After a highly competitive 2016 season, the 2017 season of high school softball in Delaware promises to bring even more excitement.

Last year’s number one seed, Caravel Academy, enters the 2017 campaign as defending state champs, having downed the No. 2 seeded Sussex Tech Ravens in the title game.

While the top two seeds matched up in the finals, the 2016 tournament showed teams around the state that every qualifying team has a shot. Four higher seeds were upset in the opening round of the tournament and both the No. 12 seed Charter Force and No. 14 seeded Lake Forest Spartans advanced to the final four.

Below, we take a look at the Middletown area teams looking to make their mark on the field this season.

Appoquinimink Jaguars

Last season, the Appoquinimink Jaguars ended the season with a 14-4 record, helping them earn the No. 7 seed in the DIAA Softball State Tournament.

After defeating No. 10 Smyrna, the Lady Jags fell in the second round to No. 2 Sussex Tech who eventually advanced to the state finals.

Appo will be without just three seniors from last year’s team, including Third-Team All-State at third base, Jordan Scout.

This year’s Lady Jags squad will have plenty of returning fire power, however, with several standouts coming back.

Two seniors, pitcher Mackenzie Short and outfielder Taylor Coleman return after earning First-Team All-State honors last season along with junior Brooke Miller who was Second-Team All-State at second base in 2016.

Appo will open their season at home on Wednesday, March 22 when they host Hodgson at 4 p.m.

Middletown Cavaliers

The Middletown Cavaliers enter the new season coming off an 11-7 season in 2015. Their first playoff appearance since 2010.

The Lady Cavaliers earned the No. 11 seed in the state tournament, but fell in the opening round to No. 6 Concord.

“Last year, we achieved our team goal of making the postseason,” said Middletown Head Coach Caitlyn Gravenor. “But, losing in the first round was a bitter pill to swallow. Our team took that bitter taste and used it as motivation. This team wants to put Middletown on the softball map and prove that we deserve to be up there with the best. It’s going to be fun to watch it all unfold in our first game on the 28th.”

While they’ll be without three seniors from last year’s team, they return nine players including Alison Clemons at third base who was named Second-Team All-State.

Seniors Jordan Cooke and Gina Lona are back, along with the junior class led by Clemons, Katelynn Foraker and Brianna Reed. Sophomores Rebecca Buckman, Lily Cer-Proulx, Melissa Jones and Carly Setting are also back in the fold for the Lady Cavaliers.

“Losing three senior starters is tough, however, we are a young team with a few new additions and a lot of great potential,” said Gravenor. “All 12 players on our roster have experience and skills to help this team go far and each one of them will play a role in what should be a really fun season.”

The Lady Cavaliers open their regular season with two-straight road games - first on Tuesday, March 28 at Sussex Tech before traveling to take on Cape Henlopen on Thursday, March 30, both 4:15 p.m. starts.

MIddletown will play their first home game of the season on Saturday, April 1 hosting Red Lion at 11 a.m.

St. Georges Tech Hawks 

St. Georges Tech enters the 2017 campaign with a fresh start and a new head coach after finishing last season with a 10-7 record, just outside of qualifying for the state tournament.

With no seniors on last year’s squad, the majority of last year’s team will be returning led by juniors, Rachel DiMarcello and Rachel Seivard.

DiMarcello was named Second-Team All-State at third base, while Seivard earned Third-Team All-State honors at catcher.

“I hope to build the St. Georges softball team into a program,” said new Head Coach Shannon Brantley. “I want outsiders to see a difference in St. Georges softball players. My players will be pushed in all areas of life to be the best they can be - when we can develop that, we will have something special and I want to give as many kids the opportunity to be a part of something like that as possible.”

The Lady Hawks open their season on the road, taking on Conrad Wednesday, March 22 starting at 3:45 p.m.

St. Georges Tech will play their first home game Friday, March 24 hosting McKean at 4:15 p.m.