NWC Coaches Choose Franchi as Softball Player of the Year

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Nikki Franchi (Jr., RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) of Willamette University, who led the Northwest Conference with a .518 batting average and earned a 19-4 pitching record, has been selected NWC Softball Player of the Year in voting by the NWC head coaches. Franchi also was named First Team All-NWC, along with fellow Willamette players Liz Gilgan (Sr., SS, Sherwood, OR/Sherwood HS) and Katie Peterson (So., RF, Independence, OR/Central HS).

Three Bearcats were chosen Second Team All-NWC. The Second Team picks were outfielder LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS), infielder Marissa Richards (Jr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS) and utility player Nicole Wallace (So., C/2B, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS).

"I think they're all deserving of the honors they've received," Willamette Head Coach Damian Williams said. "I'm very proud of these players and what they've achieved this season."

All-Northwest Conference honors went to a total of 42 players. The First Team included 16 players and 16 players were named to the Second Team. An additional 10 players received Honorable Mention.

Willamette's All-NWC players started every game this season and led the Bearcats to a 25-11 overall record. The 'Cats went 19-9 in the NWC and finished in third place in the conference standings. Willamette ranked fourth in NCAA Division III in home runs per game (1.25), as the Bearcats smacked 45 homers in 36 games.

First Team All-Northwest Conference

Nikki FranchiNikki Franchi (Jr., RHP/DP) exhibited power on offense and defense. She set a Willamette record with 10 home runs and also pounded out 10 doubles and four triples. She finished the year with a school record .955 slugging percentage. In the circle, she struck out 203 batters while pitching 147 2/3 innings. She was named First Team All-NWC for the second year in a row.

Her season totals for wins, strikeouts and innings pitched all set WU records. She also moved into first place all-time at Willamette with 401 career strikeouts.

Franchi's offensive success allowed her to establish a school record with 45 RBIs. She also set a record with a .588 on-base percentage. Franchi and Gilgan tied for a school record by scoring 46 runs, breaking the previous record of 39, set by Gilgan a year ago.

In the national statistics for NCAA Division III through games on May 4, Franchi ranked eighth in batting average and was eighth in slugging percentage. She was ninth in on-base percentage and was 14th in runs batted in per game. She was 15th in pitching wins and strikeouts (9.6 per seven innings).

Franchi owns a .439 career batting average. Her career statistics also include a .753 slugging percentage, a .509 on-base percentage, 112 hits, 26 doubles and a school record 14 home runs. She is 18 of 19 on career stolen base attempts. She has thrown 340 2/3 innings as a pitcher and has a 34-16 career pitching record.

Liz GilganLiz Gilgan (Sr., SS) was the Bearcats' only senior this season. She ended the year ranked first all-time on Willamette's career lists for runs scored (122), stolen bases and attempts (89 of 99), hit by pitches (20) and double plays turned on defense (23). She was third on WU's career chart in hits (154), at bats (428) and on-base percentage (.437).

Her career batting average of .360 ranked sixth all-time at Willamette. She also tied for sixth with a .523 slugging percentage and tied for fourth with 140 games played.

Gilgan had a tremendous senior season. She batted .380 for the Bearcats and led the team with 24 stolen bases on 28 attempts. She matched Franchi with 46 runs scored, as both players tied for a new Willamette record. She also hit nine doubles, two triples and seven home runs. She registered 25 RBIs on offense, while making 48 putouts and 62 assists on defense.

She was named First Team All-Conference for the first time this year. She was chosen Second Team All-NWC in 2006 and 2007.

Katie PetersonKatie Peterson (So., RF) was a key player for the Bearcats this spring. She hit .415 and blasted eight home runs to trail only Franchi on WU's home run chart. Peterson recorded 36 RBIs and scored 22 runs to go with a team-high 11 doubles.

Her exceptional offensive numbers also included a .809 slugging percentage and a .491 on-base percentage. She was successful on 10 of 15 stolen base attempts. She also was solid on defense, as she registered 33 putouts and three assists with just one error.

In two seasons with the Bearcats, Peterson has achieved a .386 career batting average, while earning 51 hits in 132 at bats. She has scored 26 runs, recorded 40 RBIs and gone 12 of 18 on stolen bases.

Second Team All-Northwest Conference

LaShawna Holcomb
LaShawna Holcomb (Jr., CF) provided the 'Cats with a .348 batting average and scored 30 runs this season. She tied for second on the team with 36 RBIs and pounded out 17 extra-base hits, including six home runs. She was 9 of 11 on stolen bases.

She made 34 putouts in center field and also achieved three assists. She earned a .974 fielding percentage. It was her second time on the All-NWC Second Team after receiving similar recognition in 2006. She was named Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2007.

Holcomb has a career batting average of .328 at Willamette. She has started 106 games the past three seasons, and has scored 73 runs while contributing 75 RBIs. She ahs supplied WU with significant power during her career, as she has earned 22 doubles, five triples and nine home runs. Holcomb is 30 of 33 on career stolen bases.

Marissa RichardsMarissa Richards (Jr., 1B) excelled on offense and defense this spring. She hit .348 with 36 runs and 26 RBIs. She also connected for eight doubles and seven home runs.

At first base, she led the team with 205 putouts and committed just one error. She attained a .995 fielding percentage.

Richards was named Second Team All-NWC as a utility player in 2006. During her career, she has played in 97 games with 94 starts. She owns a .323 career batting average and has registered 95 career hits. She is 20 of 22 on stolen base attempts. Her totals at Willamette also include 65 runs scored, 23 doubles and 49 RBIs. On defense, she as a .995 fielding percentage and has recorded 354 putouts.

Nicole WallaceNicole Wallace (So., C/2B) was consistent at the plate and on the infield. She hit .306 and smacked five home runs, while walking 11 times and being hit by 10 pitches (one short of the WU record). She was 10 of 12 stealing bases, scored 25 times and drove in 17 runs.

Defensively, she saw action at second base and catcher. She was credited with 146 putouts and 37 assists on her way to a .984 fielding percentage.

In her two seasons with the 'Cats, Wallace has started 72 games. She has achieved 56 hits, scored 41 runs and produced 33 RBIs. She has been a key base runner with 15 stolen bases on 18 attempts. She owns a .974 career fielding percentage and has made 255 putouts.

Raising the Level of Play Against NWC Opponents

Willamette hit .324 for the season, but increased its batting average to .334 in NWC action. Franchi contributed a .518 average both in the conference and for the season. Peterson elevated her success rate 28 points to .443 against NWC foes and Holcomb jumped 54 points to claim a .402 average in the conference. The Bearcats collected 37 of their 45 home runs during NWC games.

As a team, WU concluded the season ranked fourth in NCAA Division III with 1.25 home runs per game. The Bearcats were sixth in the nation in slugging percentage (.548) and finished eighth with 2.58 stolen bases per game.

Nikki Franchi hit a school record 10 home runs this season. As a pitcher, she set a WU record with 203 strikeouts.

Nikki Franchi hit a school record 10 home runs this season. As a pitcher, she set a WU record with 203 strikeouts.