Franchi, Bearcats Down Central 12-4 at NFCA Leadoff Classic

By Ryan Borde, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110,

(SOFTBALL) PANAMA CITY, FLA -- For the third straight game, the Willamette University softball team knocked off a highly regarded opponent at the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Leadoff Classic in Panama City, Florida, defeating Central College (Iowa) 12-4 in six innings. With the win, the Bearcats finished pool play with a 3-0 record and advanced to the Gold Bracket of the tournament.

Yesterday, Willamette started the tournament with a 9-1 win over William Paterson University (N.J.), and then followed that up with an 8-4 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In the latest NFCA Coaches Poll released on March 8, UW-Eau Claire was ranked #7 in the nation, while William Paterson finished just one spot outside of the Top 25, by receiving 19 votes in the poll. Central College started the season ranked #25 in the nation, but in the March 8 poll, the Dutch finished four spots out of the Top 25, with 10 votes.

In the win over Central, the Bearcats pounded out 14 hits, and pitcher Nikki Franchi (So., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) went the distance to up her record to 2-2 on the year. Franchi stuck out six, allowed seven hits, walked three and limited the Dutch to four earned runs. Franchi also had an excellent game at the plate, going 2 for 3 with four RBI.

In addition to Franchi, four other Bearcats finished the game with multiple hits, highlighted by Nicole Wallace’s (Fr., 2B/C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) 3 for 5 performance. Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) went 2 for 3, and hit a 2-run home run, her second in as many games, while Liz Gilgan (Jr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and LaShawna Holcomb (So., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) both went 2 for 4. Holcomb doubled and drove in four runs, while both Gilgan and Wallace scored three runs for Willamette.

Willamette won the four-team pool it was in, and earned a spot in the Gold Bracket, which will determine the Leadoff Classic champion. The six pool winners and the top two second place teams advanced to the Gold Bracket. The Bearcats earned the No. 2 seed in the Gold Bracket, which was determined by run differential. Willamette outscored its three opponents by a combined 20 runs. Louisiana College, which outscored its three opponents by a combined 26 runs, is seeded first in the eight team bracket.

The Silver Bracket and the Bronze Bracket will be filled by the remaining teams in the 24-team field. Bracket play will start Saturday evening and will conclude on Sunday.

Willamette, 5-3 overall on the season, starts bracket play this evening against Wheaton College (IL). Wheaton finished pool play with a 2-1 record, and is the No. 7 seed in the Gold Bracket. First pitch is set for 5 p.m. (EST).


NCAA Division III Leadoff Classic logo for 2007

NCAA Division III Leadoff Classic logo for 2007