Willamette is Ranked #7 in NCAA Division III Softball Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University has moved up four positions in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division III Top 25 Poll released on Wednesday, April 15. Willamette is 25-2 on the season, including 18-2 in the Northwest Conference. The Bearcats were ranked #11 a week ago.

Linfield College, 29-2, took over the #1 spot on the poll with five first place votes and 193 points. The Wildcats jumped two positions from last week. East Texas Baptist University, 26-4, also advanced two places to #2 with one first place vote and 184 points. Louisiana College, 28-6, fell from #1 to #3 this week with two first place votes and 181 points.

Luther College (Iowa), 24-2, made a huge jump from last week, surging from #13 to #4 with 173 points. Central College (Iowa), 24-4, improved its standing in the poll by one spot, as it moved up to #5 with 158 points. The University of St. Thomas dropped from #2 to #6 with a 25-3 record and 153 points. Willamette's rise to #7 left the Bearcats with 146 points in the poll.

Rounding out the Top 10 were Tufts University (Mass.), 26-0, in the #8 spot with 144 points, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, 21-3, at #9 with 126 points, and Cortland State (N.Y.), 24-2, at #10 with 121 points. UW-Whitewater, which began the season as the #1 team, made a recovery of five positions in the poll after holding #14 last week.

The Bearcats are hitting .356 as a team, led by freshman outfielder Sierra Lessel (Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) with a .452 average. Also hitting over .400 for the 'Cats are Mica Romero (Fr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian) at .413 and LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS) at .412.

Pitchers Nikki Franchi (Sr., RHP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) and Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) have provided Willamette with a 1.05 team ERA. Franchi is 13-1 with a 1.00 ERA and 134 strikeouts in 91 innings. Watilo is 12-1 and has a 1.11 ERA.

The 'Cats rank third in NCAA Division III in stolen bases per game, with 3.22 successful steals per contest. Willamette has converted 87 of 112 stolen base attempts. Lessel leads the Bearcats with 16 stolen bases, while Romero has stolen 13, and Holcomb and Nicole Wallace (Jr., C, Roseville, CA/Roseville HS) have stolen 12 apiece.

Willamette is scheduled to play a four-game Northwest Conference series at Whitworth University in Spokane, Wash., this weekend. The Bearcats and the Pirates will play two game on Saturday, April 18, starting at 12 p.m. (PDT). They will conclude the series with two games on Sunday, April 19, with first pitch set for 12 p.m.

NFCA Division III Top 25
Released on April 15, 2009
Freshman pitcher Alex Watilo has achieved a 12-1 record this season.

Freshman pitcher Alex Watilo has achieved a 12-1 record this season.