Willamette is Selected Third in NWC Softball Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has been predicted to take third place in the Northwest Conference softball race this season, according to the league's head coaches in the NWC Preseason Poll. The Bearcats, who finished the 2008 season at 25-11 overall and 19-9 in the NWC, were ranked in the poll behind only defending NWC champion Linfield College and Pacific University.

Linfield received 68 points and six first place votes in the poll. The Wildcats were 38-6 overall and 25-3 in the NWC last year. Pacific followed with 57 points in the poll and the two remaining first place votes. The Boxers concluded last season with a 31-9 record, including 20-8 in the NWC. Willamette was third with 54 points in the poll.

Pacific Lutheran University placed fourth in the poll with 38 points, and Whitworth University was fifth with 33 points. The University of Puget Sound followed in sixth with 27 points, Lewis & Clark College was seventh with 13 points and George Fox University was eighth with 11 points.

The Bearcats return NFCA First Team All-America pitcher and designated player Nikki Franchi (Sr., Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS). Franchi also was chosen NWC Player of the Year. She hit .518 with a school record 10 home runs. She earned 45 RBIs and tied for the school record with 46 runs scored. Franchi achieved a 19-4 pitching record, while striking out 203 batters.

Also returning for WU are Second Team All-Conference selections LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS), Marissa Richards (Sr., 1B, Newberg, OR/Newberg HS), and Nicole Wallace (Jr., C/2B, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS). Holcomb batted .348 with six homers and 36 RBIs. She also recorded a .974 fielding percentage.

Richards also hit .348, while scoring 36 times and pounding out seven home runs. She achieved 205 putouts and five assists with just on error for a .995 fielding percentage. Wallace hit .306, with 25 runs and five RBIs. She recorded a .984 fielding percentage.

The Bearcats earned a .324 team batting average and blasted 45 home runs in 2008. Willamette also smacked 57 doubles and 11 triples, while stealing 93 bases on 115 attempts.

Marissa Richards achieved a .348 batting average and a .995 fielding percentage in 2008.

Marissa Richards achieved a .348 batting average and a .995 fielding percentage in 2008.