Written by Student Assistant Sarah Cornell-Maier
HILLSBORO, Ore. - The Northwest Conference released its preseason coaches' poll on Tuesday, with the Pacific Lutheran University Baseball team predicted to end the season in second place in the league standings.
The Lutes (29-19, 15-9 NWC in 2016) received 57 points in the poll of coaches across the conference, only 13 points behind top-ranked Whitworth University (30-13, 17-7 NWC) and seven points ahead of third-ranked Linfield College (25-15, 14-10 NWC). Whitworth received seven first-place endorsements, while PLU and Linfield each received one of the remaining two endorsements.
George Fox University (21-20, 14-10 NWC) sits in fourth place with a total of 42 points, followed by Pacific University (25-18, 14-10 NWC) with 38 points. Willamette University (20-19, 11-13 NWC) sits in sixth place with 26 points, with University of Puget Sound (16-24, 11-13 NWC) coming in at seventh with 23 points. Whitman College (13-25, 8-16 NWC) garnered 19 points to take eighth place, with Lewis and Clark College (12-28, 4-20 NWC) rounding out the poll with eight points.
The NWC coaches' poll has all nine head coaches in the league to rank their opponents based on their predictions of how the league standings will be at the end of the season. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team, and a high ranking allows for more points, which were awarded on a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis based in the rankings.
Nolan Soete starts his second year as head coach at his alma mater after a successful season last year, winning the NWC Tournament and advancing to the NCAA West Region finals before falling to eventual national champion Trinity University (Texas). The Lutes finished the 2016 campaign ranked 22nd in the nation in the D3baseball.com Top 25 Poll.
The PLU roster returns a couple of players who received accolades last season, including All-NWC Second Team outfielder Brett Johnson, All-NWC honorable mention and All-West Region Second Team utility player Cole Johnson, and All-NWC honorable mention second baseman Landon Packard. The Lutes are looking to regain the NWC title they won in 2015.
The Lutes open the season on Friday, February 3rd at George Fox University at the Northwest Conference Preseason Tournament. The Lutes begin conference play on February 18th at the University of Puget Sound.