The Wildcats, defending Northwest Conference Champions, are predicted to take the 2009 NWC baseball crown once again.
Although it received four of nine first-place votes, Linfield must overcome the loss of five first or second team all-NWC graduating seniors.
Seniors Ty Stanley, Stew Davis and junior Rhett Fenton are the returning starters from last year’s team.
Davis entered into the season after leading the Wildcats in batting average, doubles, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Head coach Scott Brosius has the difficult task of replacing the loss of four outfielders. Two transfers make that chore slightly easier: junior Tyson Smith and senior Ryan Lewis. The ’Cats’s biggest problem is behind the plate. After the graduation of first team all-NWC Drew Van Cleave and a season-ending injury to Mitch Webb, the Wildcats called on sophomore Cole Bixenman.
The confidence of the Wildcats lies on the pitching mound where Linfield returns three of last year’s four starters. Senior Cameron Larson and junior Reese McCulley ended the previous season with 2.30 earned run averages. Junior Garrett Dorn led the starters with a 2.09 ERA and struck out 74 batters in 100 innings pitched.
Sophomore second team all-NWC reliever Robert Vaughn looks to sneak into the starting rotation after piling up seven saves and a 1.62 ERA.
“We have players with the type of talent that can compete for the conference championship,” Brosius said.
The 2009 season takes off Feb. 19 when the Wildcats host Concordia University in the Jim Doran Auto Classic.