Last season, the Appoquinimink Lady Jaguars capped off a 17-1 campaign with an improbable run to the DIAA Softball State Championship game.

Back for a new season, the Lady Jags are hoping to get back to the state’s final round behind a talented group of returnees.

A lot of talent coming back

Like any team, the Lady Jags must move on without some key contributors. However, Appo has the benefit of returning 14 players from last year’s squad including a number of players who helped them reach the state championship game.

“This has had huge benefit for us as we have begun to prepare for the upcoming season,” said Appo head coach Brian Timpson. “To start knowing we have a core of seven starters who have played at the highest level back and ready to go is a great motivator.”

While the Jags have a lot of experience, they’re still a relatively young team.

Appo has two returning seniors, in Morgan Widdoes and Mallory Weir, who had a 2 RBI game against Delmar in the playoffs.

A lot of Appo’s depth resides in the underclassmen.

Junior standout Tayler Vitola, who had two perfect days at the plate in the playoffs, returns along with pitchers Autumn Gentry and Kourtney McNatt, who both had big performances in the circle for the Lady Jags in last year’s tournament.

Joining Vitola, Gentry and McNatt in the junior class are returnees Alicia Bruce and Isabella Eleazar.

Sophomores Madison Bauerle, Madelin Olivas and Kylie Taylor are back. All three had multiple hit games during the Lady Jags’ playoff run last year. Along with Bauerle, Olivas and Taylor, fellow sophomores Jillian Dawson and Jessica Walter also return.

With a number of experienced players back in the fold, the Lady Jags should once again find themselves competing for the state title come tournament time.

Challenging schedule

Appo’s returning talent will need to be sharp as the Lady Jags will take on a tough Blue Hen Conference schedule and six teams overall that qualified for last year’s state tournament.

They open the season with a stiff early test, taking on two tournament teams in a row on the road. First, they’ll travel to take on Newark Charter this Saturday afternoon, last year’s No. 5 seed, in their season opener. Next Wednesday, Appo will take on another playoff qualifier in Padua Academy.

After taking on Padua, the Lady Jags will open their home schedule the following day against St. Mark’s ahead of three straight matchups against conference opponents in William Penn, Concord and a playoff rematch against Mt. Pleasant.

In the second half of the regular season schedule, Appo will face several stiff challenges including matchups at Wilmington Charter (4/30), a semifinals rematch on the road against Caravel Academy (5/4) and a date against St. Georges Tech (5/7) in the Lady Jags’ home finale.