* Canyon: 20-13-1, 8-2 in 1997. Coach: Lance Eddy (15th year, 242-136-4). Prospects: The Comanches open without all-county pitcher Veronica Lopez (16-6, 0.36; .430, 4 homers, 22 RBIs, 26 runs), who was largely responsible for Canyon reaching the Division III quarterfinals, where it lost to Pacifica, 2-1, in nine innings. Center fielder Becky Tippets (.324, 21 RBIs) and middle infielder Chrystal Hewitt (.281, 19 stolen bases) assume Lopez's mantel of leadership. Junior outfielder Meghan Goldstein (.278, 16 RBIs) was a first-team all-league player but will probably move to pitcher after a two-year absence. Strong through the top seven spots in the order, Eddy says this team should be better-hitting than last year's team, which batted .273 and averaged five runs.

* El Modena: 13-13, 4-6 in 1997. Coach: Rhonda Weyer (fourth year, 41-37). Prospects: Like many teams, the Vanguards are settled in the infield and outfield positions, but pitching will be a big question mark. The answer could come from Erin Norton, who played last year at Orange Lutheran, which went 11-11 in the Olympic League. She replaced Courtney Heil, a second-team all-league pitcher who is concentrating on volleyball. Four of El Modena's six returning starters received all-league acknowledgment: second baseman Seeley Bair (14 stolen bases), first baseman A.J. Reeder (both first-teamers), shortstop Chrissy Lake and outfielder Jessica Keenan.

* Foothill: 29-3-1, 10-0 in 1997. Coach: Joe Gonzalez (ninth year, 194-48-1). Prospects: The Knights, among the nation's top teams last year, could be there again. The loss of all-county outfielder Lauren Bauer (.491, 41 stolen bases, Arizona) could seriously hamper the production of junior Jaime Clark (.470, 32 RBIs), a first-team all-county shortstop, and senior pitcher/third baseman Lindsay Fossatti (.361, 31 RBIs, Fresno State), a second-team utility player. Fossatti was 15-1 with a 0.72 ERA while sharing duties with junior Lauren Schwendimann (14-2, 0.47 ERA). Helping ease the loss of Bauer and Jenny Beltran (.395, 19 RBIs, Miami of Ohio), who batted fifth, are catcher Cheri Nierman (.322, 14 RBIs), left fielder Rosie Gustavson (.240, 19 runs, 19 RBIs, North Carolina) and second baseman Erin Manahan (.255, 21 RBIs).

* Orange: 5-18, 0-10 in 1997. Coach: Rocky Parker (second year, 5-18). Prospects: With six freshmen who played on an under-14 national championship Bobby Sox team, things could be looking up. They join five returning starters, including junior first baseman April Weisner (.323), shortstop Carol Espinoza (.260) and center fielder Rachelle Ngayen (.280). Speed and defense are strengths, but pitching and hitting are unproven.

* Santa Ana Valley: 5-22, 2-8 in 1997. Coach: Terry Orabona (sixth year, 23-97). Prospects: The Falcons have six players back from last year's team, including junior shortstop Ana Velazquez (.515) and catcher Sharmaine Kendrick (29 RBIs), who were first- and second-team all-league players. Others who could help Valley improve are first baseman/pitcher B.B. De La Riva (.300), second baseman Rosa Torres, third baseman Monique Rodriguez and right fielder Angelica Olivares.

* Villa Park: 14-12, 6-4 in 1997. Coach: Laura Kinnersley (first year). Prospects: Sophomore Alyson Hannigan won the Spartans' final three league games but is inexperienced; still, Villa Park is in the wide-open battle for second place. Six starters return from last year's third-place team, and junior outfielder/pitcher Kristen Lawson has transferred from Division IV champion South Hills. Among returning players are senior first baseman Sara Hannigan (.311), a first-team all-league player, utility Elizabeth Willey, and two juniors, shortstop Tina McCarty and third baseman Jennifer Sturgeon.

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