COACH Kent Early (12th season at Bentonville; 14th overall)
LAST YEAR’S RECORD 30-1 overall, 14-0 7A-West (conference and 7A state champions)
KEY PLAYERS P Maddy Prough (Sr.), C Haley Cornell (Jr.), 2B/OF Tymber Riley (Jr.), SS Payton Wildeman (Sr.), 3B Jordan Gartman (Sr.), OF Keelah Griffin (), CF Jenna Wildeman (Soph.), 1B/OF Megan Crownover (Soph.)
TOP NEWCOMERS P/1B Morgan Nelson (Sr.); C/3B Alyssa “A.J.” Downey (Sr.)
THE SKINNY With eight returning starters, including a dominating pitcher in Prough, Bentonville begins the season with a 22-game winning streak and is likely the overwhelming favorite. … Prough, who signed with Crowder College in November, will try to build on last year’s success, when she was 20-0 with a 0.68 ERA and 181 strikeouts over 113.2 innings, and Cailey Cochran gives Bentonville a quality one-two pitching punch. … Four of the Lady Tigers’ returning starters hit .400 or better last season, including Jenna Wildeman’s team-leading .461, while Riley had a team-high 35 RBIs and five triples. … Three other players have already signed with colleges: Payton Wildeman with Southwest Baptist, Gartman with Missouri Southern and Downey with Crowder College. … If there is one thing Early wants to see out of his group, it’s a little more power. The Lady Tigers had a limited number of home runs, but they also play on a bigger field than other teams. … In addition to the 7A-West Conference schedule, Bentonville will have games against 6A state runnerup Benton and Class 5A finalists Vilonia and Greenbrier, and the Lady Tigers will play quality competition in its scheduled tournaments at Benton and Van Buren. … Early’s second victory this season will give him 250 career wins at Bentonville, and he needs 27 wins to reach the 300 mark overall.
KEY DATES March 2 — season opener at home vs. Farmington; March 3 — home game against two-time defending Class 5A state champion Vilonia; March 14 — 7A-West Conference begins at Fayetteville; April 11 — first meeting against crosstown rival Bentonville West; April 21 — home game against 5A state runnerup Greenbrier.