Bearcats are Picked to Finish Second in NWC Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University softball team, which finished in second place in the Northwest Conference in 2010, has been projected to finish in second place again this season according to the NWC Softball Preseason Poll as voted on by the league's head coaches. Defending conference winner Linfield College was predicted to repeat as the NWC champion.

The Bearcats, who achieved a 28-12 overall record in 2010 and went 20-8 in the NWC last spring, received 56 points in the NWC Poll. Willamette is currently ranked #20 in the nation in the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).

Linfield topped the NWC Poll with all eight first place votes and 72 points. The Wildcats achieved a 42-7 overall record last year and finished in second place at the NCAA Tournament. Linfield was 27-1 in NWC action during the season.

Pacific University held the third spot in the NWC Poll, as the Boxers received 43 points. Pacific concluded last season with a 23-17 record to go along with an 18-10 mark in the NWC. Pacific Lutheran University followed in fourth in the poll with 38 points. The Lutes went 23-15 a year ago, while earning a 17-11 NWC record.

The team in fifth in NWC Poll was Whitworth University, which finished 18-18 on the season in 2010 and was 12-16 in the NWC. The Pirates received 24 points in the poll. Following Whitworth was the University of Puget Sound in sixth with 24 points. UPS was 13-27 last spring with an 11-17 conference mark.

Rounding out the NWC Preseason Poll were George Fox University in seventh with 19 points and Lewis & Clark College in eighth with nine points. George Fox concluded its 2010 schedule with a 13-27 overall record and a 7-21 NWC record. Lewis & Clark was 3-36 overall, 0-28 in the conference.

This year the top four teams in conference play will advance to the NWC Softball Tournament. The tournament will determine which team receives the NWC's automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.

Willamette will open the regular season on Sunday, Feb. 20 at the Northwest Cup in Clackamas, Ore. The Bearcats will take on Oregon Institute of Technology at 1 p.m. (PST) and will play Concordia University (Ore.) at 3 p.m. The Willamette home opener is set for Friday, Feb. 26 against NWC rival Pacific in a doubleheader starting at 12 p.m. (PST).

NWC Softball Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Linfield (8), 72 points, 42-7 overall, 27-1 NWC in 2010|
2. Willamette, 56 points, 28-12 overall, 20-8 NWC|
3. Pacific, 43 points, 23-17 overall, 18-10 NWC
4. Pacific Lutheran, 38 points, 23-15 overall, 17-11 NWC
5. Whitworth, 35 points, 18-18 overall, 12-16 NWC
6. Puget Sound, 24 points, 13-27 overall, 11-17 NWC
7. George Fox, 19 points, 13-27 overall, 7-21 NWC
8. Lewis & Clark, 9 points, 3-36 overall, 0-28 NWC

Talissa Huntsman earned a 7-4 pitching record and hit .333 at the plate.

Talissa Huntsman earned a 7-4 pitching record and hit .333 at the plate.