It is softball’s timeless truism. Dominant pitching wins. An honest-to-goodness ace can make even a small lead seem insurmountable. Some of the talent on the hill is gone. Pinellas Park’s Sara Nevins, the St. Petersburg Times’ 2010 pitcher of the year, has graduated. But there still are teams with powerful pitchers who can vault a team to a title. East Lake’s Alyssa Bache is at the top of the list. A four-year starter, Bache struck out 220 batters and led the Eagles to the state final four. Then there are teams that have arms aplenty. Canterbury, which made the Class A state championship game, has three quality pitchers it can count on this season.
Top returning pitchers
1. Alyssa Bache, East Lake: Florida signee had a 0.57 ERA and led Eagles to state semifinals last season.
2. Taylor Sabol, Palm Harbor U.: Her impressive stats last season included a 21-3 record, 143 strikeouts and 1.11 ERA.
3. Mallory Allen, Boca Ciega: Breakout season helped the Pirates to their first playoff appearance since 2004.
4. Jessica Anderson, Northside Christian: Solid pitcher also can produce big numbers at the plate.
5. Krissy Longstreet, Canterbury: Most experienced pitcher on a team that has state title aspirations.
6. Kristy Fudge, St. Petersburg Catholic: Assumes role as team ace with Chloe Saganowich graduating.
7. Emily Winesett, Canterbury: Teams with Longstreet on one of the county’s deepest staffs.
Top returning position players
1. Ayanna Andrews, Countryside: The LSU signee stole 45 bases and hit .635 last season.
2. Sydney Dinelli, East Lake: USF signee hit .400 and led team with 25 RBIs last season.
3. Hayley Davis, East Lake: UAB recruit scored 20 runs and had 18 RBIs.
4. Sammy Martin, Pinellas Park: Team’s top returning hitter had 24 RBIs and 20 runs scored.
5. Madison Saganowich, St. Petersburg Catholic: The Barons counted on her for a lot of key hits last season.
6. Samantha McCloskey, Clearwater Central Catholic: The Marauders’ best player will be counted on to make plays in the field and at the plate.
7. Tiffany Race, Seminole: She will be counted on for leadership with the Warhawks getting hit hard by graduation.
Class 6A, District 7
Countryside, North Port, Palm Harbor University, Sarasota, Sarasota Riverview, St. Petersburg
Outlook: The Hurricanes, led by Sabol, Moriah Connolly and Megan Copeland, have the best lineup and should make the playoffs again.
Class 5A, District 11
Clearwater, Dunedin, East Lake, Seminole, Tarpon Springs
Outlook: The Eagles have a veteran team with five players who have signed to play in college.
Class 5A, District 12
Boca Ciega, Gibbs, Largo, Northeast, Pinellas Park
Outlook: With former Pinellas Park standout Sara Nevins now at USF, this district is wide open.
Class 4A, District 10
Bradenton Bayshore, Braden River, Dixie Hollins, Lakewood, Lakewood Ranch, Osceola, Palmetto
Outlook: The Warriors have talent to contend for a postseason berth.
Class 3A, District 10
Academy of the Holy Names, Berkeley Prep, Clearwater Central Catholic, St. Petersburg Catholic, Tampa Catholic
Outlook: The Barons and Marauders will be among the top three teams by the end of the season.
Class 2A, District 10
Bishop McLaughlin, Brooks-DeBartolo, Calvary Christian, Indian Rocks Christian, Tampa Prep
Outlook: The Golden Eagles have enough firepower to be a contender.
Class 2A, District 11
Admiral Farragut, Northside Christian, Sarasota Out-of-Door, Bradenton St. Stephen’s, Shorecrest
Outlook: Led by Anderson, the Mustangs will again be near the top of the standings.
Class A, District 9
Academy at the Lakes, Cambridge, Canterbury, Carrollwood Day, Lakeside Christian, Tampa Bay Christian
Outlook: The Crusaders have the pitching to get back to the state tournament — and win.
For the fans
Regular season: The first regular-season games were played Monday. A team may not play more than 25 games, including tournaments.
Playoffs: District tournaments are April 18-22. The 16 district winners and 16 runnersup from each classification advance to the regional tournaments, which begin April 26. The final four teams from each of six classifications advance to the state tournament May 9-14 in Clermont.