Here is a team-by-team look at the area's Illinois softball scene:
Coach: Samantha Valentine (0-0 at Brown County, first season)
2012 record: 14-12 (4-2, second place Western Illinois Valley Conference North)
Returning starters: LF Bree Leerhoff, Sr.; RF Emily Hendricker, Sr.; C/1B Hannah Cross, Sr.; 3B Kia Moorman, Jr.; SS/2B Emily Kitchell, Soph.; 1B/SS Vanessa Markert, Soph.; CF Meghan Winston, Soph.; P Becca Wegs, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: P/OF Leah Roherer, Soph.
New faces: 2B Emily Burgett, Soph.; SS/2B Madison Ryssman, Soph.; C Kelly Buss, Fr.; SS/2B Dani Buss, Fr.
Key losses: SS Aimee Kerley, 3B/C Peyton McKinnon.
Outlook: Valentine is looking for the Hornets' experience to help them develop a competitive drive. Markert, who hit .318 last season, and Winston, who hit .300, are Brown County's top returning hitters. Wegs will handle the pitching duties.
"I think the key to a winning season is good leadership from the older girls," Valentine said. "(They need to) focus all season long on fixing mistakes and a need to win. These girls need to have that fire, and we will be a tough team to beat."
Coach: Amy Hildebrand (118-147 at Central, ninth season)
2012 record: 21-17
Returning starters: 3B/P Savana Mixer, Soph.; P/SS Abigail Janssen, Jr.; 2B/P Taylor Conley, Sr.; OF/SS Chrissy Weaver, Soph.; OF/SS Amanda Ihrig, Jr.; P/OF Sarah Richmiller, Jr.; 1B Kaylee Irvin, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: C Jaycie Taylor, Soph.
New Faces: 1B/OF Tori VanZandt, Jr.; 3B/OF Malarie Myers, Sr.; OF/C Torie Conover, Sr.
Key losses: P Torie Thomas, C Taylor Weeks, OF Sara Frese.
Outlook: Replacing the record-setting efforts of Thomas will be the Lady Panthers' biggest challenge. Thomas hit .504 last season, and set school records for most strikeouts in a season (179) and most home runs in a season (10). Janssen, who was an all-conference player last season, will take over in the pitcher's circle. Conley and Richmiller will also be counted on to pitch.
Mixer, who hit .278 last season, is Central's leading returning hitter.
Coach: Robert Kennedy (45-26, third year at Griggsville-Perry)
2012 season: 17-17
Returning starters: P/1B McKenzie Vose, Sr.; P/1B Hannah Dewitt, Soph.; OF Allyson Bingham, Jr.; OF McKinsey Vinyard, Sr.; OF Rachel Smith, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: None.
New Faces: IF Peyton Bonds, Fr.; IF Kenzie Flowers, Fr.; C Lexi Kessingers, Fr.; P/OF Lynley Ellis, Fr.; OF Macey Sargent, Fr.; If Bailey Powers, Fr.; C/OF Kelsey Whitaker, Fr.
Key losses: C Kelsey Sargent, SS Marlee Bradshaw, 3B Kyra Kessinger.
Outlook: Expect a youth movement with the Lady Tornadoes. Of the seven freshmen on the roster, three or four are expected to find a role in the starting lineup. They will be infused with a lineup that returns Vose, who hit .450, and Dewitt, who hit .448. Bingham also hit .345.
"One of the keys for us to have a year will be our defense," Kennedy said. "Being a defensive-oriented coach, we take a lot of pride in our defense."
Coach: Andy Gronewold (fifth year at Illini West)
2012 record: 20-13
Returning starters: OF Addison Ufkes, Sr.; IF Holly McDowell, Sr.; IF Jalen Tallman, Sr.; P/IF Makenzee Herriman, Jr.; C/P/INF Elyce Trout, Jr.; IF/OF Josie Finch, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: None listed.
New Faces: P/IF Madison Schuster, Sr.
Key losses: None listed.
Outlook: Returning six starters from last year's team will give Illini West a potent lineup and another shot to compete for a regional title. The Chargers fell just short last season, falling to Canton in the title game.
The return of Schuster is also a boon. She started for the Chargers as a sophomore before moving to North Boone last year. Schuster will help take some of the burden off Herriman.
Coach: Steve Buyck (78-48 at Liberty, fifth season)
2012 record: 17-16
Returning starters: P/SS Katy Claus, Sr.; P/3B Shelli Ormond, Sr.; C Shelby Wellman, Sr.; 1B/P Kara Wolf, Sr.; OF Sydney Barnard, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: OF Alexa Grimsley, Jr.
New Faces: SS/OF Brooklyn Murfin, Soph.; OF Kayla Ward, Soph.; Of Taylor Maas, So.; 2B/OF Rachel Buyck, Fr.; SS/OF Ashley Lefringhouse, Fr.; 1B/3B/OF Michaela Leapley, Fr.; P/OF Adrian Siebers, Fr.; C/OF Hope Rush, Fr.; OF Becky Lucas, Fr.
Key losses: OF Sarah Arnold, P/OF Mackenzie Buyck, P/1B Brooke Wellman.
Outlook: Claus and Ormond will need to settle in quickly. Liberty graduated its two top pitchers and feature a roster with six freshmen and three sophomores. Barnard will be counted on to help carry the load on offense.
"We lost our two varsity pitchers from last year," Steve Buyck said. "Katy and Shelli will need to come in and fill those spots. That was the biggest loss, so getting the two pitchers experience at the varsity level will be key."
Coach: Jeff Zanger (238-121 at Payson, 13th season)
2012 record: 32-7
Returning starters: 3B/P Kristen Loos, IF/OF, Sr.; Harlee Flesner, Sr.; 2B/P Skylar Brown, Jr.; C Juliann Pryor, Jr.; SS Jackie Koetters, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: IF/OF/P Keylee Gregg, Jr.; IF/OF/C Chekka Boewe, Soph.; Ashley Wiseman, Soph.; OF Emily Hickerson, Jr.
New Faces: OF Alyssa Walters, Jr.; OF Jessica Glas, Fr.; P/IF Emily Mast, Fr.; C/IF Abbi Zanger, Fr.
Key losses: P Cheyanne Bowman, OF Lacey Hagerbaumer, 1B Megan Boone, OF Kelsie Huber, OF Sarah White.
Outlook: Loos and Brown lead a Payson offense that will try to drive the Indians back to the Class 1A state tournament, where they finished second last year. Brown hit .374 last season and scored 35 runs while Loos hit .368 with six home runs and 30 RBIs.
Replacing Bowman, the 2012 Herald-Whig Player of the Year, in the pitcher's circle is a challenge. Payson has five girls who can pitch, none of which have more than nine innings of varsity experience.
"It will obviously be tough to replace Cheyanne Bowman on the mound and at the plate," Zanger said. "We also have to replace the middle of our lineup and our entire outfield. Skylar Brown and Kristen Loos are our key returners at the plate. We have focused on driving the ball, and we have capable hitters to put around them."
Coach: Amy Medford (0-0 at Pittsfield, first season)
2012 record: 12-19
Returning letterwinners: Courtney Pennock, Sr.; Mackenzie James, Sr.; Addi Lagemann, Sr.; Danae Miller, Sr.; Alyssa Heavner, Sr.; Addie Cunningham, Sr.; Brittany Miller, Sr.; Madison Lewis, Sr.; Caitlyn Harris, Sr.; Randa Watts, Jr.; Kayla Schact, Jr.
New Faces: Taylor Abney, Soph.; Bailey Waggoner, Fr.; Megan Reinhardt, Fr.
Key losses: None listed.
Outlook: Pittsfield has a lot of experience, featuring nine seniors. Leading the Lady Saukees in the circle will be Pennock and Schact. Sophomore Abney and Waggoner will give Pittsfield speed on the basepaths. Offensively, the Lady Saukees will rely on power.
"I have several girls with some serious power behind their swing, as well as a nice mix of speedy, consistent, base-hit kind of players," Mefford said. "We should be keeping the pressure on other teams' defense on when we're on the bases, we'll be lethal."
Coach: Dave Woodruff (4-21 at Unity, second season)
2012 record: 4-21
Returning starters: P/SS Maggie Bowles, Jr.; 3B/OF Jordan Sorrill, Jr.; 2B/OF Ali Koehler, Jr.; 1B Breanne Begeman, Sr.; DH/OF/IF Emily Kendrick, Soph.; C Mandie Brooks, Jr.; IF/OF Kourtney Richmond, Jr.
Other returning letterwinners: IF/OF Lexi Bohan, Jr.; OF Cheyenne Toolate, Sr.
New faces: OF/IF Whitney Murphy, Jr.; IF Darien Bugh, Sr.; IF/OF Blake Huston, Sr.
Key losses: CF Kylee Churchill, P Ashley Brooks.
Outlook: Finding consistent pitching will be top priority for the Lady Mustangs. Bowles, who hit .315 last season as an infielder, will take care of things in the pitcher's circle. Koehler will help, too.
Begeman, who hit .285 last season, will add punch to Unity's offense.
"I feel the most improved players would have to be Jordan Sorrill and Ali Koehler," Woodruff said. "Jordan has the best hands on the team and is rock solid in her demeanor on the field, never getting rattled. Koehler is going to have to step up and help the pitching staff more this year, and she has shown improvements in her mechanics and her emotional state in the circle."
Coach: Gena Dewald (21-8 at West Hancock, second season)
2012 record: 21-8 (11-3, second place West Central Conference North)
Returning starters: P/C Shelby Koehler, Jr.; P/UT Allison Dewald, Jr.; SS Haleigh Hammel, Jr.; 1B Hannah Wollbrink, Jr.; OF/2B Katie Schafer, Soph.; P/OF Alexis Dooley, Soph.
Other returning letterwinners: None.
New Faces: 3B Keaghan Schaklett, Soph.; 2B/OF Sidnee Sawyer, Soph.; OF/2B Bailey Nagel, Fr.; OF Karly Mecklenburg, Fr.; OF Brittney Coooper, Jr.; OF Taylor Price, Soph.; OF Abbie Dusenberry, Soph.
Key losses: 2B Jacey Hartweg, OF Lauren Bliss, 3B Kyra Koehler, OF Madison Harmon.
Outlook: West Hancock plans to use its powerful offense to make a run at a regional title. The Titans return six starters and all of them hit over .300 last season. Koehler (.452), Dewald (.434) and Hammel (.400) led the way.
Koehler, Dewald and Dooley will provide pitching depth for the Titans.
"As always, we will put emphasis on our offense," Gena Dewald said. "Hitting is a big key to our game plan, but most importantly the love for the game of softball."
Coach: David Motley (0-0 at Western, first season)
2012 record: 9-20
Returning starters: P/2B/SS Rachel Motley, Sr.; 1B Evan Colston, Jr.; 2B/SS/OF Jessica Grammer, Jr.; 3B Hailey Dunker, Soph.; C/OF Jamie Brace, Sr.; SS/2B/OF Amber Platt, Sr.; C/1B/OF Alexis Bellovich, Soph.; C/OF/1B Kaity Murphy, Sr.
Other returning letterwinners: OF Danielle Wells, Sr.
New Faces: P/IF Carlee Hively, Fr.; 2B/OF Kameryn Utterback, Fr.; OF Alicen Dabney, Fr.; OF Frankie Camerer, Fr.; OF Dominique Welch, Fr.
Key losses: P Rachel Johnson, OF/2B/3B Jamie Lister, OF Colae Johnson.
Outlook: Dave Motley is excited to inherit a team eight starters from a team that lost by two runs in the regional title game. What the Wildcats need to find is a way to improve their defense if they want to advance.
"We still have our work cut our for us as we have to work hard to eliminate games with one or two bad innings," Motley said. "That is why they are working on the fundamentals this preseason."
Rachel Motley will lead the Wildcats in the pitcher's circle and at the plate. She hit .349 and had a 2.82 ERA. Colston hit .329.
Editor's Note: Pleasant Hill did not submit information.