Coming off a winter season where both the Berkshire League boys and girls basketball races went down to the wire, it looks like the softball season is going to follow suit.
Terryville and Northwestern were considered the league favorites when the season started a little over a week ago and they do remain among the teams to beat, but it looks like they will have plenty of company in the battle for the top spot in the BL.
Lewis Mills, Nonnewaug and Thomaston all have looked capable of challenging the Kangaroos and Highlanders early on this season and it seems inevitable that the race will come down to the final few games.
Terryville has played for the last two State Class S titles and should be in the mix again this season for another deep run in the playoffs. Coach Stephanie Konopaske's team went 21-3 last season, falling to Hale Ray in the state title game after winning the crown in 2010.
Junior pitcher Jamie Bridge was an All-League and All-State selection a year ago and makes the Kangaroos go.
Junior shortstop Anna DuPaul and junior first baseman Kristina Hull are two more key returners for Terryville, which is off to a 3-2 start early this season.
One of Terryville's losses this season came to Northwestern in a tense 1-0 battle. The teams were BL Co-champs past season.
The Highlanders went 19-3 last season and are led by the pitching duo of Kim Newkirk and Brittany Martel, who both also play in the outfield. Northwestern (3-1) dropped its season opener to Granby of the NCCC, 13-6, but has rebounded to outscore its last three opponents 25-5.
A rematch with Terryville in May and two games against Lewis Mills loom large on Northwestern's schedule and will have a lot to do with who comes out on top in the league.
Speaking of the Spartans, coach Dave Bohmer's team is off to a 4-0 start to the season and is looking to improve on last year's 12-9 mark.
Sophomore pitcher Amy Powers is one of the keys for Mills along with captains Mariah McCann and Falisia Murphy.
The lone unbeaten left in the BL, Lewis Mills has been cranking up the offense so far this season. The Spartans scored 54 runs in their first four games and it appears that some hard work put in during the preseason is paying off.
"We worked really hard on putting the ball in play leading into this season," Bohmer said. "Last season we played solid defense but lacked that offensive punch. This year we have a lot of weapons, we can hit the long ball, we have slappers, we can bunt. We should be strong, we lost a couple key players and have a very young team, just one senior, But we're going to be competitive."
Coach Bohmer tabbed Terryville and Northwestern as the teams to beat, with his Spartans, Nonnewaug and Wamogo as teams that will be heard from.
Shut down by Lewis Mills, 11-2, in the season opener for both teams, Nonnewaug responded by winning its next two games by a combined 28-2.
The Chiefs, 14-7 last season, are led by shortstop Caitlin Drakeley, outfielder Annie DiStasi and first baseman Shannon Kimberly.
"I expect us to be at least where we were last season, we were right behind the two leaders last season and we should be right in it this season," Nonnewaug coach Kat Parlato said. "Our hitting should be our strength, we were able to hit the ball well in our scrimmages and I expect that to be a strong suit for us this year."
Gilbert is coming off a 10-11 season and coach Mark Douglass will be looking to carry his hoops success over to the diamond after leading the Yellowjackets to the boys BL Tournament title.
Senior infielder Courtney Hoxie is the Yellowjackets captain and will be counted on heavily this season as will third baseman Rachel Wendell and outfielders Mackenzie Russo, Shannon Tuozzo and Carissa Tuozzo.
There is plenty of time to turn things around but Wamogo is off to a slow start this season and was 1-4 after five games with losses to both Terryville and Northwestern.
Senior shortstop Kerri Stolle was first-team All-BL and All-State last season and is coach Scott Marcucio's top returner from a team that went 12-9 last season.
Pitcher Brooke Bittel and outfielder Megan Layman were both second-team All-BL selections a year ago and are back as well for the Warriors.
Thomaston won three of its first four under first-year coach Gene Torrence and looks like it will be a contender this season in the BL.
The Bears will start at least six juniors this season and are looking to build off an 11-10 season a year ago.
Housatonic won 10 games last season and welcomes back seven starters. Senior shortstop Jaime Conklin leads the returning group and is a two-time All-BL first team player.
Coach Ben Storrs is in his second season at Litchfield and hopes to see his Cowgirls improve on a 3-win campaign last year. Tri-captains Shelby Butwell, Kirby Bunnell and Eve Mergenthaler are among the top returners.
Shepaug is in the same boat as Litchfield in that the Spartans are looking to build on a 3-win season. The job might be a little tougher for coach Steve Pickett as he enters his fourth season with just one returning senior in captain Brittany Hartman.
The Berkshire league regular season is scheduled to end May 23rd and among that days games are Mills at Terryville, Northwestern at Shepaug and Gilbert at Nonnewaug. There is a good chance that one or more of those games will have a bearing on the league title race. And after the way the hoops season kept us on the edge of our seats, one can only hope.