South Granville won the N.C. High School Athletic Association 2A state championship, the school’s eighth in the sport, and returns three All-Metro selections.
The Vikings’ team batting average was .467 last season and they bring back most of their lineup.
Last year’s final N&O top 15
1. South Granville (23-2): Sophomore Megan White (.571) drove in 57 runs and hit 10 homers, and junior Hunter Mundy (.494, nine HRs) was the title series MVP. Junior Miranda Barker, the 2A East pitcher of the year, had a 0.87 ERA. Savannah Tilley (.477) and Abbie Colclough (.456) also return.
2. Apex (20-6): 4A East runners-up bring back senior pitcher Julia Cerasi (1.93 ERA), first baseman Olivia Chiarolanzio ( .308) and catcher Kaitlyn Long ( .459, 29 RBIs). Coach Dana Higgins takes over for the retired Bonnie Hodge.
3. Bunn (21-3): The Wildcats swept South Granville in the regular season before losing both 2A East final games to the Vikings. Senior pitcher Erica Davis had a 1.14 ERA and classmates Stephanie Williams hit .528 and Charlotte Murphy .516.
4. Harnett Central (18-3): Greater Neuse 4A champion Trojans fell in the fourth round to eventual state champ D.H. Conley in extra innings. Central is led by junior pitcher Searria Fisher ( .500, 1.20 ERA) and seniors Brittany Clark (.500) and Jordan Mangum (.344).
5. Heritage (20-4): Senior shortstop Jordan Gontram drove in 46 runs and hit .550 for the co-Cap-8 4A champs. Third baseman Laura Sales hit .405.
6. Lee County (21-4): Co-Cape Fear Valley 3A champ was led by juniors Whitney Sanford (123 strikeouts) shortstop Jacie Arrington (.568, 33 RBIs) and Tessa Wilson (.421, 39 RBIs). Caroline Wilson, Morgan Pedley (1.47 ERA) and Savannah Patterson round out a strong senior class that reached the fourth round last year.
7. Middle Creek (16-2): The Mustangs, the 4A East runners-up in 2014, are led by Coastal Carolina recruit Devin Wallace. She leads the way hitting ( .528, 23 RBIs) and pitching (9-1, 0.73 ERA). Lily Morris (.264) and Wallace are both four-year starters.
8. Wake Forest (19-2): The always-dangerous Cougars, who won a share of the Cap-8 4A, are led by senior Chelsea Cunningham, the team’s top pitcher who also hit .475.
9. Cardinal Gibbons (18-1): Sophomore pitcher Clare Zureich (14-1, 0.44 ERA, 188 strikeouts) and the Crusaders move up to 4A and should be favorites in the PAC-6. Kassidy Wood, Elizabeth Pedersen (.557, 27 stolen bases), Emmy Allen are the leading hitters coming back.
10. Jordan-Matthews (25-1): Led by senior pitcher Holly Clark, the 2014 N&O player of the year, the Jets are a threat to return to the title series. They were 2A runners-up in 2014 and fell to South Granville in the third round. Catcher Dee Decristofaro, outfielder Caroline Webster and first baseman Marshall Phillips give the Jets a strong lineup.
11. Fuquay-Varina (14-6): Western Carolina recruit Ashlyn Long ( .408) is a three-time all-conference selection. Pitcher Cassidy Keith will be supported by a lineup that cranked out 17 home runs last year thanks to Hayden Parker, Brianna Smith and Cathan Soto (.327), among others.
12. South Johnston (14-8): The Trojans bring back senior McKinley Johnson (.408) and Lily Allen (.365), and junior Reagan Byrd (.358) from a team that made it to the third round.
13. Princeton (17-5): Senior pitcher Hailey Wood had two perfect games and a 0.56 ERA. The Bulldogs graduated two players and return junior Beth Braswell (.375).
14. Triton (13-9): The Hawks, co-Two Rivers 3A champs, bring back junior Annie Tyndall (.512) and senior Lindsey Champion ( .431, 1.93 ERA) to a team that reached the third round.
15. Granville Central (17-3): The Panthers bring back their four of their top five hitters: junior Taylor Freeman, senior Taylor Bailey, junior Logan Taylor and senior Kaitlyn Bowman.
More teams to watch
Carrboro (13-9): Returning four sluggers in Paige Watson (.565), Kaylie Lane (.530), Cameron Blumhardt (.436) and Myasia Jarrett (.417).
East Wake (11-7): Had just one senior on last year’s team.
Franklinton (8-10): The Red Rams return almost everyone including junior Summer Jacobs (.472), Shelby Brown (.417), Alissa Burnett (.396) and Hayley Poole (.393).
Green Hope (10-9): Kameron Phillips (batted .396), Shae Condon (.375), Cameron Cook (.314) and junior pitcher Katelyn Ellard return.
J.F. Webb (16-8): Only graduated one player from last season.
Louisburg (17-5): Juniors Jessie Whitley (.431, 48 stolen bases) and Arianna Fuller-Bell (0.40 ERA, 80 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings) lead the way.
Millbrook (12-9): Nichole Mooney and Emiley Burriss each hit .375.
Northwood (16-7): The Chargers were young but talented, led by Kayli Blankenship (.439), Carson Shaner (.333) and Anna Jasper (1.40 ERA, 133 strikeouts).
Orange (11-7): Senior Montana Davidson hit .426 last year and junior Mia Davidson’s .729 (with 11 home runs) ranks among the best ever.
Panther Creek (10-11): The core of last year’s group that made it to the third round as the 30-seed returns: junior catcher Rachel Johnson ( .385, 19 RBIs), junior shortstop Sarah Aukamp, sophomore outfielder Julia Barrineau and junior Sarah Aukamp.
Rolesville (9-12): Made the playoffs with no seniors and gave Conley a fight, falling 4-2. The Rams are led by junior Madison Taylor (hit .443, 1.60 ERA) and Mercades Torres (.431).
Wakefield (11-8): Senior second baseman Erin Fox hit over the .600 mark while shortstop Amanda Dacunto was around .550.
Person (11-4): Miranda Davis batted .559 for the co-PAC-6 4A champion Rockets while Kailee Clayton, hit .450. Kaitlyn Sullivan was limited to nine games but had a 0.29 ERA.
Individuals to watch
Kelly Bright, Jr., Cary Academy: Batted .653 with 36 RBIs.
Katie Characklis, Soph., East Chapel Hill: Hit .500 with 22 RBIs and four triples for 11-6 Wildcats.
Kristina D’Arco, Soph., Garner: Hit .409 for the 6-10 Trojans.
Melanie Darges, Jr., Athens Drive: UNC Greensboro recruit batted .356.
Taylor Drayton, Sr., Cleveland: Hit .449 with 1.44 ERA for 14-6 Rams.
Erica Hayes, Sr., Cary: Western Carolina recruit.
Haley Knight, Soph., Union Pines: Batted .390 for 9-13 Vikings.
McKenzie McCullen, Soph., Northern Durham: Hit .537 with 23 RBIs for co-PAC-6 4A champs and held a 1.99 ERA in 38 2/3 innings.
Megan Mills, Sr., West Johnston: The 2014 N&O All-Metro selection leads the 14-5 Wildcats.
Nicole Mitchell, Jr., Sanderson: Hit .477 for 2-15 Spartans.
Hannah Ryan, Jr., Clayton: Was the leading hitter and pitcher on 14-7 Comets.
Grace Sherron, Soph., Roxboro Community: Batted .486 for the 11-3 Bulldogs.
Andrea Wearing, Jr., Enloe: Hit .393 for 3-16 Eagles.
Brittany West, Sr., Southern Vance: North Carolina recruit batted .583 for 8-9 Raiders.
Kendall Williams, Sr., N.C. School of Science and Math: Batted .600.