Naming the state's perennial softball powerhouses is easy.

But predicting which of those teams might turn out to contend for a title — or if it will be a newcomer — is much more difficult this season.

"To be really honest, I don't even know," said Bingham head coach Mikki Jackson, when asked what to expect from this season. "With us in a new region, it's just a whole different feel. It's all new to us."

The Miners were not voted No. 1 in preseason polls, but they've taken over the top spot thanks to consistently good play.

She said the players worked hard in the offseason which gave them confidence that has only continued to evolve as the season's progressed.

"The team is growing in themselves, learning what they're capable of," said Jackson. "As they do so, they continue to set higher standards for themselves. They've ccomplished things I don't think they thought they could do."

The Miners are led by junior pitcher Paige Reimann, senior pitcher Keagan Hanny, Shae Ibrahim, Whitney Littledike, Dakota McDaniel and Danielle Soffe.

Syracuse was voted the preseason No. 1 for good reason. Returning pitcher Taylor Tann is back in the circle for the Titans, and she finished the season with a .467 batting average. Junior Courtney Starks, who helped the basketball team to a 5A title and undefeated season, returns as a first baseman and outfield.

"We return five starters from last year's team, and if our young players grow up, we could contend for a region title," said head coach Kelly Anderson.

The Titans have struggled through a tough preseason, but should be in the mix come playoff time. Jackson said the team that wins the title may just be the team with the best pitching staff.

"I keep looking at it, and I think it's going to team that has the best pitching," she said. "I think pitching is holding back some of the teams that have capabilities but not really a consistent pitcher."

That's why Weber was voted into the top five, and has stayed there with a 10-0 preseason record — pitcher McKenna Bull.

"You have to put respect there," said Jackson.

Some of the other teams that will likely compete are Layton, Hunter, Copper Hills, Davis, Lone Peak and Riverton.

"We have many returning players who will play a major role in our team's success," said Riverton head coach Emily Bateman.

Alta has broken into the top five thanks to solid pitching by Ashley Kay. The team has key contributions from Maylen Ames, Ivy Cantwell, McKenzie Dangerfield and Jamie Fidler.

4A

Roy may have lost Ms. Softball, MaCauley Flint, but coaches clearly feel they'll be in the mix for another state title with the play of Jamie Aiken, Jordynn Barrera, Bryce Mitchell, Payton Palmer and Caylie Phelts.

"We should be strong and talented," said Royals head coach Mandy Koford. "Lots of offense and a good defense."

Murray enjoys veteran leadership and hopes to improve on its second-place finish in 5A last year. The team is led by senior pitcher Elise Johnson, senior Nicole Durfey, sophomore Kayla Durfey, and sophomore outfielder Emily Adams.

Mountain Crest was voted No. 3 in preseason polls, but the Mustangs have already earned some impressive preseason wins.

Head coach Mike Anderson said the team is hungry to challenge Roy for that region title after finishing third in the state last year. He believes playing in the same region as perennial powers Roy, Box Elder and Bonneville will prepare them well for postseason challenges.

The Mustangs return junior pitcher Jordan Smith, junior Kenzie Rasmussen, junior Tessa Sorensen and senior Jerika Knight.

Salem Hills has taken over the No. 1 ranking thanks to some impressive wins. Maple Mountain, Bonneville, Box Elder, Bountiful, Clearfield, Westlake Skyline, Olympus and Cyprus could all be contenders this spring.

3A

Four-time state champion Bear River was understandably voted No. 1 in preseason polls.

Part of the reason other coaches expect the perennial powerhouse to be in the mix again this season is the return of last year's 3A MVP — pitcher Jordan Theurer. The Bears will also get quality pitching from Bekah Wheatley. Tyree Haramoto, Shaunie Owen and Erin Fox will all help the Bears contend.

"If (Jordan's) not the best pitcher, she's one of the best," said Spanish Fork head coach Don Andrews.

Spanish Fork was voted No. 2 by coaches, likely because the former 4A powerhouse could compete in any classification.

"We're still figuring things out," said Andrews. "But we'll play wherever they put us."

The Dons return five of the state's best players — pitcher Kailey Christensen, shortstop Kelli Hales, outfielder Kylee Wolf, third baseman Sydney Butler, and second baseman McKinley Brinkerhoff.

Juan Diego has already beaten some tough teams from 4A and 5A, although they stumbled in their first region outing against Wasatch. The Soaring Eagle returns seniors Presley Whetman, Tori Glen, Erin Fitzpatrick and Alexandria Dornbier.

Snow Canyon, Canyon View, Desert Hills, Grantsville, Tooele, Pine View, Stansbury, North Sanpete, and Juab could all be in the mix come playoff time.

2A

Manti was voted No. 1 in preseason rankings, which was a bit of surprise as they return just two starters.

The Templars struggled through a tough preseason, but they are undefeated thus far in region play thanks to the leadership of the team's two seniors — Abby Hatch and Ali Rosquist.

Head coach Susan Hatch acknowledges the team is young. But what they lack in experience, they make up for in effort.

"(We have) a solid group of young players that are eager and ready to fill their varsity positions," she said. "Manti will have four pitchers that will help the team out this year with sophomores Kali Thomson, Lizzy Palmer, Takisha McFarlane, and Abby Hatch."

San Juan was voted No. 2 despite losing just two players from last year's state championship team. Among those returning are L'Sha Eledredge, Brooke Lyman, Jolene Kirk, Juanita Royer, Justin Hutchins and Teasha Jacobsen.

Enterprise should be in the mix again, even after losing five seniors from last year's team. Key contributors are Summer Terry, shortstop, Dakota Robinson, and Jaycee Reber.

"We're young, but good," said Wolves head coach Duane Wallin. "Great feeder program, won our region, finished third in state, and we're looking to repeat that success."

The Gunnison Bulldogs return 10 players and look to improve on last year's 11-win season. They are led by senior shortstop Sara Brown, junior Morgan Overly and sophomore Whitney Hansen.

"I think if our team can stay healthy, we will have a good shot at making a little noise and meeting our team goals," said head coach Tyson Brackett.

Emery, Grand, South Summit, Millard, South Sevier and Parowan could all contend for 2A's top prize.

email: adonaldson@desnews.com

Preseason rankings

5A

1. Syracuse; 2. Bingham; 3. Taylorsville; 4. Riverton; 5. Weber

4A

1. Roy; 2. Murray; 3. Mountain Crest; 4. Bountiful; 5. Salem Hills

3A

1. Bear River; 2. Spanish Fork; 3. Tooele; 4. Snow Canyon; 5. Juan Diego

2A

1. Manti; 2. San Juan; 3. Enterprise; 4. South Sevier; 5. GunnisonPreseason rankings

5A

1. Syracuse; 2. Bingham; 3. Taylorsville; 4. Riverton; 5. Weber

4A

1. Roy; 2. Murray; 3. Mountain Crest; 4. Bountiful; 5. Salem Hills

3A

1. Bear River; 2. Spanish Fork; 3. Tooele; 4. Snow Canyon; 5. Juan Diego

2A

1. Manti; 2. San Juan; 3. Enterprise; 4. South Sevier; 5. Gunnison