Franchi Repeats as First Team All-West Region Selection

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

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University softball standout Nikki Franchi (Sr,. RHP/DP, Los Gatos, CA/Saratoga HS) has been chosen First Team All-West Region for the second year in a row. Franchi, who led the Bearcats to a 29-6 overall record, was one of 15 athletes selected for the First Team by members of the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).

WU athletes LaShawna Holcomb (Sr., CF, Renton, WA/Hazen HS), Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF, Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) and Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) earned Third Team All-West Region honors. Overall, the All-Region squad included 45 players from 18 colleges and universities.

The Bearcats achieved a team batting average of .330 this spring, while scoring 214 runs in 35 games (6.11 avg.). Willamette held opponents to a .190 batting average and won 16 games by shutout. WU took second place in the Northwest Conference with a 22-6 record.

Willamette ranked second in the nation with 2.91 stolen bases per game (102 total). The 'Cats were ranked #21 in the NCAA Division III Top 25 Poll released by the NFCA on May 6.

First Team All-West Region

Nikki Franchi (Sr., RHP/DP) completed an outstanding career with the Bearcats this spring. She attained a .423 career batting average with 150 hits in 355 at bats. In 126 career games played (120 starts), she scored 93 runs and registered 112 RBIs.

She smacked 36 doubles, seven triples and 18 home runs during her four years at WU. She produced a .715 career slugging percentage and a .499 on-base percentage. She was 25 of 29 on stolen bases.

This year, Franchi started all 35 games and batted .380, with 25 runs scored and 29 RBIs. She hit 10 doubles, one triple and four home runs. She was 4 for 4 with three runs, three RBIs, two doubles and a triple in a 12-2 win over Southern Oregon University on March 24.

During her career, she established or tied 12 single season offensive records and broke or tied seven career offensive records. Her Willamette records included batting average in a season (.518 in 2008) and a career (.423), home runs in a season (10 in 2008) and a career (18).

As a pitcher for the 'Cats, she achieved a 50-19 record (.725) with a 2.06 career ERA. She registered 565 strikeouts and had 18 solo shutouts and four combined shutouts. She pitched 462 1/3 innings during her career.

This year, she achieved a 16-3 pitching record with a 0.95 earned run average. She struck out 164 batters in 121 2/3 innings pitched, and limited opponents to a .153 batting average. She tossed nine complete-game shutouts, including two no-hitters. She threw a one-hitter and blasted a two-run homer in a 2-0 win over Linfield College.

She set a total of six single season pitching records at Willamette. She also earned career records in seven pitching categories. Her pitching records included victories in a season (19 in 2008) and a career (50) and pitching strikeouts in a season (203 in 2008) and a career (565).

In addition to being named First Team All-West Region in 2008 and 2009, Franchi also received Third Team All-West Region honors in 2007. She was selected First Team All-NWC in 2007, 2008 and 2009. She was the NWC Player of the Year in 2008. She claimed First Team All-America honors in 2008.

Franchi was chosen NWC Student-Athlete of the Week a total of eight times. She was named Player of the Week on March 17, 2008. She was chosen Pitcher of the Week once in 2007 (March 12), three times in 2008 (Feb. 25, March 10, April 7) and three consecutive times in 2009 (March 23, March 30, April 6).

Third Team All-West Region

LaShawna Holcomb (Sr, CF) started all 35 games and hit .364 this season. She contributed significant speed and power on offense, as she earned 11 doubles, six triples and one home run for a .600 slugging percentage. She scored 27 runs and was responsible for 21 RBIs. She was successful on 12 of 16 stolen base attempts. On defense, she made 31 putouts, registered three assists and committed no errors.

She was 8 for 12 in four games against Lewis & Clark College. She went 3 for 3 with a run, two RBIs and two doubles in the second game versus the Pioneers (12-0 win) on April 1. She was 3 for 3 with three RBIs and a triple in the fourth game of the series (6-0 win) on April 4. During the season, she had 13 games with two or more hits.

In four years at Willamette, Holcomb played in 141 games -- all starts. She earned a .337 career batting average and scored 100 runs for the 'Cats. She also drove in 96 runs and pounded out 33 doubles, 11 triples and 10 homers. A skilled runner, she converted 42 of 49 career stolen base attempts. She registered at least nine stolen bases each season, including 11 steals on 11 attempts in 2006.

Holcomb blasted six triples this spring to establish a Willamette single season record, while ranking 21st in NCAA Division III with 0.17 triples per game. She ranked second on the WU single season list with 36 RBIs in 2008. She set Bearcat career records with 454 at bats, 11 triples and 96 RBIs.

She ranks in the top five at Willamette on several additional career lists, including second place in runs scored (100), total bases (238) and hit by pitches (19).

Holcomb earned First Team All-NWC honors in 2009, and was selected Second Team All-NWC in both 2006 and 2008. She was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2007.

Sierra Lessel (Fr., OF) ranked first on Willamette’s 2009 offensive chart with a .418 batting average. She led the team with 46 hits and 28 runs, while tying for first with 110 at bats. She belted seven doubles, two triples and two runs on her way to achieving 24 RBIs. Lessel played in 34 games for the Bearcats, including 33 starts.

She was 3 for 4 with a run, four RBIs and a triple in an 8-3 win versus Pacific Lutheran University on Feb. 11. She went 3 for 5 with two runs, five RBIs and a double in a 13-0 win over Whitworth University on April 18. She recorded two or more hits 14 times.

On defense, she registered a total of 27 putouts in the outfield. She earned a .966 fielding percentage, while committing just one error this spring.

Alex Watilo (Fr., RHP) achieved a 13-3 record as pitcher this season. She finished the year with a 1.20 ERA to go with 66 strikeouts in 105 1/3 innings. She limited opponents to a .229 batting average. She earned a high of eight strikeouts in an 8-5 win against Northwest Christian College on Feb. 22 and in a 4-0 victory against George Fox University on March 19.

She held seven opponents to just two or three hits, and allowed five or fewer hits in 12 of her 17 appearances. She tossed 14 complete games, including seven shutouts.

Watilo gave up only 18 earned runs during the season. She walked 12 batters and had just two wild pitches. She picked up two important NWC triumphs early in the season, helping WU defeat Pacific University 9-1 on March 7 and 7-1 on March 8.

Nikki Franchi achieved a career batting average of .423 and earned a 50-19 record as a pitcher.

Nikki Franchi achieved a career batting average of .423 and earned a 50-19 record as a pitcher.

Nikki Franchi hit 18 home runs during her Willamette career.

Nikki Franchi hit 18 home runs during her Willamette career.

LaShawna Holcomb earned 42 stolen bases in four seasons with the Bearcats.

LaShawna Holcomb earned 42 stolen bases in four seasons with the Bearcats.