Willamette is Chosen to Finish Third in NWC Softball Preseason Poll

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

SALEM, ORE. -- The Willamette University softball team has been picked to finish in third place in the Northwest Conference this season, according to voting by the NWC head coaches in the 2012 NWC Softball Preseason Poll. Linfield was the favorite to repeat as NWC champion. The Wildcats have won eight consecutive NWC titles (2004-11).

Linfield, which won the NWC title with a 27-1 mark and concluded the season with a 51-3 record after winning the NCAA Division III national title, received the top spot in the poll with 56 points and seven first place votes. Pacific Lutheran, which took second in the NWC last spring at 23-5 and finished 31-13 overall, was listed second in the poll with the remaining first place vote and 44 points.

Willamette earned third place in the poll with 36 points. The Bearcats feature a talented group of returning athletes, including a strong senior class. Willamette was 19-19 overall in 2011, including 16-12 in the NWC, as WU qualified for the four-team NWC Tournament.

Fourth place in the poll was held by Whitworth. The Pirates (20-19, 17-11 NWC) received 29 points to edge out Pacific University (22-18, 12-16 NWC), which claimed fifth place with 28 points. George Fox University (12-28, 6-22 NWC) was sixth with 16 points, while the University of Puget Sound (11-27, 9-19 NWC) and Lewis & Clark College (8-31, 2-26 NWC) tied for seventh with 13 points each.

Mica Romero (Sr., SS, Woodland, CA/Woodland Christian School), who led the Bearcats with a .374 batting average last season, returns after being named First Team All-Northwest Conference for the third year in a row.

Romero, in addition to leading Willamette in batting average, also topped the offensive chart with 38 runs, 24 RBIs, 11 doubles and five home runs in 2011. She was 23 of 23 on stolen bases to rank first on the team and second in the NWC in successful stolen base attempts. She received a team-high 17 walks.

Four of the five Willamette players who earned Second Team All-NWC honors in 2011 also return for the Bearcats. They are Alex Watilo (Sr., RHP, Newcastle, CA/Del Oro HS), Talissa Huntsman (Sr., UTIL, Richland, WA/Richland HS), Nichole Robertson (Sr., OF, Elk Grove, CA/Franklin HS/Consumnes River Coll.) and Courtney Galli (So., 2B/SS, Rocklin, CA/Rocklin HS).

Watilo achieved a 15-6 pitching record and a 2.47 earned run average last season. She registered 14 complete games in 2011, including six shutouts. She threw a 1-hitter against George Fox University on April 8. Watilo improved her career record to 38-13. She has registered 174 career strikeouts in 337 1/3 innings pitched.

Huntsman played in all 38 games last season with 36 starts. She batted .356, while hitting 10 doubles and three home runs. She earned 23 RBIs to rank second on the team. She begins her senior season with a .331 career batting average.

Robertson hit .311 for the Bearcats with 28 runs scored and 16 RBIs. She was 15 of 16 on stolen bases and contributed a .944 fielding percentage on defense. She owns a .308 career batting average.

Galli ranked second on the team with a .352 batting average. She played in 35 games with 30 starts, and provided WU with 15 runs and 13 RBIs. She attained a .957 fielding percentage for the Bearcats.

Also returning is Jessica Barry (Jr., OF< Cupertino, CA/Monte Vista HS/UNLV), who missed most of last season with a hand injury. In 2010, she was named First Team All-NWC after leading Willamette with a .411 batting average, 33 runs scored and six sacrifice bunts. She was successful on 16 of 18 stolen bases.

NWC Softball Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Linfield (7), 56 points, 51-3 overall, 27-1 NWC in 2011
2. Pacific Lutheran (1), 44 points, 31-13, 23-5 NWC
3. Willamette, 36 points, 19-19, 16-12 NWC
4. Whitworth, 29 points, 20-19, 17-11 NWC
5. Pacific, 28 points, 22-18, 12-16 NWC
6. George Fox, 16 points, 12-28, 6-22 NWC
7. Puget Sound, 13 points, 11-27, 9-19 NWC
(tie) Lewis & Clark, 13 points, 8-31, 2-26 NWC

Note: Points were awarded on an 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each coach did not vote for his/her own team.

Senior shortstop Mica Romero led the Bearcats with a .374 batting average in 2011.

Senior shortstop Mica Romero led the Bearcats with a .374 batting average in 2011.