Bearcat Softball Hopes to Keep Running and Pounding out Extra-Base Hits in 2011

WU Seeks Seventh Straight 20-Win Season

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

SALEM, ORE. -- It has been a simple, yet successful, plan of attack for the Willamette University softball team. Run the bases whenever possible and blast a variety of extra-base hits. The strategy has made the Bearcats a winning and high-scoring team.

Willamette enters 2011 with six consecutive seasons of 20 or more wins, including 25-11 in 2008, 29-6 in 2009 and 28-12 in 2010. Over the past three seasons, the Bearcats have averaged 6.4 runs per game (711 in 111 games) and have accumulated 295 extra-base hits (2.7 per game), including 89 home runs.

In 2010, WU tallied 241 runs in 40 games, while belting 90 extra-base hits, with 56 doubles, 13 triples and 21 home runs. Fifteen of the 18 players on last year's team are back this spring, including the top eight hitters and all three pitchers.

Jessica Barry (Jr., LF, Cupertino, CA/Monte Vista HS/UNLV) led the Bearcats last season with a .411 batting average. She also led the team with 33 runs scored. She provided a team-high six sacrifice bunts and stole 16 bases on 18 attempts.

Catcher Kelli Snyder (So., C, Longview, WA/Kelso HS) batted .371 with 17 runs and 18 RBIs. She achieved a .986 fielding percentage on defense with 127 putouts, 18 assists and just two errors.

Mica Romero (Jr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian School) smacked a team-high 17 doubles and tied for the team lead with four home runs in 2010. She hit .355 for the season with a .645 slugging percentage and was 9 for 10 on stolen bases. She led the Bearcats with 32 walks.

Center fielder Sierra Lessel (Jr., Eugene, OR/Churchill HS) contributed a .352 batting average and was 16 of 19 on stolen bases. She tied Romero for second on the team with 30 runs scored.

WU's trio of pitchers combined for 23 complete games and 28 wins. Bri Compton (Sr., RHP, Kalispell, MT/Flathead HS/Wenatchee CC) earned an 11-4 record, led the Bearcats with 105 innings pitched and had a 3.47 ERA. She registered a team-high 59 strikeouts. Compton also provided a .339 batting averaged on offense to go with 11 extra-base hits, including three homers.

Alex Watillo (Jr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS) went 10-4 in the circle. She pitched 99 innings and registered 37 strikeouts. She achieved two shutout wins. Watilo owns a career record of 23-7 at Willamette.

Talissa Huntsman (Jr., UT, Richland, WA/Richland HS) was 7-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched. She limited opponents to a .251 batting average. On offense, Huntsman hit .333 and tied for first on the team with four home runs. She was hit by pitches 15 times.

Newcomers include Allison Martin (Fr., C, Thousand Oaks, CA/Westlake HS), Courtney Galli (So., SS, Rocklin, CA/Rocklin HS) and Kate Schimmel (Fr., SS, Oregon City, OR/Oregon City HS).

Willamette was picked to finish second in the Northwest Conference in the NWC Preseason Poll of the league's head coaches. Linfield College, which won the NWC title and finished second at the NCAA Division III National Tournament in 2010, was listed first in the poll.

Linfield also is ranked #1 and Willamette is #20 in the NCAA Division III Preseason Poll released by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA). The Bearcats and Wildcats will renew their rivalry at Willamette on April 9-10 in a pair of doubleheaders.

The Bearcats' schedule opens with two games at the Northwest Cup, hosted by Concordia University (Ore.) at Hood View Park in Clackamas, Ore. on Sunday, Feb. 20. WU will take on Oregon Tech at 1 p.m. (PST) and will play the host Cavaliers of Concordia at 3 p.m.

Willamette will begin NWC action the following weekend with doubleheaders at the WU Softball Field against Pacific University on Saturday, Feb. 26 and Sunday, Feb. 27. First pitch is set for 12 p.m. (PST) each day. Overall, the Bearcats will play 28 games in conference play.

In mid-March, WU will travel to California to take on the University of Redlands (March 19), the University of La Verne (March 21), Whittier College (March 22) and Pomona-Pitzer (March 23). All eight games on the trip will be against NCAA West Region opponents.

Head Coach Damian Williams is in his 13th season at Willamette. He has earned a career record of 248-185 (.573), including 145-75 (.659) over the past six years.

Mica Romero hit .355 and led WU with 17 doubles and 32 walks in 2010.

Mica Romero hit .355 and led WU with 17 doubles and 32 walks in 2010.

Alex Watilo achieved a 10-4 record and two shutouts in 99 innings pitched last season.

Alex Watilo achieved a 10-4 record and two shutouts in 99 innings pitched last season.