthers return DIII 1st team stalwart Sr. Jayna Crawford, however with the loss to graduation of pitcher Kendell Trent, look for the Panthers to go with Fr. Bella Slone.

Villa Madonna Blue Lightning - Like at Heritage, Villa Head Coach Dave Meier has 2 daughters still on the team. Besides 7th grader Camdyn Meier, there is 2 time DIII P.O.Y, So. Brooke Meier. Another solid addition to the line-up is So. Anna Wagner (DIII 1st Team). Coach Meier will have to find a replacement in batting order for his daughter Alexa, who graduated, if the Blue Lightning is to contend
for the DIII Conference crown.

Division II

Beechwood Tigers - Coach Jon Berger returns for a 2nd year to lead the Tigers as they will be playing on a brand new artificial turf field. Hopefully with the up grade in facilities it will translate into resurgence in the program that was decimated by numbers last season, as the Red and White Tigers look to improve on last year’s 3-14 campaign.

Bishop Brossart Mustangs – The Stangs were decimated by graduation to key starters….All-State catcher Amanda Lloyd, 2B Ashley Childress, SS Amanda Graus, OF Riley Orth, & 1B Kaitlyn Seiter. Head Coach Tom Baynum does return a solid battery in Sr. pitcher Megan Seiter (DII 2nd Team) and Sr. catcher Maria Seiter. It might be a bumpy start for the Stangs, but look for them to right the ship come the end of the season.

Highlands Bluebirds – Getting back to the 9th Region finals for a 4th consecutive year might be a challenge for the Birds this season considering what they lost to graduation, however the experience is there. Gone are 3 time DII P.O.Y. and Louisville bound, Shelby Graybill, hard-hitting 1st basemen Brennah Dutcher (DII 1st Team), 5 year varsity starting pitcher, Bailey Spencer (DII 1st Team), and one of the best defensive SS in the state in Haley Coffey (DII 1st Team). The Birds do have a nice complement of talent that return, Sr. Taylor Baioni, Jr. Josie Daley, Jr. Brooke Dill, Sr. Kara Fornash, & So. Rachel Gabbard. Word has it that Head Coach Rob Coffey will be looking at Sr. Jenna Martin to take over as the starting pitcher.

Holmes Bulldogs - 1st year Head Hoach, John Ellis, with the assistance of Jimmy Huhn will probably have So. Kaitlynn Cooper in the circle this season, while the multi positional sisters Sr. Seyonna Graham & So. Kamari Graham (DII 2nd Team) return in the INF/OF. BTW, Kamari Graham has got an absolute rifle for an arm; the young lady can pick it at the hot corner.

Holy Cross Indians – The Indians will be under the direction of former NKU pitching coach and Calvary Head Coach, Chip Gregg. Word has it that former Head Coach, Lee Meeks, will be still be on the staff as the assistant coach. Returning starters include So. Madaline Hyde, So. Natalie Sparling, Sr. Courtney Turner, & So. Kaitlin Turner. The Indians do return one of the best athletes in NKY in Sr. Alehia Tucker (DII 1st Team), she has been a varsity starter since 7th grade (7th Dixie, 8th Holmes, 9-12 Holy Cross).

Lloyd Juggernauts – The Juggs will be under the direction of last season’s assistant coach Scott Abney who replaced Rick Walker who took a job coaching across the river. The bulk of those returning are young, but they still have the pitching services of Sr. Rachel Crawford (DII 2nd Team). As with any team consisting of younger players, it might be tough sledding as the season starts, but look for improvement by the Juggs as the season progresses as was the case last season.

Newport Wildcats – Yet another team with a new head coach as Scott Taylor retired and the Wildcats will be lead by Kerry Schmitz, with the assistance of Mr. Newport, John Atkins, and little brother Jimmy Atkins. The Wildcats will desperately miss 6 year varsity starter Kylie Orr (DII 1st Team). Look for Fr. Morgan Barnes who started the last 2 years, to be the best player on the field for the Cats.

Newport Catholic Thoroughbreds – Head Coach Denny Barnes is in a nice position, he didn’t lose one starter from last year and has arguably the top pitcher in the 9th Region in (1 time DII Co-POY & 2 time DII POY Runner-Up) Haley Meyers. The Breds also return Sr. centerfielder Kathryn Schreiber (DII 1st Team), Sr. 1B Kennedy Bin, Sr. 3B Alex Burkart, as well as, Jr. SS Lexy Breen (DII 2nd Team), So. 2B Jenna Fryer, So. OF Katie Kelly, & So. C Kacy Zimmerman. Also, moving up to varsity ranks will be 3 talented Frosh who have been playing summer ball together since 3rd grade, OF/INF Megan Burkart, P/INF Brooke Bihl, & C/INF Sam Grause. The Breds also have two other pitchers in Jr. Jaden Watts and So. Riley McDermott. This NewCath team has all the pieces to make a run at the 9th Region crown, the key will be consistent hitting from the bottom of the line-up.

St. Henry Crusaders – Head Coach Freedom Fogt lost 3 solid players from last years team in 3B Teresa Urban (DII 2nd Team), 1B JoAnna Rebitski, & 6 year varsity starter C Gabby Stewart (3 time DII 1st Team). The Lady Cru only return 2 seniors in pitcher Jessie Roark (DII 2nd Team) and OF Maddi Kerwin, but have a solid group of juniors in 2B Ashley Pollard, OF Carlie Townsend, & OF Faith Kosco. They also have a nice complement of Frosh in last year’s varsity starting 2B Kaitlyn Bucknell and the coach’s daughter, pitcher Kaycee Fogt. The key for the Cru coaching staff will be to find a replacement behind the plate that can handle the pitching staff and be able to keep runners honest on the base path.

Division I

Boone County Rebels – Just like last year, this team doesn't pass the "eye test", but Head Coach Andy Petridis' kids "get it done". Coach P consistently plays one of the strongest schedules in NKY to prepare for post-season play. The Lady Rebels only lost one player to graduation last year, but return one of the top pitchers in the 9th Region in Jr. Olivia Jackson (DI 2nd Team) and Jr. Shelby Wright (DI 1st Team) Also returning to the starting line-up on Burlington Pike is a load of experience in Sr's. Makenna Black, Jayda Collins (DI 2nd Team), Ryley Grau (DI 2nd Team), Kamryn Huff, as well as Fr. Star Smith. Also, look for 8th grader Karys Black to see a good deal of varsity action. This is a team that you can't sleep on.

Campbell County Camels - Coaches Sandi & Bob Kitchen only lost 2 seniors from last years 20-7 squad, 1B Brittany Fornash and SS Danielle Orick. However, the Camels return 3 high quality starters in Jr. pitcher Ashley Leicht (DI 1st Team), So. 2B Jessica Walsh (DI 1st Team), & the super-speedy So. centerfielder McKinlee Miller (DI 1st Team). The Camels only have one senior this season, 4 year varsity starter OF/C Sarah Terhaar, and she’s a good one. This team has a nice complement of young players, as Bob and Sandi have built a very nice program on the southern end of the county. They should make some noise in the 10th Region tourney in 2017.

Conner Cougars – The Cougars will begin the 2017 campaign under the direction of former NKU assistant, Jamie Schulle. She will have to replace 3 departing seniors from last season in SS Bethany Maines, OF Kayci Mattlin, & 2B Jenna Hicks. Conner does return a very talented senior class with 3B Hannah Darling, OF Kayla Ellis, & catcher Alexia Snelbaker, as all three have 4 years of starting varsity experience. However, the Cougars are LOADED with frosh and sophomores, including 4 sophomore starters from last year, P Olivia Henry, P Ashlee Jones, RF Ashlee Lindsey, & Miranda Meier. Look for the Cougars to improve over last years “interrupted season”.

Cooper Jaguars – Head Coach Tony Fields and his right-hand man, Danny Curtis, are a happy bunch on Longbranch Rd. as they only lost one starter to graduation from last year’s vastly improved squad, 2B Angelina Dames. Returning Sr. starters include C Cayla Petrowski, LF/P Colleen Hume, and 3 year varsity CF Hailey Nicholas. Some other returning starters include, in the circle Jr. Alex Dummit, with So. Allana Matteson at 3B and So. Leah Moore roaming in the #9 position. However, the spark to the Jags starts with Fr. SS Kayari Suganuma (DI 1st Team). This young lady burst onto the seen last year from Japan and was something to see. As an 8th grader last season she was in the running for DI P.O.Y., and for those that have not seen her play she is as good as billed, and well worth the price of admission.

Dixie Heights Colonels – Head Coach Roddy Stainforth is going to be looking to replace only 3 varsity starters from last year’s 17-6 squad, 2B Spencer Wynn, 1B Madison Ingle (DI 2nd Team) and SS Ellis McCarthy. The Red Colonels return two seniors, P Sam Yake and CF Megan Gilreath, however it’s the sophomore class that shines, SS Maggie Fields, 3B Jenna Slusher, and 1B Kaylee McGinn (DI 1st Team). If the last two seasons are any indication, look for Kaylee to be one of NKY’s most feared hitters in NKY and be in the running for DI P.O.Y. With one of the BEST coaching staffs in NKY, this team should never be counted out of any game.

Notre Dame Pandas – Head Coach Joe Stephenson will be looking to replace 5 starters from last year’s 20-7 Regional Semi-Finalist squad, including P Katelyn Baker (DI 2nd Team) and SS Rylee Stephenson. Look for Jr. Lauren Durstock to get the starting nod in the circle, while Sr. Cori Ladanyi (DI 2nd Team) could be manning the 6-hole. The senior class is still loaded with 4 other players including CF Alecia Radford, 2B Angela & RF Erica Huston & last but not least, power hitting catcher Kennedy Baugh (2016 DI P.O.Y). This team definitely has all the pieces to return to the title game of the 9th Region tourney.

Simon Kenton Pioneers – Just like last year, Head Coach Jeff Morgan lost 2 starters to graduation, 3B Hannah Perry and 2B Hayley Reynolds (DI 2nd Team). This season he has only one senior returning in centerfielder Anna Telesz and one junior, catcher Lillian Brummett. However, for the past 3 season’s the Pioneers were the youngest team starter wise in NKY, and this year will be no different. 8th graders Aubrey Dance (CF), Haley Perry (1B), Tegan Turpin (INF/OF), & Macy Krohman (P) all return for their 3rd season in the varsity starting line-up. Look for 2nd year starter, So. Sam Glover, to see some action in the circle again this season. Krohman and Perry are two of the most talented 8th graders in NKY. This team will give NKY opponents competitive games, don’t count out the Neers.

Ryle Raiders - Back for his 4th season on U.S. 42 is Head Coach Craig Milburn. His Lady Raiders return 6 starters from last seasons 25-9 Regional Runner-Up squad. Lost to graduation were Mackenzie Irons (CF), Sam North (LF), and 2016 DI Runner-Up P.O.Y, catcher McKenzi Dickerson. The Raiders bring back their entire starting infield from last season, Sr. Ashley Couch (1B), Jr. Maddy Morgan (2B), Jr. Maclai Branson (SS) (DI 1st Team), & So. Hannah Bishop (3B). Also, in the circle will be Sr. Kennady Carson (DI 1st Team) and Jr. Morgan Smith patrolling in right. Look for Fr. Mackai Dickerson to get her fair share of playing time in the infield. Despite the losses to the line-up of those that graduated, this team has a good shot at playing in the Regional Finals again.

New Members to the NKSCA

Walton-Verona Bearcats (DII) – Taking over the reigns for the departed Marlin Gregg, will be Danny Trame. The Bearcats will be looking to replace quite a few starters from last years team, 1B/LF Jennifer Brauer, OF Kaitlyn Cottrell, SS Olivia DeZarn, & P Lexi Rouse. The 3 returning senior starters include, Aubry Anderson (CF), Rachel Herndon (C), & Christine Valvano (P/3B), along with Jr. Alyson Poore (2B), Fr. Faith Alford (1B), & Fr. Addisyn Michael (3B).

Grant County Braves (DII) – Former Simon Kenton HS and University of Pikeville pitcher, Kayla Morgan, will be back for her 2nd season as the Head Coach of the Lady Braves. Kayla is also the daughter of Simon Kenton Head Coach, Jeff Morgan.

Williamstown Demons (DIII) – This will be the Lady Demons 1st year as a member of the Northern Kentucky Softball Coaches Association. We would like to welcome Head Coach Bobby Kemper and his team.

Top 20 Players

Sr. Kennedy Baugh (C) – Notre Dame (45 H, 33 R, 22 RBI, .577)

Fr. Kaitlyn Becknell (SS) – St. Henry (25 H, 15 R, 12 RBI, .417)

Jr. Maclai Branson (SS) – Ryle (60 H, 52 R, 22 RBI, .492)

Sr. Kennady Carson (P) – Ryle (22 H, 22 RBI, .339)

Sr. Jayda Collins (3B) – Boone Co. (25 H, 15 R, 20 RBI, .385)

So. Rachel Gabbard (2B) – Highlands (38 H, 14 R, 25 RBI, .373)

8th Macy Krohman (P/SS) – Simon Kenton (28 H, 33 R, 14 RBI, .341)

Sr. Cori Ladanyi (2B/SS) – Notre Dame (26 H, 29 R, 29 RBI, .377)

Jr. Ashley Leicht (P) – Campbell Co. (26 H, 15 R, 28 RBI, .356)

So. Kaylee McGinn (C/1B) – Dixie 27 H, 21 R, 24 RBI, .509)

So. McKinlee Miller (CF) – Campbell Co. (40 H, 35 R, 17 RBI, 23 SB, .494)

Sr. Haley Meyers (P) – NewCath (55 H, 18 R, 25 RBI, .430)

8th Haley Perry (1B/P) – Simon Kenton (28 H, 18 R, 22 RBI, .364)

Sr. Kathryn Schreiber (CF) – NewCath (40 H, 25 R, 11 RBI, .345)

Jr. Morgan Smith (LF/RF) – Ryle (41 H, 23 R, 22 RBI, 11 2B, .353)

Fr. Kayari Suganuma (SS) – Cooper (41 H, 40 R, 12 RBI, 41 SB, .532)

Sr. Sarah Terhaar (C/OF) – Campbell Co. (32 H, 27 R, 30 RBI, 15 SB, .432)

Sr. Alehia Tucker (SS) – Holy Cross (43 H, 45 R, 27 RBI, 29 SB, .589)

So. Jessica Walsh (2B) – Campbell Co. (39 H, 36 R, 36 RBI, 10 SB, .470)

Jr. Shelby Wright (3B) – Boone Co. (28 H, 21 R, 10 RBI, .406)

Top 10 Pitchers

Sr. Kennady Carson – Ryle (21-7, 199 IP, 133 K’s, 2.63 ERA)

So. Olivia Henry – Conner (33 IP, 19 K’s, .083 ERA)

Jr. Olivia Jackson – Boone Co. (11-10, 125 IP, 48 K’s, 2.35 ERA)

8th Macy Krohman – Simon Kenton (10-7, 90 IP, 67 K’s, 1.79 ERA)

Jr. Ashley Leicht – Campbell Co. (19-7, 142 IP, 107 K’s, 1.68 ERA)

So. Brooke Meier – Villa Madonna (10-9, 102 IP, 152 K’s, 2.67 ERA)

Sr. Haley Meyers – NewCath (16-15, 201 IP, 201 K’s 2.19 ERA)

So. Olivia Palasek – Calvary Christian (13-4, 108 IP, 88 K’s, 4.01ERA)

Sr. Megan Seiter – Bishop Brossart (17-13, 160 IP, 87 K’s, 1.48ERA)

Sr. Sam Yake – Dixie (10-4, 74 IP, 80 K’s, 2.46ERA)

2017 Projected Conference Champs

Division I – Of the three divisions that make up the NKAC, DI is a “crap-shoot” to pick a definitive winner. Last years conference champ, Ryle, is definitely the front runner to repeat, however Campbell Co., Notre Dame, & Dixie will vie with the Raiders for the top position in DI, but don’t count out the Boone County Rebels. However, I’m going to go with Campbell Co as the 2017 DI Conference Champ.

Division II – The Highlands Bluebirds have had a stranglehold on the DII crown for the last few years, NewCath and the Cru from St. Henry have been their main competition during this recent run. That being said, I think their reign at the top is going to be relinquished this season to the team up on the “hill”, NewCath.

Division III – DIII is the only division that I see a clear cut favorite. Last year the Dayton Greendevils went 9-0 in conference play, and again this season look for Beth Fields-Hunt’s scrappy bunch from Dayton to once again reign supreme in DIII.

2017 Pre-Season Division P.O.Y

Division I – Last year’s P.O.Y, Kennedy Baugh (Sr. Notre Dame), was in a dog fight midway through the balloting with 4 other players, unfortunately for her 3 of those players all return……McKinlee Miller (So. Campbell Co.), Kaylee McGinn (So. Dixie), & Kayari Suganuma (Fr. Cooper). However, don’t count out Maclai Branson (Jr. Ryle), Ashley Leicht (Jr. Campbell Co.), & Kennady Carson (Sr. Ryle). Not many players get the opportunity to be a varsity player since the 6th grade, and be a varsity starter since 7th, with that said I see Kennedy Baugh repeating as P.O.Y.,…….but she has some serious competition so who knows?

Division II – As a freshman NewCath’s Haley Meyers was Co-P.O.Y with Highlands star, Shelby Graybill. A year later she finished Runner-Up P.O.Y to Shelby, and last year she again finished as the Runner-Up to Shelby, albeit by 1 point. With the aforementioned Shelby Graybill no longer among the high school ranks, the clear cut favorite to hoist the hardware in 2017 is well in the sights of the NewCath fireballer who led NKY in K’s last season with 201. However, don’t count out Alehia Tucker (Sr. Holy Cross), Kathryn Schreiber (Sr. NewCath), and a few others vying for the coveted award.

Division III - For the past two seasons this has been a two horse race between to talented sophomores, Villa Madonna’s Brooke Meier and Dayton’s Grace Workman. In 2015 Brooke Meier was a unanimous selection for DIII P.O.Y., and last year she beat out the talented Dayton SS by only 5 points, to capture a 2nd consecutive P.O.Y award. This is just the halfway point of a 5 year long quest to see who is top dog in Division III. However, a few others are in the running including Kilee Donelan (Sr. Dayton), Anna Wagner (So. Villa Madonna), Jayna Crawford (Sr. Ludlow), Maddie Mullins (Sr. Heritage Academy), & Olivia Palasek (So. Calvary Christian). However, I think this might be the year that Brooke Meier plays second fiddle to Grace Workman…….we will see.

Players To Keep An Eye On

All these young ladies have multiple years of travel ball under their belts which should bode well for them and their team in the coming years.

Fr. Faith Alford (INF) – Walton-Verona
Fr. Brooke Bihl (P) - NewCath
8th Karys Black (INF) – Boone Co.
Fr. Megan Burkart (OF) – NewCath
Fr. Mackai Dickerson (INF) – Ryle
Fr. Kaycee Fogt (P) – St. Henry
Fr. Sam Grause (C) – NewCath
Fr. Taylar Lorenzen (INF) - Highlands
Fr. Addisyn Michael (INF) – Walton-Verona
Fr. Maddie Prospero (P) – Notre Dame
Fr. Bella Slone (P) - Ludlow

My Pre-Season NKY Top 10

1. Ryle
2. Notre Dame
3. Dixie
4. NewCath
5. Campbell Co.
6. Boone Co.
7. Highlands
8. St. Henry
9. Simon Kenton
10. Conner