Defending champions Ramstein and Patch open the high school softball season this weekend with loaded lineups.

Both will have two returning first-team All-European players and a second-teamer in their lineups when they take on nonconference opponents at home.

For two-time defending Division I champion Ramstein, those all-stars are pitcher/shortstop Victoria Apodaca (4-1, 3.33 ERA; .475 batting average), first baseman Heather Steele (.458 BA) and third baseman Mara Groom (.425 BA).

For first-year head coach C.J. Lalau of Division II champion Patch, the All-Europeans are pitcher/catcher Kasy’e Lalau (91 strikeouts, .581 BA), second baseman Elisa Nieves (.585 BA) and pitcher/first baseman Lauren Sanchez (.625 BA). Coach Lalau, an assistant last season, replaces Billy Henry, a Marine who was transferred to Guantanamo, Cuba, last summer.

For Kent Grosshuesch, at least, the bounty doesn’t end with the top three. Grosshuesch says he has three promising freshmen — Kayla Haven, Lisa Domingo and Jessica Apodaca — who are pushing for varsity status.

For the rest of the six Division I schools, the name of the game is catch-up.

Lakenheath, the only school other than Ramstein to have won a European Division I crown, can call on second-team All-Europe first baseman Morgan Parkerson, who batted .402 last season, and all-conference shortstop Ashley Lariviere. But coach John Gilmore’s squad was gutted by graduation and transfers.

Heidelberg’s Al Simoncic will rely on all-conference pitcher Brittany Clark and first baseman Cassandra Pope, but he lost four-year catcher Carissa Beach.

Returnees Kordia Holmes, Megan Puls, Keisha Brooks and Megan Hendrix carry the colors for Juanita Johnson-Archie’s Würzburg Lady Wolves. In contrast, Candie Lopez’s Wiesbaden Lady Warriors lost its top player when its tourney star, All-Europe pitcher Melissa Mueller, graduated.

Except for Patch, lineup holes are the story for the other four Division II schools.

Bitburg’s Lady Barons, who saw their string of four straight Division II titles ended by Patch last season, return second-team All-Europe pitcher Ashley Kazimer (3-0, 2.10 ERA). But coach Dan Vasquez has just one infield returnee, second baseman Olivia Eschborn, after moving third baseman Monica Bintz to catcher.

Division III features just four schools — Division III champ London Central, Alconbury, Baumholder and Giessen — that play a regular season. They are joined at tournament time, by Lajes, Rota and, this season, Sigonella.

All-Europe first-team shortstop Carly Bascom, who batted .600 and hit eight home runs last year as a freshman, will anchor Alconbury; catcher Shawntae Price (.606) will do the same for Baumholder.

Conference play begins March 26, with all teams advancing to the European I, II and III events at Ramstein May 19-21.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now