Three Bearcats Chosen for All-Tournament Team at NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

(SOFTBALL) PANAMA CITY, FLA. -- The Willamette University Bearcats put together outstanding offensive statistics on their way to the championship game of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Leadoff Classic this past weekend (March 9-11). Willamette went 5-1 in the tournament, including five consecutive victories, before falling to the University of St. Thomas (Minn.) in the championship game, 4-0. The Bearcats hit .358 as a team, while pounding out 67 hits and scoring 50 runs.

During the tournament, Willamette defeated four teams ranked or receiving votes in the NFCA Top 25 Poll, including seventh-ranked University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and eighth-ranked Chapman University (Calif.), before losing to sixth-ranked St. Thomas. Willamette finished in front of 11 nationally-ranked teams in the final tournament standings.

Willamette’s stellar play allowed three Bearcats to earn spots on the Leadoff Classic All-Tournament Team. WU’s All-Tournament selections were sophomore pitcher Nikki Franchi (RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS), senior third baseman Molly Barnes (Salem, OR/Sprague HS) and junior shortstop Liz Gilgan (Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS).

Franchi pitched in four of Willamette’s six games at the Leadoff Classic. She earned a 3-0 record with one save, while achieving a 1.97 earned run average against some of the top teams in NCAA Division III. She threw complete games against Central College (Iowa) and Chapman and went the first six innings against William Paterson University. She recorded 23 strikeouts in 21 1/3 innings pitched. Franchi also hit .476 (10 of 21) at the plate, with five runs and eight RBIs, to go with five doubles and one home run.

Barnes went 12 of 24 on offense to lead the Bearcats with a .500 batting average during the tournament. She scored eight runs and recorded seven RBIs. She earned at least one hit in five of Willamette’s six games, including three games with three or more hits. She was 4 for 5 with four runs and three RBIs in WU’s 13-7 win over Wheaton College (Mass.) in the semifinals. For the season, Barnes leads Willamette with a .463 batting average.

Gilgan hit .476 over the weekend, as she recorded 10 hits in 21 at bats. She scored a team-high 10 runs in WU’s six games. She also contributed two doubles, one triple and three RBIs. She led Willamette with a .577 on-base percentage and was 3 for 3 on stolen bases. Gilgan produced two hits in five of WU’s games and scored a least two runs four times. She tallied three runs against Central College (Iowa) in a 12-4 win in pool play. On defense, she recorded 13 putouts, eight assists and one error at shortstop.

WU’s team batting average of .358 in the tournament included seven players hitting .300 or higher. Barnes led the way with her .500 average. She was followed by Franchi and Gilgan at .476, Nicole Wallace (Fr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) at .421 and Geneva Hale (Jr., 1B, Shoreline, WA/Shorecrest HS) with a .353 average. LaShawna Holcomb (So., OF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) batted .333 and Marissa Richards (So., UT, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) hit .300 for the Bearcats.

The ‘Cat blasted nine home runs and hit 27 extra-base hits. Hale led Willamette’s power attack with four homers, while Barnes added three homers and Franchi and Holcomb each smacked one homer. Franchi also pounded out five of WU’s 17 doubles. Gilgan supplied the team’s only triple. The Bearcats were 19 of 20 on stolen bases.

Willamette’s pitching staff of Franchi, Leighann Auer (Fr., RHP, Independence, OR/Central HS) and Casey Jarzombek-Clark (Jr., RHP, Aloha, OR/Aloha HS) registered 40 strikeouts in 40 innings and limited opponents to a .265 combined batting average. The Bearcats held five opponents to four runs or less. Chapman and William Paterson University were limited to just one run and five hits apiece.

NFCA Division III Leadoff Classic
2007 All-Tournament Team

Most Valuable Player
Maria Bye, University of St. Thomas (Minn.)

Name, College/University
McCaslin Carson, Louisiana College
Nikki Franchi, Willamette University
Maggie Wilder, Chapman University
Carrie Embree, University of St. Thomas (Minn.)
Molly Barnes, Willamette University
Nikki Jung, St. Mary’s University (Minn.)
Liz Gilgan, Willamette University
Cortney Frederick, Mount Union College
Katherine Horton, Louisiana College
Laura Braun, Central College (Iowa)
Autumn Millett, Rutgers University-Camden
Erin Mulvey, Trinity University (Texas)

Nikki Franchi went 3-0 with one save in four appearances at the Leadoff Classic.

Nikki Franchi went 3-0 with one save in four appearances at the Leadoff Classic.