Feb 10, 2020

Softball Slated to Finish Second in NWC Preseason Poll

A Winning Tradition

 
  • Two NCAA Regional Tournament Appearances (2016, 2018)
  • Five Northwest Conference Tournament Appearances (2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Six NFCA All-West Region Athletes (One first-team, three second-team, two third-team) 
  • 4 Northwest Conference Coaches of the Year
  • 1 (NFCA) Division III National Pitcher of the Week (Abbie Bergerson, 2015)
  • Two National Top-25 Rankings (2016, 2018)
  • One NAIA Regional Tournament (1994)
  • One NAIA District Championship (1994)
  • One Cascade Conference Championship (1994)
  • 1 NAIA District Coach of the Year
 

NEWBERG --- Following its sixth consecutive winning season and fifth straight Northwest Conference Championship appearance, the George Fox University softball team will enter the 2020 season poised to make a run in the championship tournament.

Fox is slated to finish second after the NWC released its 2020 preseason poll, voted on by head coaches across the league. The Bruins return 14 letter winners from a squad that finished third in the 2019 NWC rankings with an overall record of 26-16 while going 17-11 against league opponents.

After being ranked second in last year's preseason poll and fusing 13 underclassmen with nine upperclassmen, GFU punched its ticket a ticket to the NWC Championship Tournament before falling to Whitworth in the semifinal game.

The team's makeup looks considerably different this season. The Bruins welcome those young faces back with another year of experience under their belts and return a core of veteran players, including four of their six 2019 All-NWC selections. In her 12th season, Head Coach Jessica Hollen is excited to build on the energy and talent that helped set season records in team average (.333), team doubles (86), and team home runs (71).

"We should be tough offensively, as we return many of our offensive players from last year's team [despite losing] a couple of major impact players in Kimi Ito and Alyssa Gonzalez," explains Hollen. "We are excited to see what we can do this season, and we should be improved defensively."

It's hard to predict where fans will see their beloved players on the field with so many gifted athletes in multiple positions.

Two-time All-NWC selections Roni Braun and Allison Meyer will look to lead the Bruins in the outfield this season. The two were called upon in all 42 games, serving as the Bruins' everyday right and left fielders, respectively. Braun led the team with career-highs in both home runs (13) and stolen bases (9) with her 13 dingers topping the NWC. Meyer posted a career-best .353 batting average in a season that saw her named a CoSIDA Academic All-American once again. The seniors had a hand in 153 of the teams' 308 total runs.

Joining Braun and Meyers will be utility Olivia Nelson. The junior made 32 appearances in middle infield as a sophomore, scoring 16 runs and posting six RBI. Sophomore Katie Ladd and freshman Emma Classen will also add depth to the outfield. Ladd made 18 appearances in her debut season, scoring seven runs and producing four extra-base hits, including two homers.

Aaliyah Kautz and Savannah Vargas will provide senior leadership in the infield. Kautz hit a fourth-best .360 and drove in a team-high 44 runs on her way to collecting her second career All-NWC honor as a first baseman. Her 44 RBI and 13 walks drawn were both career-best marks as a Bruin. Vargas tallied 42 starts at shortstop with her 12 home runs ranking second on the team and third in the NWC.

The seniors will receive veteran support from sophomore Claire Fountain who also picked up an All-NWC nod as a freshman utility player. Fountain hit .348 in her inaugural season with a third-best 10 home runs, ranking fifth in the NWC. 

With the large incoming class, several freshmen will have the opportunity to fight for time on the field. The Bruins welcome Kamryn Potter, Kimberly Pulido, and Mikaelie Sullivan to the infield roster as well as utilities Tierney Zubchevich and Maria Guglielmo.

Although 2019 saw First-Team All-NWC catcher Gonzalez make her exit, the Bruins welcome back a trio of sophomore options in Allisa Yabumoto, Courtney Hunt, and Isabella Oursler

In the circle, the Bruins will look to build a pitching rotation from two returners in junior Sarah Storton, sophomores Ashley Davis, Caitlyn Rhoades, and Niquilla Blodgett, and incoming rookies Britney Dean and Bailey LeBreton. Rhoades will also have the chance to compete for the DP spot as well.

The crew will open the 2020 season with a non-conference doubleheader at Redlands on Thursday, Feb. 20 after an exhibition bout with Warner Pacific on the 16th. The Blue & Gold then kickoff conference action hosting a two-day series with Lewis & Clark. Hollen notes that the NWC is always one of the toughest leagues in the nation, so they know they will be battle-tested in the conference. 

Fox will then head to Tucson, Ariz. On March 6 to play in the NCAA Leadoff Classic, an invite-only tournament for the top teams in Division III. There they will face three regional teams (Piedmont, Transylvania, and Whittier), one super-regional team (Linfield), and a championship series team (St. Thomas).

The Bruins will then return home to finish out their NWC schedule that features series against Pacific Lutheran, Pacific (Ore.), Puget Sound, Willamette, Whitworth, and Linfield.

Hollen and her entire coaching staff are excited to see what the 2020 edition of Bruin softball is capable of.

 

Full Roster | Full Schedule | 2020 NWC Preseason Poll