WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Amador Valley, No. 3 James Logan, No. 4 Castro Valley
WHOM TO WATCH: Amador Valley's Johanna Grauer, California's Lindsey Chalmers, James Logan's RaeAnn Garza, Castro Valley's Karen Chaw, Freedom's Madison Williams, Heritage's Ali Ramirez
DREAM DATE: California and James Logan played an exciting semifinal last year and the brackets line up for a semifinal rematch if each squad can win its quarterfinal. Last year, Logan rallied late for a 3-1 win over Cal before it won the North Coast Section title. Both teams return their star pitchers.
BONUS: Elite pitching makes Amador Valley the favorite to earn a third straight trip to the championship game. The Dons' Grauer, an Arizona State commit, heads into the postseason fresh off tossing a five-inning perfect game against crosstown rival Foothill. ... San Leandro is making a rare playoff appearance after winning the West Alameda County Conference-Shoreline Division. ... Granada finished fourth in the competitive East Bay Athletic League and ahead of three playoff teams, but didn't meet the NCS qualifying criteria.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Amador Valley
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Petaluma, No. 2 Alhambra, No. 4 Maria Carrillo
WHOM TO WATCH: Alhambra's Kylee Perez, Petaluma's Dana Thomsen, Clayton Valley Charter's Shannon Mestas, Concord's Kelsey Randall, Pinole Valley's Sydney Shipley, Arroyo's Candice Collier, Livermore's Ashley Weiler
DREAM DATE: Alhambra vs. Clayton Valley Charter would pit the four-time Diablo Foothill Athletic League champions against the Diablo Valley Athletic League co-champs. Both teams have solid pitching and multiple hitters capable of leaving the yard.
BONUS: The only full 16-team bracket in the NCS softball playoffs, Division II could be the most wide open... Never count out Concord, which won NCS championships in 2010 and 2012 when they earned No. 3 and No. 5 seeds, respectively... No. 8 Livermore and No. 10 Carondelet could be spoilers thanks to their experience in the tough EBAL.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Alhambra
WHO'S HOT: No. 2 San Marin, No. 3 Eureka, No. 7 Campolindo
WHOM TO WATCH: Acalanes' Mia Monopoli, Terra Linda's Alyssa Ross, Bishop O'Dowd's Alexis Carney, San Marin's Paige McIntosh, Campolindo's Zoe Marrott
DREAM DATE: A rematch of the 2012 championship game is possible, but it would take several upsets from Bishop O'Dowd, which earned the No. 8 seed. Last year, the Dragons lost in the finals to San Marin, which is seeded on the other side of the bracket at No. 2.
BONUS: If this bracket plays out according to the seeding, all of the East Bay teams would be out before the semifinals. Acalanes is the highest seeded local team at No. 5.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: San Marin
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Salesian, No. 2 Cloverdale, No. 5 Clear Lake
WHOM TO WATCH: Moreau Catholic's Leilani Akai, Salesian's Zoe Conley and Meghan Bradbury, Piedmont's Georgia Hill, Cloverdale's Morgan Robinson
DREAM DATE: The first-round matchup between No. 6 St. Patrick-St. Vincent and No. 11 Piedmont brings together two former league rivals from the Bay Shore Athletic League.
BONUS: Salesian is one of the favorites to reach the championship game in a bracket loaded with mostly North Bay teams. Moreau Catholic and Berean Christian square off in a first round game, but the only other East Bay squads in the 14-team bracket are John Swett and Piedmont. In fact, the last East Bay team to win a Division IV/Class A title was Berean Christian in 2004.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Salesian
WHO'S HOT: No. 1 Redwood Christian, No. 2 St. Vincent, No. 4 College Prep
WHOM TO WATCH: Redwood Christian's Clare Dunnegan, College Prep's Carolyn Dundes and Lila Jansen, Holy Names' Sarah Shipe and Rachel Sanders.
DREAM DATE: Redwood Christian is enjoying unprecedented success this year, Dunnegan, a junior pitcher, will try to help the Eagles to a first ever NCS crown. She and the Eagles enter the playoffs undefeated and with a school record for wins. Defending champion St. Vincent-Petaluma is the No. 2 seed and could be a tough matchup, though. They would meet in the finals.
BONUS: The Division V bracket has a heavy BCL-East flavor. Of the 11 teams in the Division V tournament, five are from the BCL-East.
PREDICTED CHAMPION: Redwood Christian