George Fox Tabbed as Favorite in NWC Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll

George Fox Tabbed as Favorite in NWC Baseball Preseason Coaches Poll
Rk.

Team

Pts.

'18 NWC Record

1

George Fox

57 (4)

13-11

2

Willamette

55 (3)

15-9

3

Pacific Lutheran

51 (2)

18-7

4

Linfield

45

16-8

5

Whitworth

34

11-13

6

Puget Sound

30

10-15

7

Whitman

24

12-12

8

Pacific (Ore.)

16

9-15

9

Lewis & Clark

12

5-19

 

(Points awarded on a 7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own teams; numbers in parentheses indicate first place votes)

HILLSBORO, Ore. – The George Fox Bruins have been selected by conference coaches as the top team in the Northwest Conference for the 2019 season, accumulating 57 points and four first-place votes.

The Bruins finished the 2018 season ranked fourth in conference standings with a 13-11 record (25-19). Entering the NWC Championship as the fourth seed, the Bruins took down third-seeded Willamette, 9-5, in the opening round before falling twice to the Bearcats to end their season as NWC Championship runners-up. 2018 

All-NWC first team pitcher Matt Voelzke (Lake Oswego, Ore.) returns in 2019 for the Bruins after leading the conference in saves with 10 and strikeouts per game with 12.99 in the previous season. Also returning are 2018 All-NWC second team honorees Sam Swenson (McMinnville, Ore.) and Kyler Brudwick (Ferndale, Wash.), both of which were offensive forces alongside Voelzke for the Bruins in 2018. 

Voted as the second-place team in the NWC just two points behind the Bruins with 55 and three first-place votes is Willamette. After wrapping up a 15-9 conference schedule (31-19 overall), the Bearcats entered the 2018 NWC Championship as the third-seed. Despite falling to George Fox in the first game, the team came back to defeat first-seeded Pacific Lutheran, 4-2, and the Bruins in the finals, 11-6 and 5-3 to earn a berth into the NCAA tournament. At the Spokane, Wash. NCAA Regional, the Bearcats started off with two consecutive wins against Chapman and Concordia (Tx.), but fell twice to Texas Lutheran to close out their 2018 campaign. 

The Bearcats will return 2018 All-NWC first team selections Connor Bailey (San Diego, Calif.) and Matt Steindorf (Granite Bay, Calif.). Bailey led the Bearcat offense in 2018 with 15 homeruns and 55 runs batted in, while Steindorf led the defense with 11 wins in 15 appearances and a 2.87 earned runs average.

In third place in the poll is Pacific Lutheran with 51 points and two first-place votes. The Lutes claimed the NWC regular season title, going 18-7 in conference (25-17 overall), but were upended in the NWC Championship tournament, first by the Bruins and again by the Bearcats, despite picking up a 5-4 win over Linfield. Returning for the Lutes are 2018 NWC Player of the Year Jacob Bockelie (Shoreline, Wash.) and 2018 All-NWC second team starting pitcher Justin Armbruester (Sammamish, Wash.). Bockelie led the Lutes with a .389 batting average and a .605 slugging percentage, while Armbruester led the team in strikeouts with 62 as a freshman. 

Linfield tallies 45 points to rank fourth in the poll. The Wildcats finished the 2018 regular season ranked second in NWC standings with a 16-8 record (24-18 overall). Entering the NWC Championship as the second-seed, the Wildcats fell in their first two matchups, first to Willamette and again to Pacific Lutheran, to close out their 2018 season. The team named six to the All-NWC team, returning first team selection Cason Cunningham (Eugene, Ore.) for the 2019 season. Cunningham collected 90 strikeouts in 65 innings pitched to lead the Wildcats in 2018.

Whitworth ranks fifth in the poll, collecting 34 points. The Pirates finished 2018 conference play with an 11-13 record (17-20 overall) to rank sixth in NWC final standings. 2018 All-NWC honorable mention third baseman Tyler Bailey (Spokane, Wash.) returns for the Pirates after leading the team in hits with 45 in the previous season.

Puget Sound tallies 30 points to rank sixth in the poll. The Loggers ended 2018 NWC play 10-15 (17-23 overall) to rank seventh in final standings. Among those returning for the 2019 season is 2018 NWC Freshman of the Year and West Region Rookie of the Year Kyle Strash (Sammamish, Wash.), who led the NWC with a .391 batting average last season. 

Whitman ranks seventh in the poll with 24 points. The Blues just missed qualifying for the NWC Championship in 2018, finishing conference play in fifth-place with a 12-12 record (18-20 overall). Lucas Thrun (Sammamish, Wash.) returns for the Blues after collecting 2018 All-NWC first team recognition for leading the Blues in hits (49), runs (37), and batting average (.371) last season.

Pacific collects 16 points to rank eighth in the poll. The Boxers finished the 2018 season ranked eighth, with four named All-NWC selections. Among those returning is Casey Brown (Peoria, Ariz.), who recorded a 3.77 earned run average for the Boxers in 2018. 

Lewis & Clark rounds out the poll with 12 points. The Pioneers ranked ninth in 2018 NWC final standings. Looking to lead the Pioneer offense once again is 2018 All-NWC honorable mention outfielder Matt Donovan, who finished 2018 with 52 hits, including a school record 17 doubles.

The regular season will begin for most NWC teams this Friday, February 8th, with conference play kicking off on Saturday, February 16th.