Willamette Picked to Finish Sixth in NWC Baseball Preseason Poll

Bearcats Return 8 of 10 Top Hitters from 2012; Must Replace Rowan and Summers

By John Lind, Assistant Athletics Communications Director

SALEM, ORE. -- The Northwest Conference has released its 2013 Baseball Preseason Poll, and the Willamette University Bearcats picked to finish sixth in the conference. The Bearcats earned 25 points to tie with the University of Puget Sound in the poll of all nine conference coaches.

Defending NWC champion Whitworth University was picked to finish first in the conference, receiving six of the nine first place votes for a total of 68 points.

Last year, the Pirates put together a stellar 31-16-1 season (19-5 NWC) that saw them advance all the way to the NCAA Division III World Series. They are returning 19 players from that squad, including nine starters, and are also ranked #8 nationally in the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA) Preseason Poll.

Coming in second and third in the Preseason Poll were Pacific Lutheran University (24-16, 16-8 NWC) and Linfield College (25-15, 15-9 NWC). The Lutes received the other three first place votes and 59 total points after finishing second in the conference last year. Linfield, a traditional NWC power, received 51 points.

George Fox University (20-20, 15-9 NWC) and Pacific University (22-15, 19-5, NWC) finished fifth and sixth in the poll, receiving 41 and 40 points, respectively. Lewis & Clark College (7-33, 4-20 NWC) and Whitman College (5-34, 5-19 NWC) tied for eighth place, with 12 points apiece.

Willamette went 14-23 (9-15 NWC) in 2012, finishing in sixth place in the NWC. Puget Sound (10-28-1, 6-18 NWC) took seventh place in the conference.

WU will open its season with a road trip to Texas from Friday, Feb. 8 through Sunday, Feb. 10. The Bearcats will face three teams: Hendrix College (Ark.), Austin College (Tex.), and Centenary College of Louisiana. The Bearcats will begin NWC play on Saturday, March 2 at Pacific Lutheran University. Willamette's home opener will not be until Saturday, March 9, when they host Linfield College.

The Bearcats lost their most productive offensive player, senior Mitch Rowan (LF, Cotati, CA/Rancho Cotate HS) to graduation. Rowan started all 35 games and led Willamette with a .342 batting average, 10 home runs, and 40 RBIs. Rowan also led the team with 11 doubles, a .503 on-base percentage, and a .719 slugging percentage.

Willamette also graduated catcher Dylan Summers (Lake Oswego, OR/Lakeridge HS), who ranked second on the team with a .340 batting average.

Despite losing Rowan and Summers, the Bearcats are returning eight of the top 10 hitters from a year ago, including several impact players.

Tyson Giza (Sr., OF, Salem, OR/Sprague HS) was near the top of many statistical categories for Willamette in 2012. He led the team with 46 hits, finished third on the team with a .340 batting average, and recorded 23 RBIs. He also finished second on the team with 11 stolen bases.

Sky Kelley (Sr., OF, Portland, OR/Jesuit HS) will provide another big bat in the Bearcats' lineup. Kelley finished second on the team last year with eight home runs. He batted .325 and recorded 24 RBIs with a slugging percentage of .700. 

Top returning pitchers include Peter Hoffman (So., RHP, Hayden, ID/Lake City HS), Brandon Simon (Sr., RHP, Los Angeles, CA/Pacific Hills School) and Henry Harrison (Sr., LHP, Nevada City, CA/Nevada Union HS).

Hoffman achieved a 5.17 earned run average and 32 strikeouts in 12 starts and 54 innings pitched. Simon tossed a team-high 57 innings and went 4-5 on the mound. Harrison led the Bearcats with a 2.92 ERA while throwing a total of 24 2/3 inning in 13 relief appearances.

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

1. Whitworth (6), 68 points, 31-16-1 overall, 19-5 NWC in 2012
2. Pacific Lutheran (3), 59 points, 24-16, 16-8 NWC
3. Linfield, 51 points, 25-15, 15-9 NWC
4. George Fox, 41 points, 20-20, 15-9 NWC
5. Pacific, 40 points, 22-15, 19-5 NWC
6. Willamette, 25 points, 14-23, 9-15 NWC
6. Puget Sound, 25 points, 10-28-1, 6-18 NWC
8. Lewis & Clark, 12 points, 7-33, 4-20
8. Whitman College, 12 points, 5-34, 5-19 NWC

Note: Points were awarded on an 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. The coaches could not vote for their own teams.

Tyson Giza batted .329 last season with 32 runs scored and 23 RBIs. He hit 10 doubles, two triples and four home runs.

Tyson Giza batted .329 last season with 32 runs scored and 23 RBIs. He hit 10 doubles, two triples and four home runs.