The trees are in bloom and the April rains have subsided enough for most teams to have played half their schedule, but what kind of teams do we have out there this year?

This reporter would like to think of the teams as plucky.

There is a never-say-die attitude amongst the teams we've seen that have a legitimate chance at the playoffs this year - Southern Columbia, Shamokin and Lourdes - and that's good because in some games the teams have looked like walking dead.

As of Friday, all three teams were at .500, but all had regrettable losses and losing streaks this season of at least two games. And for the most part, that's where the bad news ends.

Hitting is better in some places, and not as great in others.

Shamokin, despite being just one game better overall than at the same point last season, has nine more extra-base hits. The Indians have only lost by mercy rule twice this year and are breaking in a pair of brand-new pitchers.

Olivia Bonshock leads the Indians with six extra-base hits, including four doubles, a triple and a home run. Helena Supsic and Courtney McGrath each have four. The Indians didn't have their 20th extra-base hit until the same point they had their fourth overall win - in the 11th game.

On the flip side of that is Southern Columbia. The Tigers started the season with 13 straight wins and the rest, as we know, is history.

Southern would have needed to come out with a softball-sized chip on its shoulder to repeat that feat with this year's schedule.

The Tigers had their 22nd extra-base hit in just six games last year. That's in comparison to 23 through 10 games this year with the same number of wins to show (6).

There were three common opponents in last year's streak and this year's schedule - Hughesville, Vo Tech and Central Columbia - with only Central besting Southern this year. It's the rest of the schedule that's given the Tigers problems.

The worry for the Tigers could all be for naught if they can get the bat on the ball at the same pace as last year. There are signs Southern is coming alive. Kayla Lavella leads the team with seven extra-base hits, including five doubles, while Mallory Tomaschik has three home runs and two doubles. Freshman Blair Johnston has two doubles and a home run.

Finally, Lourdes is very nearly in the same place is was last year. The Raiders have an identical 6-3 record as last season and 13 extra-base hits compared to 15 extra-base hits last year. What's more, the Raiders are winning games they're supposed to and have closed the gap with the really good teams in

the Schuylkill League. How that translates against the rest of the field in District 4's Class AA is anyone's guess.

CharLee Rosini leads the Raiders with five extra-base hits, including three doubles, while Peyton Klembara and Emily Long have a double, triple and home run each.

(Dan MacArthur covers softball for The News-Item.)