Bearcats are Picked Fourth in NWC Baseball Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University's baseball team has been picked to finish fourth in the Northwest Conference this season, according to the NWC Preseason Poll of the league's head coaches. Defending champion Linfield College was picked first in the poll and received four of nine first place votes.

The Bearcats return several key players who should keep Willamette in contention this spring. Kyle Stalker (Sr., 1B, Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS) was named Third Team All-America and First Team All-West Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA). He also was selected as the NWC Player of the Year. He led NCAA Division III in home runs per game, with 22 homers in 39 games played. He topped the NWC statistics in home runs and runs batted in (63).

First Team All-NWC shortstop Doug Bloom (So., Salem, OR/South Salem HS) also returns for the 'Cats. Bloom hit .333 last season, with 39 runs scored and 26 RBIs. He was 16 of 20 on stolen bases.

Left fielder T.C. Lee (So., Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) is back in the outfield for Willamette this spring. As a freshman in 2008, he batted .320, blasted 10 home runs and recorded 34 RBIs on his way to Second Team All-NWC recognition.

Also returning for the 'Cats is pitcher Kelsey Nakata (Sr., RHP, Mililani, HI/Mililani HS). Last season, Nakata led Willamette with a 4.50 earned run average. He achieved a 3-1 record and held opponents to a .268 batting average.

Linfield topped the Preseason Poll with 79 points. George Fox University was second at 75 points (3 first place votes), Pacific Lutheran University held third place at 71 points (2 first place votes), and Willamette was fourth with 49 points.

Whitworth University placed fifth in the poll with 40 points, the University of Puget Sound was sixth with 36 points, Pacific University was seventh with 35 points, Lewis & Clark College placed eighth with 20 points and Whitman College was ninth at 10 points.

Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick is in his first season as the leader of the Bearcats. He previously served as an assistant coach for the Bearcats during the 2006 and 2007 season.

WU finished 2008 with a 20-20 overall record. The Bearcats were 16-15 in the NWC. Willamette will its 2009 schedule on Saturday, Feb. 21 with a doubleheader against California State University-East Bay in Hayward, Calif. The first home games for the 'Cats will be an NWC doubleheader with George Fox University on march 14 at Roy "Spec" Keene Stadium in Salem, Ore.

Kyle Stalker is the returning Northwest Conference Baseball Player of the Year.

Kyle Stalker is the returning Northwest Conference Baseball Player of the Year.