The landscape for high school softball entering the playoffs is similar to what it was last year.
The Class 5A Southern Region tournament looks wide open, while the 4A state and 3A Southern Region tournaments have a clear favorite.
The 5A and 3A events will begin Monday and 4A on Wednesday.
League champions: Green Valley (Desert); Arbor View, Shadow Ridge (shared Mountain title)
The favorite: Arbor View
Shadow Ridge is the No. 1 seed from the Mountain League, but the Aggies get the slight nod as the favorite in part to having most of their team back from last year’s regional championship — a title they earned by edging Shadow Ridge. Arbor View was also bolstered by adding pitching standout Jill Colgan. Green Valley also has a case and probably will go as far as Avari Morris’ left arm takes the Gators.
The dark horse: Centennial
The Bulldogs are the No. 3 seed from the Desert League, but they are a perennial championship threat. Their biggest strength is an offense that hit .328 with 34 home runs. Centennial opens against Arbor View on Monday.
Potential first-round upset: Liberty over Green Valley
This matchup comes down to one thing — can pitcher Crystal Warren slow the Green Valley bats and keep the Patriots in the game? Liberty played nine one-run games, including a 3-2 loss to Green Valley in March, so it’s well-prepared to handle a close game.
League champions: Silverado (Desert); Bishop Gorman (Mountain)
The favorite: Bishop Gorman
The Gaels were 14-0 in league play, and only one of those games, an 11-8 win over Legacy, was decided by three runs or less. Gorman has one of the valley’s top pitchers in Rylie Pindel, who also hit .531 to rank second behind Kayla Acres (.565) on a team that has six players hitting at least .400.
The dark horse: Legacy
The Longhorns hit .423, and that lineup should keep them in any game. The rest will be up to pitcher Destinee Jefferson, a senior who is 15-4 with a 3.31 ERA.
Potential first-round upset: Las Vegas over Chaparral
This one is a toss-up. Las Vegas is the No. 5 seed from the Mountain League and 8-9 overall with a plus-22 run differential. Chaparral is the No. 4 seed from the Desert League and 9-8 with a minus-6 run differential.
League champions: Virgin Valley (Desert); Boulder City (Mountain)
The favorite: Virgin Valley
The Bulldogs have been a wrecking ball all season, with their only loss against Bishop Gorman in early March. Virgin Valley has won 27 straight since and outscored its opponents 361-78 for the season.
The dark horse: Moapa Valley
When in doubt, take the team from a program that seems to be in the running for championships in everything. The Pirates were shut out in both games against rival Virgin Valley and outscored a combined 9-0, but they won their other games against Class 3A competition.
Potential first-round upset: Pahrump Valley over SLAM Nevada
The teams played twice, and SLAM Nevada won both by three runs apiece. If a couple of plays go the other way this time, the Trojans could spring the upset.