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The high school softball season — which will begin Saturday afternoon, provided anyone can find a playable field after the recent snow and rain — will see 12 teams begin their quest for European titles.

That is one more — Rota — than the number that will compete during the regular season. Würzburg, which had been expected to compete in the combined Divisioin II/III league, scrubbed its program Wednesday because of a lack of players.

“One day I would have nine players, then seven players and then back to nine,” Würzburg coach Juanita Johnson-Archie wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “I guess that’s just the pinch at a small school.”

Würzburg’s exit, and the elevation of traditional D-II power Patch to Division I, leaves only five schools contesting the II/III league crown — defending Small Schools champion Baumholder, defending D-II champ Bitburg and Mannheim in Germany, and London Central and Alconbury in the U.K. Six teams will compete in Division I.

Rota will make the trip from Spain to join in the May 16-19 tournament in Ramstein. It will visit the U.K. on April 28 for games against Alconbury and London Central, giving those teams a break from playing each other every weekend until tournament time.

London Central coach Duke Eidt, however, doesn’t envision monotony setting in for his Bobcats, the last girls team in school history.

“Our girls are just glad to be getting a chance to compete,” he said.

London Central and a youthful Alconbury squad will get plenty of competition at the Europeans, where they’ll go against the likes of Bitburg and Baumholder.

Both teams have substantial returning punch: All-Europe shortstop Sharena Cabrera and pitcher-catcher Grecia Gonzalez are back for Baumholder; and All-Europe first baseman Amber Zgonia returns for Bitburg.

Rota’s always tough, even though Lady Admirals coach Johnny Cooley is worried about the preparation the base team will provide.

“It doesn’t look like the base team will have the good pitching they’ve had the past six or seven years,” he wrote to Stars and Stripes. “The pitching we’ve faced from the base team the past few years has prepared us well for the tournament.”

Four-time defending Division I champ Ramstein will have what coach Kent Grosshuesch calls the youngest group of softball players ever assembled at Ramstein.

Grosshuesch expects stiff competition from Lakenheath, the only team other than Ramstein to have won Division I since softball became a DODDS sport in 1999 and led by All-Europe sophomore catcher Lisa McBride; Heidelberg, the most experienced team in the division; and newly elevated Patch, built around three-time All-Europe pitcher Kasy’e Lalau.

Rounding out the league are Wiesbaden, which welcomes back All-Europe second-team Elisha Nieves, and Kaiserslautern, whose coach Tom Burriss has 12 freshmen on his 35-player roster.

2007 DODDS-Europe softball lineup

Division I HeidelbergKaiserslauternLakenheathPatchRamsteinWiesbaden

Division II/IIIAlconburyBaumholderBitburgMannheimRota**Does not play full league schedule

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