The defending state champion Nashville Hornettes are coming off a four-year run that included three trips to the 2A Final Four with two state titles.
This season after head coach Dempsey Witte (173-19 in five seasons) retired, Shaun Renth takes over after 17 years with the baseball team.
"It's a pretty tall task to follow up a state championship, but I think our girls will be ready and the future is bright for this team," Renth said.
Nashville (39-2) won its second title in the last four years with a dazzling 11-inning, 3-hit performance by Maci Ingram to beat Brimfield, 1-0. Ingram graduated as the state's second all-time leading pitcher with 108 wins and is now pitching at McKendree University.
Even though Ingram (33-2, 0.59 ERA) Jordi Harre, Emily Thompson and Daley Buchanan have graduated Renth inherits a team that had four freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup.
"We're pretty fortunate we have quite a few coming back that got significant time, but beyond that we're pretty young with only two upper classmen," Renth said. "We're confident our only senior Deidra Holzhauer can do the job for us as the leader and in the circle."
Returning as starters are sophomores Paige Kasten, Brooke Burcham, Mackenzie McFeron and Karly Stanowski. Junior Alli Liske joins Holzhauer (6-0, 1.75 ERA) at both pitcher and first base.
In 2A, Fairfield won its third straight regional title and its first sectional title since 1978 before being eliminated by Nashville in the Super-Sectional, but will also have a new head coach with Tonya Conrad taking over for Jeremy Ellis.
Carterville faces the same challenge after long-time coach Brett Diel stepped down to become athletic director. Will Capie, who was an assistant coach under Diel, will take over a squad that has won back-to-back regionals.
First-team All-State pitcher Avery English anchors the veteran squad that fell to Nashville 2-1 in 15 innings at the sectional final.
Pinckneyville is also coming off back-to-back regional titles and nine in the last 11 seasons. Carmi-White County won its first regional title since 2012.
In 1A, Trico (27-7) was hoping for back-to-back Final Four berths after finishing second, but lost the Super-Sectional to Wayne City.
"When they left the field they were down and out and that's all they've talked about," said coach Drew Franklin. "This year their motto is let's not talk about it, let's do it."
Franklin lost three starters, but returns top pitchers Jade Kranawetter and Sydney Levan and four other starters in Bailey Witthoft, Emily Bauersachs, Juhle Prange and Danyelle Ellers.
"Jade and Sydney will split most of the time in the circle again this year and at short," Franklin said. "Juhle's last name is Prange, so she's moving from right field to catcher and I think she's going to be just as good as her older sister (Jessica) was. We have many options at first, second and third, including freshman Katie Gale, so it may come down on who's putting the bat on the ball."
Also in 1A, former state champ Goreville won its fifth straight regional before being eliminated by Trico in the sectional semifinals.
In 3A, Carbondale (19-7) won its third straight regional title despite entering the regional as the fourth seed. After beating Mount Vernon, 6-4, in the play-in game the Terriers beat Herrin, 15-1 and Marion, 8-3. Their run ended in the sectional semifinal to Highland.
"The last three years we've got to the sectional semifinals, but lost each time, so this year with 10 seniors we're hoping to break that streak," said coach Kim Wheeler.
Wheeler lost four starters, but returns Skylar Miller at second, Karly Williard at short, Becca Beaupre and Taja Dedecker in the outfield and Lindsey Sears, Alex Jackson and Kaylan Talley in the circle.
Freshman Savanah Talley will take over for Chyanne Fulmer behind the plate, but there is a battle to replace Lauren Butler at first and Paige Bird in the outfield. Sophomore Maddie Doan takes over third base full time.