1. Pacifica

The top-ranked team returns with its top-flight pitcher, Amanda Freed (20-0, 0.23 ERA). However, the Mariners are going to have to learn to win without shortstop and clutch hitter Toni Mascarenas, who is starting at Arizona.

2. Mater Dei

This group of seniors reached the Division I finals when they were freshmen. But now, they have Tia Bollinger (16-3, 0.06 ERA) and a healthy Marissa Young (1996 player of the year) as their pitchers, and can make a strong claim to be No. 1.

3. Woodbridge

Most expect the loss of Lizzy Lemire and Ashley Boone to impact the Warriors, but they have seven players returning, including pitcher Christy Robitaille.

4. Foothill

The Knights have seven starters back but the loss of leadoff hitter Lauren Bauer could have a significant impact on one of the soundest teams around.

5. Kennedy

The Irish reached the Division III semifinals last year and have eight starters returning, including catcher Adrianna Wilson (.405, 20 RBIs). Pitcher Nicole Crouse, a backup last season, was 8-3 with an ERA of 0.09.

6. El Toro

Again resigned to play second fiddle to Woodbridge in the Sea View League, the Chargers are still good enough to have their way with most teams, especially with pitcher Suzanne Guy (19-7, 0.79).

7. Marina

The Vikings beat Irvine and went eight innings before losing to Los Alamitos in the playoffs. They have seven starters back, including pitcher Heather Hagen (9-3, 0.33 ERA) and four of five infield positions.

8. Los Alamitos

The Griffins haven't had a dominant pitcher since Carrie Dolan in 1993, but are well-coached and always find themselves in the middle of the action. Six starters return, including center fielder Kristin Farber (.559, 32 runs, 30 stolen bases).

9. Irvine

The Vaqueros, a big surprise last year when they unexpectedly rose to sixth in the final county rankings, return seven starters, including third baseman Edel Leyden (.463, 24 RBIs).

10. Laguna Hills

The Hawks have their best team since the 1993, when they won the Division III championship. Nine starters return from a squad that won 18 games, including upsets of Thousand Oaks (Division I semifinalists) and Marina.

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