Merrimack coming off .500 season

There are the usual suspects – Salem in Division I, Coe-Brown in Division II, Campbell and White Mountains in Division III, and Wilton-Lyndeborough in Division IV – to look out for, but there are also a few teams that constantly toy with the idea of making deep tournament runs that could really break out this spring.

Locally, Alvirne and Bishop Guertin are those teams in Division I along with Spaulding of Rochester and Timberlane Regional of Plaistow.

Junior catcher Sara Siteman and pitcher Nicole Teague lead the Broncos into the 2016 campaign. Three years together as the varsity battery bodes well for Alvirne, which along with Ashley Silva and Holly Sanville returns a strong junior class – accompanied by returning sophomore starters Liz DeRosa and Jenna Bradish.

Fifth-year Broncos coach Sarah Brisk is excited for the first pitch.

"I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s team compete," she said. "The team chemistry is already apparent. … We have added speed to the team and our defense is one of the best in the state. If we can consistently hit this year, we will be very successful."

Alvirne, which won the Division I title in 2011 and 2012, is hoping a return to championship Saturday in June at Southern New Hampshire University is in order.

Likewise, BG is considered a favorite to return to the final four. The Cardinals came up just short of facing defending champion Dover in the final, instead suffering a semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Salem.

With their own junior battery of catcher Neysa Ouellette and pitcher Bridget Soraghan, the Cardinals are confident they can return to SNHU. They’re strong up the middle with the veteran battery, and the return of junior Dakota Bilodeau at shortstop.

Nashua North is a D-I darkhorse. The Titans return five starters from last year’s squad, highlighted by senior shortstop Hannah Neverett, a two-time first-team All-State selection, Alley Fortin, a three-year starter in left field, and hard-hitting catcher Jacqueline Dumont, who led the Titans in home runs as a freshman last season.

Nashua South and Merrimack are rebuilding as the spring begins.

In Division II, defending champion Coe-Brown and runner-up Goffstown are eyeing a title game rematch. Windham, Milford and even Souhegan are also teams to watch, according to D-II coaches.

Milford returns eight starters from last year’s quarterfinal team – junior hurlers Delaney Parker and Carley Holtshouser, senior middle infielders Erin Tyrrell (shortstop) and Cora Rogers (second base), junior third baseman Jennifer Carson, sophomore catcher/outfielder Stephanie Bishop, sophomore first baseman/catcher Paige Delier and junior outfielder Rachel Nelson.

Souhegan’s success will rest on the reliable shoulders of pitchers Hannah Cochran and Hailey Yabroudy, a senior and junior, respectively.

Hollis Brookline is transitioning from a team that relied heavily on one pitcher for four years to a squad utilizing multiple pitchers, but the biggest story for the 2016 Cavaliers may be how long second-year coach Erin Robbins is in the dugout. She’s not on the hot seat, rather nine months pregnant and ready to hand over the reins to assistant Brian Bumpus any day now.

Division III and IV have given local fans plenty of excitement in recent years. Campbell in D-III and Wilton-Lyndeborough in D-IV have reached the title game five times in the last seven years.

While defending D-III champion Campbell may take a step back this spring after winning four titles since 2009, including the last three, WLC is looking to reach its sixth D-IV final in eight years with hopes of winning a third title in that span (2012, 2014).

The favorite in Division III is 2012 champion and three-time runner-up White Mountains. Other teams to keep a close eye on include Hopkinton, Franklin, Berlin and Prospect Mountain.

MERRIMACK

COACH: Jim Peltak (11th year).

2015: 9-9; lost in first round of the tournament.

RETURNING STARTERS: Lauren Gerhard, sr., C; Jackson Gutekunst, sr., 2B; Olivia Kapsambelis, so., 1B.

OTHER RETURNING LETTER WINNERS: Brianna Bergevin, so., P; Liz Scheurich, so., OF; Olivia Tsatsa, so., OF.

PROMISING NEWCOMERS: Brenna Davenport, fr., SS; Jocelyn Doyon, fr., OF; Jess Trahan, fr., 3B/C; Katelyn Parlow, fr., INF/OF; Ashley Turcotte, fr., INF/OF; Julia Valluzzi, fr., P/INF.

COACH’S COMMENT: "We are a very young team, so mistakes will happen," Peltak said. "As long as we minimize the mistakes and learn from them, we will have a successful season."