The Interhigh softball race could go right down to the last inning again this season.

H.D. Woodson High School, which had won the regular-season championship, went into the last inning of last season's Interhigh tournament with a 14-14 tie. Then, in the bottom of the seventh, the Warriors scored once to defeat Wilson, win the tournament title and complete a 16-0 season.

Two controversial calls -- one on a play at third and the other on a short fly to right that brought the winning run home -- gave the Warriors the 15-14 victory.

The Warriors, coached by Jackie Brown and Aona Harrington, are favored to win the title a fourth straight season, mainly because pitcher Delia Davis is back. Davis, who also plays volleyball, won all 16 games last year, and batted .279.

"Right now, she is the top pitcher in the Interhigh," Brown said.

Evelyn Newborn, who plays two other sports, also is back. She batted .287 last season, and also was point guard on the No. 1-ranked Interhigh championship basketball team that finished 31-2.

Jimetta Brown, Pamela Jackson, Cheryl Jenkins, Lisa Simmons and Judia Turner are back, too.

"Our whole game is defense," Harrington said.

Brown stresses defense from the start. "The offense comes along (during the season)," she said. "The defense wins the game."

Dunbar, Wilson and Coolidge High Schools could challenge Woodson this season. Dunbar finished second during the regular season and will rely on sophomores this year. Coach Roy Westmore, who also coaches basketball, believes some of his basketball magic will carry over.

"We'll be one of the top teams," he said during a practice at Bundy School, right down the street from Dunbar.

The Crimson Tide players are just as confident.

"They (the Warriors) lost too many players," said first basemen Juanita Jones, a transfer from McKinley.

"We are going to have a lot of teamwork with people working together," pitcher Avril Sahadeo said.

Westmore is counting on Tarsha Bennett, Keshia Hines, Teresa Jones, Tracy Patterson and Tracy Thomas.

Most of Wilson High's offense will come from Zavetta Taylor, who hit .700 last year, and three-sport athlete Clara Butler, a member of the 12-0 Interhigh volleyball champions.

"I hope we win the city and the tournament," said Butler before a scrimmage with Sidwell Friends. "We have to beat Woodson, Dunbar and Coolidge. Last year, we had a good defense and a good hitting team."

Coach Glenda Holmes will also have Kerri Galloway, Michelle Brown and Carole Leary.

Coolidge's young players could help Coach Ada Mitchell make a repeat appearance in the tournament. She has outstanding players in Tamika Brown and Wyetheac Choice.

"I think we are going to be competitive, but we have to shore up on our batting," she said. "The girls are going to have to learn the game very quickly."

She believes sophomore Linda Lawson will be "a key defensive player."

Spingarn Coach Maggie Whitfield said she will be looking for much more than that.

"I am crying in my milk," she said. "We will have a compelely new team. It's like starting over."

She had to recruit from the basketball and volleyball teams to fill her roster. Volleyball players Lori Jackson and April Jenkins have signed up and basketball players Shirley Boykins and Belinda Graham will try softball. Erika Gardner is the only veteran from last year.

Three basketball coaches will try softball. Eastern's Pat Shepard, who coached softball last year, again will lead the Ramblers. At Cardozo High, Henry Lindsey will make the switch, and so will Carlton Saunders at Roosevelt.

Other coaches will be Rick Alexander at Ballou, Tom Sumlin at Anacostia, and Ernest Kinard at McKinley.

League games will begin Wednesday April 17.