Franchi and Stalker are Finalists for Oregon Sports Awards

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

SALEM, ORE. -- A pair of Willamette University student-athletes have been selected as finalists for the Oregon Sports Awards.

Softball right-handed pitcher and designated player Nikki Franchi (Sr., Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) is one of five athletes under consideration for the 2008 Ad Rutschman Small College Women's Athlete of the Year Award. Baseball first baseman Kyle Stalker (Sr., Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS) is among five finalists for the 2008 Ad Rutschman Small College Men's Athlete of the Year Award.

In addition, former Willamette track and field and cross country athlete Nick Symmonds '06 was chosen as a finalist for the Harry Glickman Professional Men's Athlete of the Year Award. Symmonds took first place in the 800-meter run at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Ore., then won his preliminary heat at the Beijing Olympics. He also competed in the semifinals at the Olympics.

The Ad Rutschman Awards, Harry Glickman Awards and other honors will be presented at the 57th Annual Oregon Sports Awards, scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 8 at the Tiger Woods Center in Portland, Ore. The event will get underway at 7 p.m. (PST).

A broadcast of the Oregon Sports Awards will be provided by Comcast SportsNet on a tape-delayed basis at 8 p.m. (PST) on Monday, Feb. 9. The show will be replayed on Feb. 10 at 10 p.m., Feb. 13 at 10 p.m., Feb. 24 at 7 p.m., Feb. 25 at 9 a.m. and March 1 at 9 p.m. It also will be available through Comcast's ON DEMAND service starting Feb. 14.

At the end of her junior season in 2008, Franchi was named First Team All-America as a utility player by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). She became Willamette's first All-America selection in softball. She was named First Team All-West Region, was the Player of the Year in the Northwest Conference and was a First Team All-NWC selection.

Franchi earned an impressive .518 batting average and set Willamette records with 10 home runs and a .955 slugging percentage. She set another record with 45 RBIs and tied a WU record with 46 runs scored. She started all 36 games for the Bearcats, either as a pitcher or as a designated player.

As a pitcher, Franchi finished the year with a 19-4 record and a 1.85 earned run average. She struck out 203 batters to set a Willamette record and held opponents to a .198 batting average. She registered three complete-game shutouts and one combined shutout. She pitched a total of 147 2/3 innings.

She ranked seventh nationally in NCAA Division III in batting average and was eighth in slugging percentage. She finished sixth in the nation in on-base percentage (.588), was 13th in runs batted in per game (1.25) and tied for 12th in runs scored per game (1.28). She was 14th in pitching strikeouts per game (9.6).

Franchi holds several Willamette career offensive records with a .439 batting average, a .753 slugging percentage, a .509 on-base percentage and 14 home runs. She owns WU career pitching records for total strikeouts (401) and strikeouts per game (8.2).

Willamette concluded the year with a 25-11 overall record. The Bearcats were 19-9 in the NWC and claimed third place in the conference. The Bearcats ranked fourth in NCAA Division III in home runs per game (1.25), as the Bearcats smacked 45 homers in 36 games.

Joining Franchi as finalists for the Ad Rutschman Small College Women's Athlete of the Year were basketball player Katy Campbell from George Fox University, track and field thrower Annie Hess from Concordia University (Ore.), softball second baseman Jenny Marshall from Linfield College, and soccer defender Jackie Pronovost from Concordia.

Stalker, who was a junior during the 2008 season, led NCAA Division III in home runs per game. He pounded out 22 home runs in 39 games for 0.56 homers per contest. Many of his home runs left the ballpark by significant margins.

His efforts also helped Willamette rank first in NCAA Division III in team home runs per game. The Bearcats belted an impressive 66 home runs as a team during the season for an average of 1.65 home runs per game.

Stalker achieved a .361 batting average and led the team with 27 walks. He hit an impressive .382 with runners in scoring position. He was named Third Team All-America by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).

He belted three homers in a single game against Lewis & Clark College on March 1 and hit two homers in four other games. His .844 slugging percentage ranked seventh in NCAA Division III. He was chosen NWC Player of the Week on March 4 after smacking seven home runs and going 7 for 15 at the plate during a 4-1 week for the Bearcats.

Stalker led the Northwest Conference in home runs, RBIs and total bases (124). He scored 44 runs and finished the year with a .469 on-base percentage. He was named First Team All-Northwest Conference and was selected NWC Player of the Year. He earned First Team All-West Region honors. He owns a .305 career batting average. He is WU's all-time leader with 36 career home runs.

Defensively, he recorded 319 putouts and earned 20 assists. He committed just three errors and achieved a .991 fielding percentage. He was involved in 35 of Willamette's 38 double plays. Willamette finished the 2008 season with a 20-20 overall record, including 16-15 record (5th place) in the Northwest Conference.

In addition to Stalker, finalists for the Ad Rutschman Small College Men's Athlete of the Year were basketball player Mark Carollo form Eastern Oregon University, baseball pitcher Brian Clark from Linfield, basketball player Ryan Fiegi from the Oregon Institute of Technology, and track and field athlete Nik Kay from Concordia.

Each year, the Oregon Sports Awards show honors athletes, coaches, teams and organizations with ties to the State of Oregon who excelled during the previous calendar year. Ahmad Rashad, former football standout at the University of Oregon and in the NFL, will be the broadcast host for the third consecutive year. Bill Schonely, the Portland Trailblazers' original broadcaster, is the event's ambassador and host.

Sports celebrities from Oregon's past and present will present the awards. Winners will be announced in 14 categories, including professional, major college, small college, high school and Special Olympics sports. A 78-member, statewide panel of voters selects the finalists and the winners.

Nikki Franchi earned a 19-4 pitching record and hit .518 at the plate last season.

Nikki Franchi earned a 19-4 pitching record and hit .518 at the plate last season.

Kyle Stalker hit 22 home runs and led NCAA Division III in home runs per game last season.

Kyle Stalker hit 22 home runs and led NCAA Division III in home runs per game last season.