Bearcats are Picked for Third Place Finish in NWC Softball Preseason Poll

By Timothy Walsh and John Lind, Assistant Athletics Communications Directors

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 2013 NWC Softball Preseason Poll.

Pacific Lutheran University was the narrow favorite to capture the NWC title, earning 52 points and five first place votes, narrowly edging out Linfield College (48 points, three first place votes) in the poll.

Though PLU finished second to Linfield in the NWC last year with a 24-4 record, the Lutes concluded the season by defeating the Wildcats in the NCAA Division III national championship game, finishing with a 45-11 record.

Linfield earned a 46-7 record last year, including a 25-3 NWC mark, and captured their ninth consecutive NWC title.

Willamette earned third place in the poll with 37 points. The Bearcats, who will feature a young roster this season, were 21-15 overall in 2012, including 19-9 in the NWC. Willamette's conference record included a 2-0 road upset of then top-ranked Linfield on April 14.

The Bearcats also qualified for the four-team NWC tournament. Willamette lost to Pacific Lutheran 3-1 and defeated George Fox 5-1, before falling to Linfield 4-2 in an elimination game.

George Fox University (20-22, 15-13 NWC) claimed fourth place in the poll with 29 points, while Whitworth University (19-21, 12-16 NWC) received 24 points to place fifth. Pacific University (13-23, 11-17 NWC) was sixth with 22 points.

Lewis & Clark College (5-33, 3-25 NWC) claimed seventh place with 13 points, and the University of Puget Sound (3-31, 3-25 NWC) rounded out the poll with seven points.

Willamette will kick off its season on Saturday, Feb. 16 by participating in the Northwest Cup in Clackamas, Ore. Shortly after, the Bearcats will begin NWC play in their home opening four game series against George Fox on Saturday, Feb. 23.

After their brief stint into NWC league play, the Bearcats will travel to Columbus, Ga., from March 8-10 to compete in the NFCA Leadoff Classic.

The Bearcats will look to capitalize on the return of several offensive standouts. Kelli Snyder (Sr., C, Longview, WA/Kelso HS) led the team with a .400 batting average in 2012. Snyder also led the team with a .514 on base percentage, while contributing 24 hits and 11 RBIs.

Yvonne Drabin (Sr., OF, Fremont, CA/Moreau Catholic HS) should also be a returning offensive force for the Bearcats. Drabin was third on the team with a .364 batting average in 2012, and also contributed 24 hits and 11 RBIs.

On the mound, the Bearcats will be aided by the return of Hayley Glantz (So., P, Reno, NV/Robert McQueen HS). Last season Glantz started 16 games, pitched 89 2/3 innings and recorded 42 strikeouts.

2013 NWC Softball Preseason Poll
(1st place votes in parentheses)

1. Pacific Lutheran (5), 52 points, 45-11 overall, 24-4 NWC in 2012
2. Linfield (3), 48 points, 46-7, 25-3 NWC
3. Willamette, 37 points, 21-15, 19-9 NWC
4. George Fox, 29 points, 20-22, 15-13 NWC
5. Whitworth, 24 points, 19-21, 12-16 NWC
6. Pacific, 22 points, 13-23, 11-17 NWC
7. Lewis & Clark, 13 points, 5-33, 3-25 NWC
8. Puget Sound, 7 points, 3-31, 3-25

Note: Points were awarded on an 8-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. The coaches could not vote for their own teams.

Kelli Snyder led the Bearcats with a .400 batting average during the 2012 season.

Kelli Snyder led the Bearcats with a .400 batting average during the 2012 season.