Instead, Daniel Boone, David Crockett and Science Hill each seem to be destined for a tight three-horse championship race.
Dobyns-Bennett leads the next level with Cherokee, Tennessee High and Volunteer trying to hold off each other in a scramble toward the upper half.
Big 7 predictions
1. Daniel Boone
2. David Crockett
3. Science Hill
6. Tennessee High
There’s no shortage of tradition for the Lady Trailblazers, and this year’s team could be right back in the mix of the area’s elite.
Boone returns both of its top pitchers in junior right-hander Nickolette Ferguson and senior left-hander Megan Ackerman, who has signed to play at Chattanooga State.
Ackerman, Ferguson and junior shortstop Jaycie Jenkins are returning all-conference players.
“I really like the makeup of our team,” said coach Jeremy Jenkins. “I expect us to compete at a high level.”
It’s nice to have a rock for the foundation, and the Lady Pioneers have it in senior Kara Weems.
“I look for great things from her in the circle and at the plate to lead her team,” said coach Carla Weems.
The lineup is loaded with good bats. Among the standouts are Weems, senior second baseman Maddie Roy, senior right fielder Haley Arrowood, and junior Jenna Davis, a pitcher and first baseman.
“My hope for this season is to finish at the top of the conference,” said Coach Weems. “We have strong pitching and a lot of good hitters and strong defense.”
There’s a lot of optimism in the Lady Hilltoppers’ camp this season, and pitcher Sejal Neas is no small part of it. The sophomore right-hander should be one of the area’s top hurlers this season.
At the plate, Science Hill will lean on the production of senior shortstop Kasey Bennett.
“Kasey Bennett is, in my mind, a top-five player in our area,” said coach Jerry Higgins. “She is a five-tool player. She hits for power and average, runs extremely well, has a tremendous arm and glove, and has an excellent head for the game.”
Other good sticks include junior utility player Shayna Price and senior second baseman Mackenzie Powell.
Higgins said it could be a good year for Science Hill.
“After a very challenging 2018, both personally and professionally, I look for 2019 to be a banner year for the ’Toppers,” he said.
In part, as Morgan Riffle goes, so go the Lady Indians. The third-year starter is a standout in the circle and at the plate.
“She’s one of the best pitchers in the league,” coach Andy Hubbard said of the Walters State signee. “And she has a career batting average of .345. She is very hard-nosed and competitive.”
Other top hitters include center fielder Griffin Mullins and third baseman Peyton Domby.
“We hope to improve every day and finish in the top half,” Hubbard said.
The Lady Chiefs are a young group, and that is especially true in the circle.
“We are young this year, and we have three players who will share the pitching load,” said coach Kristen Richards.
In the mix are sophomore Morgan Lawson, freshman Lexi Elkins and freshman Sam Tilson.
At the plate, Cherokee will rely on senior first baseman Madison Carpenter, junior center fielder Siera Light, senior third baseman Paisley Lyons and sophomore second baseman Audrey Mowell.
“Our motto for this year is ‘Building our legacy,’ ” Richards said. “It is our hope that Cherokee becomes a team to be respected in our conference on a yearly basis. We are young this year but still have the heart, desire and talent to make it far.”
Youth is the key word for the Lady Vikings.
“We have a lot of young players who will be in our lineup throughout the season,” said coach Jen Testa. “The lack of experience may at times be a struggle for us. We have a lot of talent and depth at key positions but are not yet established.
“But this group has the ability to play with anyone from a talent standpoint.”
Leading the way in the circle is junior right-hander Bailey Lamb.
“She will be a key contributor whether she is in the circle or playing shortstop,” Testa said.
At the plate, Tennessee High will count on Anna Craddock, a junior second baseman, Lamb and freshman third baseman McKenzie Orfield.
Coach Jackie Strickler said he wants his Lady Falcons to grow into a postseason threat.
“We want to improve each game and be playing our best softball by the district tournament,” he said.
Leading the way in the circle is junior right-hander Alli Chandler.
At the plate, Strickler will count on Jersey Wines, a junior shortstop, Chandler in a utility role, junior catcher Myrtle Lawson and sophomore utility player Aliyah Crawley.