Bearcats are Selected Fourth in NWC Baseball Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University baseball team has been chosen to finish fourth in the Northwest Conference this spring according to the NWC Baseball Preseason Poll of the league's head coaches. Defending co-champion Pacific Lutheran University was picked to repeat at the top of the standings and received six of nine first placed votes.

PLU received a total of 84 points in the Preseason Poll. Linfield College was second with 72 points and two first place votes. George Fox University, which tied PLU for first place last year at 27-5, was third with 67 points and one first place vote. Willamette followed in fourth with 43 points.

Pacific University and the University of Puget Sound tied for fifth place with 42 points. Whitworth University was seventh with 34, Lewis & Clark College placed eighth with 17 and Whitman College was ninth with 14.

Willamette has three returning starting at field positions. They are junior shortstop Doug Bloom (Salem, OR/South Salem HS), junior outfielder T.C. Lee (Lafayette, CA/Acalanes HS) and sophomore outfielder Mitchell Rowan (Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS).

Also returning is junior catcher Max Stepan (Pueblo, CO/Pueblo County HS), who platooned behind the the plate and also was a designated hitter last season.

Bloom and Lee were both chosen Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference in 2009. Bloom was First Team All-NWC and Lee was Second Team All-NWC as freshmen in 2008.

Last year, Bloom hit .290 with 10 doubles and three home runs. He scored 36 runs and was 9 of 12 on stolen bases. He led the Bearcats with 122 assists on defense. Lee batted .347 for the season, with nine doubles, one triple and nine home runs. He achieved a .669 slugging percentage.

Rowan earned a .296 batting average and pounded out six doubles and five homers. He ranked second on the team with 32 RBIs and registered 73 putouts in the outfield. Stepan hit .273 with six doubles, a triple and two home runs.

Overall, there are 16 returning players who saw action last year. Five of the returning players are pitchers. Key returners on the mound are Devin Grindy (Jr., RHP, Washougal, WA/Camas HS) and Andrew Wyman (Jr., RHP, Seattle, WA/Ballard HS).

Ryan Hood-Taylor (Jr., RHP, Scio, OR/Scio HS), who missed most of the 2009 season due to injury, is hopeful of returning at some point this season.

Grindy finished the 2009 season with a 5-5 record, including 5-4 in NWC action. He recorded 15 strikeouts in 55 2/3 innings pitched. Wyman was 1-1 overall with a 2.45 earned run average. He threw 18 1/3 innings in relief and held opponents to a .227 batting average. He earned 10 strikeouts.

Scott Martin (RHP, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) is the team's only senior this spring. In 2009, he appeared on the mound nine times, including four starts. He was 1-1 with seven strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings pitched.

Nine seniors graduated last spring, including Kyle Stalker (Sr. in 2009, 1B, Bellevue, WA/Sammamish HS). Stalker was named Third Team All-America in 2008 and 2009. He set Willamette career records with 51 home runs and 161 RBIs. Last year, he hit .455 with a team-high 15 home runs.

Willamette will open the season at the Northwest Nazarene Tournament in Nampa, Idaho, on Feb. 19-20. The Bearcats will take on the Oregon Institute of Technology in a doubleheader on Feb. 19 and will play single games against Whitworth and Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 20.

The Bearcats will play four more road games the following weekend before opening their home schedule with a Northwest Conference three-game series against Lewis & Clark on March 6-7.

NWC Baseball Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Pacific Lutheran (6), 84 points, 31--9 overall, 27-5 NWC in 2009
2. Linfield (2), 72 points, 28-12, 22-10 NWC
3. George Fox (1), 67 points, 36-11, 27-5 NWC
4. Willamette, 43 points, 21-17, 18-13 NWC
5. Pacific, 42 points, 19-20, 14-18 NWC
(tie) Puget Sound, 42 points, 16-23, 13-18 NWC
7. Whitworth, 34 points, 10-26, 8-20 NWC
8. Lewis & Clark, 17 points, 8-26, 8-21 NWC
9. Whitman, 14 points, 3-34, 2-29 NWC

Doug Bloom batted .290 and stole 9 of 12 bases last year, while leading the Bearcats with 122 assists on defense.

Doug Bloom batted .290 and stole 9 of 12 bases last year, while leading the Bearcats with 122 assists on defense.