CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- South Charleston Coach Bobby Catlett and the Black Eagles softball team couldn't be more excited and anxious for the season to begin.
That's because South Charleston returns Alli Burdette, one of the state's best players.
As a junior last season, Burdette was named All-Kanawha Valley Player of the Year after leading the area with 256 strikeouts - almost 100 strikeouts ahead of Herbert Hoover's Allison Rager (163). Burdette also led the Valley with a 0.78 earned run average.
"It's great to have the player of the year back," Catlett said. "She led the area in strikeouts and nobody was even close. She is a tough one to face and I'm glad she is on the mound for me. It's an added bonus that she was the batting average leader (.397) on the team.
"She's got about all of the pitches. She can throw a fastball, changeup, curve, screw, drop, and rise. She has already signed and committed to play at Division I Elon in North Carolina. They are getting a good one."
South Charleston also welcomes back three starters in senior outfielders Meredith Cain and Kayli Hudson, and junior catcher Mckenzie Catlett - the coach's daughter.
"It's great to have them back," Catlett said. "We expect to get good leadership from them and guide the young players in the right direction. Mckenzie is solid behind the plate and has a good bond together with Alli. Cain will get us some runs across and Hudson is always in the right spot."
Catlett expects big things as well from junior left fielder Kaylee Stanley, senior designated hitter Aaliyan Phillips and sophomore first baseman Jazmine Martin.
The Black Eagles also bring in a solid freshman class to the mix. Nine rookies enter the program, including Madison Pauley, Emily Bostic, Amanda McDonald, Bailey Bennett, Emily Givens and Olivia Orcutt
Winfield - Coach Kelly Montgomery gets her first coaching job this season for the Generals, but brings an extensive background in the sport to the program.
Montgomery played at Ripley (1994-98) and at the University of Charleston.
Winfield welcomes back several key players, most of which are underclassman.
Winfield's top two returning hitters are sophomores after enjoying solid seasons as freshmen.
"As a coach, you always want to build for the future," Montgomery said. "We have some younger players but they are very talented. We are looking for good things for the future."
Sophomores Kenna Markham (.417) and Katie Legg (.397) return to lead the Generals.
"Kenna will be my first baseman and play center field," Montgomery said. "She played first base most of the time but tends to play center field in travel ball. That gives me some good options. Her bat is always solid.