* Aliso Niguel: 13-13, 8-2 in 1997. Coach: Joe Miller (first year). Prospects: Center fielder Jill Freed and left fielder Stephanie Mueller, both senior first-team all-league performers, lead the Wolverines' four returning starters. Mueller, junior Danielle Heath, and seniors Dee Dee Schur and Jessica Bergen (from New York) are in a wide-open competition to emerge as the team's dominant pitcher. Sara Shiehk, a second-team catcher, also returns as a starter. Ali Baruch, a transfer from Santa Fe Springs St. Paul, is the probable designated hitter. Freshmen shortstop/catcher Courtney Thompson, right fielder Shannon Anderson (a likely leadoff hitter), shortstop Erin Wallace and third baseman Jessica Vernaglia could all find themselves in the starting lineup.
* Costa Mesa: 6-14, 4-6 in 1997. Coach: Jim Weeks (first year). Prospects: Four players hit better than .300 last season: first-team shortstop Julie Collett (.492), center fielder Kim Daniels (.377, 4 home runs, 16 stolen bases), pitcher/catcher Kristin Chisholm (.362) and first baseman Christy Errico (.311). All are seniors. Other returning starters are senior second baseman Krissy Genet and sophomores Brooke Shanley, a left fielder, and Kelly Daub, a right fielder. Heather Christiansen, a senior from Oregon, could play a critical role with Chisholm as they share pitching duties.
* Estancia: 3-16, 1-9 in 1997. Coach: Sharon Uhl (third year, 5-31). Prospects: The Eagles might surprise some teams with the arrival of two freshmen players who have club experience, pitcher Joanna Danner and catcher Stephanie Cachola. Another addition is senior first baseman Carrie Fricker, who saw limited action last year but has a strong bat and could be an effective designated hitter. They will join four returning starters: shortstop Tiffany Ortega (.315), first baseman Lisa Steinfeld (.300), third baseman Stephanie Danner (.250) and center fielder Lacy Ferris (.200).
* Laguna Beach: 1-21, 1-9 in 1997. Coach: Jerome Karp (second year, 1-21). Prospects: The Artists, who gained valuable experience last season, are led by third baseman Katherine McGuire and pitcher Dawn Dacus. Second baseman Jennifer Knauser, catcher Marguerite Woodbury and outfielder Erin Esancy will also be counted on heavily to contribute as the Artists try to win with pitching and defense.
* Laguna Hills: 18-8, 10-0 in 1997. Coach: Cary Crouch (12th year, 194-81-4). Prospects: The Hawks are the only team in the league that had a winning overall record last season and eight starters are back, including the league's MVP, pitcher Leea Harlan (6-3, 0.93 ERA), who batted .324 and had 22 RBIs. Kim Stryker (7-4, 0.32) can also get the job accomplished in the circle. Joining Harlan and Stryker as returning all-league first-team players are senior first baseman Meghan O'Donnell, senior outfielder Stephanie Bisera (.333) and sophomore outfielder Leslie Simien (.333, 12 stolen bases). Senior shortstop Erin Larsen and two juniors, catcher Monique Kees and second baseman Kelly Anderson, were second-team choices. Anderson batted .692 in league. Third baseman Mandi McMahon also returns. The Hawks have a solid mix of speed, power, pitching and defense.
* University: 9-16, 6-4 in 1997. Coach: Chris Burd (first year). Prospects: Senior third baseman Adrienne Rice (.450), a first-team choice last season, leads six returning starters to the Trojans, who hope defense and experience can forge a return to the playoffs. Two seniors, outfielder/first baseman Cindy Waldman (.310) and first baseman Jennifer Brigham (.305), were second-team players. Sophomore shortstop Tiffany Waldman, senior catcher Kristen Scarborough (.250) and junior outfielder Lexie Breeden are also returning starters.