Who are the top 6 high school softball teams in the Peoria area for 2022?

Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Softball is back.

Teams are patiently waiting for the weather to break and hit the field. Peoria-area teams were successful in 2021 with a Class 1A Illinois High School Association state championship and a Class 3A Elite Eight appearance.

We took a look at top players. Now, here are the power rankings for 2022 softball season — three large schools and three small schools from the Peoria area. Last season's records are in parentheses.

TOP PLAYERS:The top 15 high school softball players in the Peoria area for 2022

Peoria-area large schools

1. Washington (20-8)

The Panthers are fresh off the program's third Class 3A Elite Eight appearance since 2015. Coach Stephanie Lawson returns a strong core from a team that hit .303, smacked 29 home runs and drove in 165. Four of the top five hitters will fill in the lineup led by junior Carly Vaughn (.389), senior Georgia Duncan (.368), sophomore Bailey Herrick (.358) and senior Delaney Davis (.307). Herrick (6-3, 2.08 ERA) and junior Brooklyn Ogden (12-4, 2.18 ERA) give the Panthers a tough 1-2 combo in the circle. Washington opens the season with a Tremont and Sandburg doubleheader.

All-area:Meet the softball honorees for 2021 Central Illinois High School Sports Awards

2. East Peoria (18-6)

EP's returning offense might be the best in the area — hitting .365 with 82 extra base hits including 40 home runs with 154 RBIs and returning Gracie Luna (.530), Kent State commit Bri Despines (.469), Emily Compton (.400) and Layla Thornton (team-best 12 home runs). The reigning Mid-Illini Conference champs bring back one of the area's best pitchers in Kiersten Osborne (17-4, 2.46 ERA) for coach Denee Menzione. East Peoria has another loaded schedule, playing Tremont, Sandburg, Illinois Valley Central, Normal Community, Olympia, Williamsville and Bloomington.

3. Metamora (15-12)

Deric Linder enters the 2022 campaign with five returning all-Mid-Illini Conference selections featured throughout the lineup. Junior Katy Ramage (.507), senior Hannah Tellor (.432), senior Kayla Pacha (.381, school-record 10 home runs), senior Kylie Hyde (.366) are all back as Metamora's four top hitters. Junior pitcher Sydney Trentman (11-5, 2.57 ERA) pitched the bulk of Metamora's inning last season. The Redbirds will once again play a loaded schedule with Normal West, Olympia, Bloomington, Mt. Zion and hosting the Margie Wright Showcase.

Remember when:Peoria-area IHSA softball champs relive title runs

Peoria-area small schools

Lexie Knowles, Canton

1. Canton (17-6)

The Little Giants, who finished tied for second in the Mid-Illini standings, dip down to Class 2A following last season's 3A regional title-winning season. Seven starters return for coach Bob Barnes including the entire senior infield — first baseman Katie Smith (.429 batting average), second baseman Lexie Knowles (.450), third baseman Bree Williamson (.367) and shortstop Ellie Downing (.432). Two outfielders — junior Jaiden Walters (.465) and senior Ella Wheeler (.392) — are back, along with senior ace pitcher Ella Dixon (10-4, 2.09 ERA; .405).

2. Illini Bluffs (17-1)

The reigning Class 1A state champions are poised to make a run a third successive trip to the state finals. Senior battery mates — pitcher/Bradley recruit Kierston McCoy (17-1, 1.02 ERA; .483 average) and catcher/Lewis commit Kristen Graham (.436, 25 RBIs) — could make opposing hitters very miserable. Despite the graduation of Addie Welsh (Bradley) and Emma Hicks (Illinois State), coach Lindsey Lox will look to Annabelle Fortin (.487), Tinley Beecham (.397) and Zoe Eeten (.341) will lead the IB offense, which hit .425 last season.

Title game:Illini Bluffs wins extra-inning battle to earn Class 1A softball state championship

Illini Bluffs first baseman Tinley Beecham jumps for joy after making the final out at first base for a 6-3 victory over Orangeville in the Class 1A softball state semifinals Wednesday, June 16, 2021 at the Louisville Slugger Sports Complex in Peoria.

3. Brimfield/Elmwood (16-2)

Brimfield ended last season in surprising fashion, losing in the 2A regional semifinals. With Haley Wallace off to Loyola, the Indians' offense, who averaged a shade under a 12 runs a game, will need big-time production from sophomore Olivia Kappes (.385), senior Marisa Unes (.404) and sophomore Kierra Johnson (.451). Brimfield will boast a strong pitching staff led by senior Maddie Hessing (1.71 ERA) along with Johnson and junior Kate Yemm (2.59 ERA). Also in the mix for the Indians will be returning starters sophomore CJ Troxell (.333) and junior Ella Florey (.349).

Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.