Over the past three seasons, three Broward County schools have won two state championships each.
And although Pembroke Pines Charter, Plantation American Heritage and St. Thomas Aquinas are favorites to add a third this season in their respective classifications, they each have to replace valuable players in order to get the job done.
Pines Charter joined Heritage, Aquinas and Hollywood Christian as the only schools to win multiple state titles in county history.
Junior pitcher Claire Blount has been a part of three consecutive seasons in which the Jaguars have at least made it to the Class 6A state final. Blount is one of six starters returning for Pines Charter, which will try to make it four trips in a row.
Blount hit .455 last year and saved her best for the playoffs, hitting .591 in those games.
She also struck out 181 batters and compiled an ERA of 0.54.
Blount leads a squad that must make up for the loss of All-County first-team infielder Courtney Dart and All-State catcher Jamie Gonzalez.
Senior first baseman Sophia Devesa also had a good postseason and should give the Jaguars the experience they need to navigate a tough schedule and potentially tough playoff road that will once again include rising Miami-Dade power Doral Academy.
St. Thomas Aquinas, winners of back-to-back Class 7A titles, will face the biggest challenge among the county’s defending state champions.
The Raiders must replace seven starters including star pitcher Meghan King as well as catcher Gwen Svekis and shortstop Rachel Collins.
But Aquinas, which won last year’s BCAA Big 8 title with eight players out while attending their school prom, is used to defying the odds.
Senior Jill Healy, who hit the game-winning home run in that championship win over Cooper City, will start at shortstop. Juniors Brianna Stella, Brooke Stock and Thais Gonzalez will lead a strong infield, with Stella also playing sometimes in the outfield along with junior Sydney Barron.
Pitching will be the key as Stock and sophomore Olivia Saviskas hope to make up for the loss of King, who went 15-2 with 176 strikeouts and a 0.31 ERA a year ago.
American Heritage should have no problem dealing strikeouts again this season. The Patriots return their 1-2 pitching punch in junior Madison Canby and senior Jenna Goodrich as they hope to repeat, coming off last year’s dramatic Class 5A state championship run.
Heritage lost some pop in infielders Gianna Arrizurieta and Ashley Belans but hope junior Melissa Rini and sophomore Brooke Langston will fill in capably.
Cooper City, a longtime contender, might have what it takes to get back to state this season in Class 8A.
The Cowboys return sophomore pitcher Kara Lokeinsky (16-4, 0.64 ERA in 2014), who is considered one of the strongest in the state. Along with a talented core group, Cooper City should contend with Cypress Bay, West Broward, Miami Coral Reef and Miami Palmetto for a spot at state in Vero Beach.
March 5-6: Speedball Classic.
March 12-14: SlamFest tournament.
March 26-28: Kissimmee Klassic.
April 6-10: BCAA Big 8 championship.
April 13-17: District tournaments.
April 22-23: Regional quarterfinals.
April 28: Regional semifinals.
May 1: Regional finals.
May 6-9: State finals at Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach.
2014 STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 8A: Valrico Bloomingdale; 7A: Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas; 6A: Pembroke Pines Charter; 5A: Plantation American Heritage; 4A: West Florida; 3A: Miami Westminster Christian; 2A: St. Petersburg Canterbury; 1A: Chiefland.
PRESEASON TOP-10 TEAMS
1. American Heritage; 2. Pines Charter; 3. Cooper City; 4. St. Thomas Aquinas; 5. Cypress Bay; 6. Coral Springs Charter; 7. Western; 8. West Broward; 9. Douglas; 10. South Plantation; On the rise: Miramar, McArthur, Taravella.
TOP 20 RETURNING PLAYERS
P Claire Blount, Pines Charter, Jr.; P Madison Camby, American Heritage, Jr.; P Linette Flores, University School, Sr.; P Jenna Goodrich, American Heritage, Sr.; P Kara Lokeinsky, Cooper City, So.; P Ally Muraskin, Coral Springs Charter, So.; 1B Brianna Stella, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.; 1B Jessica Trana, South Plantation, Sr.; 2B Thais Gonzalez, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.; SS Jill Healy, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.; SS Megan Obier, West Broward, Sr.; P-3B Brooke Stock, St. Thomas Aquinas, Jr.; INF Meagan Lantz, North Broward Prep, Sr.; C Olivia Gott, Cypress Bay, Sr.; OF Lexi DiEmmanuelle, Cypress Bay, Sr.; OF Grasy Gomez, Pines Charter, So.; OF Casey Huber, Coral Springs Charter, Sr.; OF Kayla Scaperotta, Coral Springs Charter, Jr.; OF Jackie Yao, Chaminade, Sr.; UT Chelsea Brown, Westminster Academy, 8th.
OTHERS TO WATCH
3B Stefany Collins, Monarch, Sr.; 1B Sophia Devesa, Pines Charter, Sr.; SS-P Reanne Drayton, Miramar, So.; P-INF Paige Fairchild, Coral Springs Charter, Jr.; SS Skylar Fairchild, Coral Springs Charter, Jr.; OF-1B Sommer Grzybek, Cooper City, Jr.; INF Brooke Langston, American Heritage, So.; 1B Katie Peterson, Douglas, Sr.; 3B Julia Ramos, Pines Charter, So.; INF Melissa Rini, American Heritage, Jr.; SS Samantha Williams, North Broward Prep, Jr.
NOTE: For complete team-by-team outlooks, visit our High School Sports page at MiamiHerald.com/sports.
Andre C. Fernandez
COOPER CITY (Coach Phil Schmalz, 7th year, 108-58): Last year: 20-7 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: P Kara Lokeinsky, So.; OF-1B Sommer Grzybek, Jr.; OF-2B Grace Gonzalez, Jr.; 1B-C Lindsey Olivares, Sr.; UT Katie Thompson, So.; 3B-SS Shannon Legacki, Sr.
DOUGLAS (Coach Brian Staubly, 5th year MSD, 16th overall, 132-58): Last year: 19-8 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: 1B Katie Peterson, Sr.; CF Kayla Boyle, Sr.; SS Jessica England, Sr.; C Madison Sack, Sr.
MCARTHUR (Coach Yaritza Rodriguez, 1st year): Last year: Regional semifinalist. Top players: P Kaycee Mansfield, Sr.; 3B Kiarra Felciano, Sr.; C Alexis Talley, Jr.; P Janice Gomez, Jr.; SS Aida Rodriguez, Jr.; 2B Britney Purser, So.; CF Aida Baez, So.; SS Kelby Drew, Fr.; C Samantha Izquierdo, Fr.; C Rosemary Barriento, Fr.
MIRAMAR (Coach John Lamb, 8th year): Last year: 20-5. Top players: SS-P Reanne Drayton, So.; P-UT Brianna Lamb, So.; 3B-C-1B Amanda Lopez, So.; C Crystal McDuffy, Sr.; 3B-2B-OF Alexus Gonzalez, So.; OF-1B Halima Abdullah, Fr.; OF-2B Gabriella Carter, Fr.
SOUTH PLANTATION (Coach Robyn Handler, 12th year at SP, 22nd overall, 428-185): Last year: 15-8. Top players: P-1B Jessica Trana, Sr.; OF-C Katelynn Bresler, Sr.; SS McKenna Delaware, Sr.; 2B Hannah Flynn, Sr.; P-1B Emma Maitland, Jr.; 3B Tabatha Hirsch, Jr.
WEST BROWARD (Coach Greg Hodges, 5th year, 50-16): Last year: 18-6 (Regional finalist). Top players: SS Megan Obier, Sr.; P Shaienne Demeriuex, Jr.; INF Jessica Angel, Sr.; OF Alyssa Prinzo, Jr.; OF Hannah Zucccari, Jr.; OF Lauren Sakowitz, Jr.
MONARCH (Coach Tom Popovics, 6th year at Mon, 26th overall): Last year: 21-5 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: 3B Stefany Collins, Sr.; OF Sarah Goldman, So.; OF Victoria Alonzo, Jr.; OF Ashley Rohloff, Jr.; P-SS Brooke Hale, Jr.; C Aubrey McNulty, So.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach Bryan Baucom, 22nd year, 489-94): Last year: 30-2 (State champions). Top players: SS Jill Healy, Sr.; OF-1B Brianna Stella, Jr.; 2B Thais Gonzalez, Jr.; P-3B Brooke Stock, Jr.; OF Sydney Barron, Jr.; P Olivia Saviskas, So.
PINES CHARTER (Coach Tom Fadul, 16th year, 308-71-3): Last year: 22-6-1 (State champions). Top players: P Claire Blount, Jr.; 1B Sophia Devesa, Sr.; CF Grasy Gomez, So.; 3B Julia Ramos, So.
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Marty Cooper): Last year: State champions. Top players: P Madison Canby, Jr.; P-1B Jenna Goodrich, Sr.; UT Melissa Rini, Jr.; INF Brooke Langston, So.
CALVARY CHRISTIAN (Coach Mindy Cintron Watson, 1st year): Last year: 8-11. Top players: C Tina Diebel, Jr.; SS-2B Jalynn Jurich, Sr.; P Camryn Chang, So.; SS-2B Mia Veliz, Fr.; 1B-3B Alyssa Nance, Sr.; 1B Brooke Slade, Sr.
CHAMINADE (Coach Glenn Ikalina, 3rd year at CM, 95-22): Last year: 19-5. Top players: LF Jackie Yao, Sr.; SS Dana DeFalco, So.; C-OF Cecila Siegel, So.; C-1B Danielle MacMurdo, Sr.; 3B-1B Kimberly Paulino, So.; CF Megan Sorg, So.; 2B Becky Gillis, So.; P-OF Lexi Patalano, Jr.
CORAL SPRINGS CHARTER (Coach Mark Montimurro, 3rd year at CSC, 18th overall): Last year: 18-6 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: P Ally Muraskin, So.; SS Skylar Fairchild, Jr.; OF Kayla Scaperrotta, Jr.; P-INF Paige Fairchild, Sr.; INF Barbara Vega, Jr.; OF Casey Huber, Sr.
NORTH BROWARD PREP (Coach Kerry Kaser, 5th year): Last year: Regional semifinalist. Top players: 3B Meagan Lantz, Sr.; P-OF Amber VanHemel, Sr.; SS Samantha Williams, Jr.; C-OF Sydney Behr, Jr.
PINE CREST (Coach Mike Thompson, 7th year at PC, 11th overall, 77-78): Last year: 4-18. Top players: 3B Samantha Restrepo, 8th; P Taylor Estape, Sr.; SS Nicole Kone, Fr.; 1B Meredith Kava, Sr.; P-INF Allison Silitski, So.; OF Katherine Poppiti, So.
WESTMINSTER ACADEMY (Coach Casey Jarvis, 6th year): Last year: 17-4 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: INF Chelsea Brown, 8th; INF-C Maddi Conner, Fr.; OF Micaela Von Essen, Sr.; P-INF Jaime Davis, 6th; C-INF Brantley Taylor, Sr.; INF Kiersten Casey, Jr.