Local and area high school softball teams returned to work late last week in preparation for the upcoming season.
Most clubs will be actively involved in their pre-season scrimmage contests beginning next week, with the regular season openers being just around the corner (Feb.11).
Of the Cherokee County-Southern Smith County units, the Troup Lady Tigers appear to be poised for another strong post season run.
Head coach Sam Weeks' girls are coming off a Class 2A regional quarterfinal effort a year ago, a season in which the Lady Tigers posted an impressive 31-11-2 record.
The Lady Tigers return junior pitcher Josee Ross, one of the top high school pitchers in East Texas, who also is one of Troup's leading hitters.
Infielders Bethany Mason, Caitlin Tomlin and Lee Ann Lloyd are also returning giving Troup a solid core of experienced talent to go along with four freshmen who are on this year's varsity roster.
Another team to keep an eye on is the Rusk Lady Eagles.
Despite losing fireballer Sydney Littlejohn to the University of Alabama, the Lady Eagles should win their share of games this spring.
Head coach Ashley Renner will be looking for Cheyanne Phillips and Kara Hugghins to take over the pitching duties.
The list of returnees is long a Rusk and includes catcher Kelsey Blankinship as well as infielders Kara Huggins and Chelsie Daniels.
Other key players include, Gabby Willis, Maddy Turner and Bailee Gates.
After going 17-11 a year ago, Bullard will once again by young, but the Lady Panthers should benefit from the lessons learned last year.
Back are seniors Kristie "Coco" Springer, a Texas Woman's University signee and Taylor Frederick.
District 16-3A appears to be formidable once again, but the teams that finished ahead of Bullard did suffers key losses to graduation, which should bode well for head coach Pam Chestnut's bunch.
Amber Danner-Kirk is back as head coach at Jacksonville.
The Fightin' Maidens will be one of the younger teams, but the bulk of the players saw a lot of duty at the varsity level last year, which show go a long way in making this year's team a bit more seasoned.
The JHS girls will be looking to establish some momentum and confidence in non-district play to parlay into District 16-4A success.
New Summerfield will be fielding a softball team for the first time in school history this season.
Josh Fawcett, New Summerfield's high school principal and former girls basketball coach, will be guiding the team, with the Lady Hornet nine slated to play a junior varsity schedule this season in preparation for varsity play in 2015.
The Lady Hornets have a brand new home field, which is included in the New Summerfield Sports Complex, located on Hwy. 110, just south of the high school campus.