Meet the No.1 team: The Woodlands (Texas)

The Woodlands (Texas) starts the 2012 season as the nation's top team. Courtesy of John Mann

What does it take to defend a title? Guts. Perseverance. Skill. Returning all but two players from a loaded team also doesn’t hurt. The Woodlands (The Woodlands, Texas)—which won the state Class 5A championship as well as the national POWERADE FAB 50 softball crown in 2011—welcomes 11 players back as it attempts to protect its turf in 2012. Head coach Richard Jorgenson shares insider intel on the high-flying Highlanders, who again top the preseason Fab 50.

(Top row, left to right)

Faith Bohack | Sr. | SS

Though the infielder is small in stature, her athleticism makes her a threat in every aspect of the game. “She’s not a big girl, but she's our best athlete and one of our most powerful hitters," says Jorgenson. "She's under a lot of pressure but knows the game really well.”

Caitlin Bartsch | So. | RHP

The soph has big cleats to fill as the team’s ace while Paige [McDuffee] recovers, but she went 7-0 (including a perfect game) last season, so she should be up to the task. “She has a great head for the game and doesn’t get rattled,” says Jorgenson. "She's ready for the challenge."

Amy Cimera | So. | OF

Thanks to her ability to advance on the basepaths, and run down balls in the outfield, Cimera adds another dimension to the Highlanders’ lineup. “Without her speed, we wouldn’t have gone as far as we did,” says Jorgenson. "She has a good chance to get into the lineup this season."

Kayla Prater | Sr. | C

A defensive stronghold behind the plate, Prater didn’t make a single error in 2011. What’s even more impressive is her ability to read her pitchers and keep them focused and confident on the mound. “Kayla has an unbelievable arm and knowledge of the game," says Jorgenson. "She calls her own games and has a great repertoire with the pitchers.”

Jessica Snyder | Sr. | 3B

Snyder, a senior who hit a school-record 13 home runs in 2011, will likely bat cleanup for the Highlanders. “She is our most explosive hitter," says Jorgenson. "She also has a good glove and a very strong arm.”

Alyssa JorĀ­genson | Jr. | 2B

The coach’s kid was a cog for her team both offensively and defensively last season. Now, as an upperclassman, she’ll need to become more vocal. “She does a good job of working her way on base and scored a lot of runs for us,” says her dad. “I’m counting on her to be a leader on the field this year."

Olivia Boutch | Jr. | 1B

Boutch was a utility player last season, but with McDuffee’s bat out of the lineup, the junior will need to step up her game in 2012. "She's strong defensively and has a good bat," says Jorgenson. "“I’m expecting her to step in and play an important role.”

(Bottom row, left to right)

Aubrey Leach | Fr. | OF

The lefty is as big of a threat at the plate as any Woodlands player. A slap hitter blessed with both speed and power, she should make an immediate impact. “She can run anything down in the outfield," says Jorgenson. "She can play anywhere."

Paige McDuffee | Sr. | LHP

The senior southpaw and reigning National Gatorade Player of the Year posted a 62-4 record and a 0.58 ERA—and batted .405—the past two seasons. The UCLA commit is recovering from an injury, but her involvement remains significant. “She’s like another coach on the field.”

Taylor O’Dell | Sr. | OF

The senior played every inning of every game in left field for the Highlanders last year and was solid in the field. Jorgenson calls her “a heck of a player” who has “been a rock in the outfield for us.”

Sydney Salmans | So. | OF

The Woodlands lost its starting center fielder, Kelsey Jolly, to graduation, so Salmans will have an opportunity to fill that role this season. The speedy soph can cover a lot of ground in the outfield, and also will be a threat on the basepaths.

Taylor Vick | Jr. | OF

Coach credits Vick, who gunned down eight base runners at first base from right field last season, with rallying the team at key points. “she has a way of getting everyone fired up," says Jorgenson. "She’s real vocal and inspirational.”

Not pictured:

Abby Langkamp | Fr. | LHP

The team has big expectations for this lefty power pitcher, and her addition to the rotation, combined with Bartsch’s movement, is sure to keep opposing batters guessing. "She's just a freshman, but she has good speed and power as a pitcher," says Jorgenson. "She'll get a lot of time on the mound once she learns the ropes and the dynamic of the team.”