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Pitchers make the difference atop the softball Metro Top 10

Here is Star Tribune writer Jim Paulsen's first Metro Top 10 ranking of the 2024 high school softball season. The Metro Top 10 will be updated weekly.

1. Forest Lake (4A): Softball is pitching, and the Rangers have two of the state's best pitchers in Hannah Tong and Avery Muellner.

2. Rosemount (4A): The Irish return loads of senior talent from their 2023 state champion team, led by Kayla Bartol, Cece Hansen, Grace Nosan and Ari Princl.

3. Stillwater (4A): There's talent throughout the lineup, and a terrific battery in pitcher Anna Corbid and catcher Sarah Dollerschell.

4. Maple Grove (4A): Coach Jim Koltes has the luxury of quality depth in the pitching circle.

5. Farmington (4A): A strong group of juniors returns from the 2023 state tournament group, led by catcher Katie Klotz.

6. St. Michael-Albertville (4A): A combination of experienced depth and promising youth has the Knights trending up.

7. Centennial (4A): The Cougars failed to make it to the state tournament last season. Junior pitcher Riley O'Connell is poised to lead them back.

8. Lakeville North (4A): Pitching/hitting dual threat Nora Brandt makes the players around her better.

9. Shakopee (4A): Lefthander Sylvia Shromoff is the state's best senior power pitcher, topping 70 MPH.

10. Minnetonka (4A): The Skippers can knock the ball around and have three pitchers they can depend on.

Honorable mention: Lakeville South (4A), Eden Prairie (4A), Andover (4A).

Five worthy of notice from smaller classes: Cretin-Derham Hall (3A), Delano (3A), Chisago Lakes (3A), Randolph (2A), Belle Plaine (2A).