January 24, 2013

2013 NWC Preseason Baseball Coaches' Poll / Season Preview

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

(First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches cannot vote for their own team.)

SEATTLE, Wash. -- The Whitworth University Pirates have been chosen by the baseball coaches of the Northwest Conference to repeat as conference champions. Whitworth received six of nine first-place votes for a total of 68 points.

Coming off an appearance in the NCAA Division III World Series, Whitworth is led by preseason First Team All-American outfielder Tyler Pfeffer and preseason Honorable Mention All-American pitcher Dan Sheibe.

Last season Pfeffer was named a First Team All-American by D3baseball.com and a Second Team All-American by the American Baseball Coaches Association after leading the Pirates to the NCAA Division III World Series in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Pfeffer batted .379 with 12 home runs, 23 doubles and 61 runs batted-in last spring.  He scored 51 runs and had 141 total bases in 195 at-bats for a .723 slugging average.  On defense he only committed two errors in 93 defensive chances for a .978 fielding percentage.

Scheibe broke through as an All-Northwest Conference selection as a freshman starting pitcher in 2012.  He went 7-3 with a 2.66 earned run average.  He struck out 95 batters in 88.0 innings and threw 13.1 scoreless innings at the NCAA West Regional.

Selected just behind Whitworth is Pacific Lutheran University, who gathered three first-place votes themselves for 59 points. PLU finished third in the Northwest Conference in 2012.

The Lutes head into 2013 with a loaded pitching staff, but with questions needing to be answered regarding offensive production with the departure of six position starters, including Northwest Conference Player of the Year Brock Gates.

Pacific Lutheran does return starting pitcher Max Beatty, who missed all of last season. Before the 2012 season, Baseball America magazine named Beatty the top professional draft prospect playing NCAA Division III baseball. His season never got underway, however, because he was diagnosed with testicular cancer in December. After being sidelined during the entire 2012 season while battling the cancer, Beatty is now back in full force to lead the Lutes.

Looking to rebound from a 2012 that failed to meet expectations are the Linfield Wildcats, chosen to finish third. A season ago, the Wildcats were as high as No. 2 in the national rankings and weeks later fell completely out of the Top 25 altogether.

Linfield does not suffer from a lack of talent, however, led by preseason First Team All-American second basemen Tim Wilson. Wilson has hit .400 in consecutive seasons and only looks to get better.

Linfield loses some big guns – particularly on the pitching side – to graduation, but the majority return in 2013 armed with more experience, and likely a sense of vengeance.  

George Fox is selected to finish fourth, just where the ended 2012, earning 41 points. The Bruins are hoping to improve on a .500 overall record and 15-9 NWC record from last season. That could prove difficult with the loss of senior outfielder David Greenstein, who hit .398 in 2012 for George Fox.

Pacific (Ore.) surprised most of the Northwest Conference last year by claiming a share of the Northwest Conference title. Despite their amazing efforts, the Boxers were still left out of the NCAA Division III tournament.

The coaches of the NWC have picked Pacific (Ore.) to finish in the middle of the pack in fifth place in 2013, gathering 40 points. 

In a sixth-place tie, both Puget Sound and Willamette earned 25 points in the 2013 Preseason Coaches' poll. Both squads are looking to improve from sub-.500 marks a year ago.

Lewis & Clark and Whitman each earned 12 points in the poll and enter 2013 in a eighth-place tie.

The 2013 baseball season will begin February 1.


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