Bearcat Softball Team Opens Season at #23 in NFCA Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University softball team enters the 2009 season ranked #23 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Top 25 preseason poll for NCAA Division III. The Bearcats will be led by senior All-American Nikki Franchi (RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS), who was named First Team All-America as a utility player by the NFCA last season.

Franchi became Willamette's first All-America selection in softball. She was named to the First Team as an at-large selection. She was chosen by the Northwest Conference coaches as the 2008 NWC Player of the Year.

"We have a great returning class, which mixed with our outstanding freshman class, should make us hard to beat." said Head Coach Damian Williams. "Even so, we have a long season and this is just a preseason poll. It will come down to what we do on the field."

The Bearcats will open the season on Sunday, Feb. 22 at the Northwest Cup in Portland, Ore. Willamette will take on Eastern Oregon University at 1 p.m. (PST), before playing host Concordia University (Ore.) at 3 p.m.

Last season, Willamette finished 25-11 overall. The Bearcats went 19-9 in the Northwest Conference.

Nikki Franchi is a returning First Team All-America selection for the Bearcats.

Nikki Franchi is a returning First Team All-America selection for the Bearcats.