Watilo unwinds at Willamette

Campus Canvass
By: Ray Hacke Journal Sports Writer
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Alex Watilo spent her freshman season with the Willamette University softball team being groomed to become the Bearcats’ next pitching ace. If her stats are any indication, she’s ready to assume the role now. The Del Oro High graduate went 13-3 with a 1.20 ERA in 17 starts for Willamette, pitching 14 complete games for the NCAA Division III school in Salem, Ore. In 105 1/3 innings Watilo struck out 66 batters, walked just 12, allowed only 18 earned runs and held opposing hitters to a .229 batting average. The right-hander’s numbers are almost on par with those of Mikki Franchi, Willamette’s departing senior ace, who went 16-3 with a 0.98 ERA, pitched 18 complete games and held opposing batters to a .153 average this season. Watilo is grateful to have had Franchi — who became Willamette’s first All-American in softball last year — as a mentor this season. “Last year she didn’t have much backup pitching,” Watilo said. “It was all on her. It was good for us to be able to work together to help the team.” Together, Watilo and Franchi helped the Bearcats go 29-6 overall and 22-6 in Northwest Conference play. Still, when the NCAA selected teams for its Division III regional tournaments on Monday, the Bearcats were not among the 59 teams chosen. “We’re all very disappointed and frustrated that we didn’t make it,” Watilo said. “I definitely think we’ll use that for motivation next year to go out and win our conference championship so we can get to go to regionals.” As well as things went for Watilo on the mound this season, she struggled at the plate, managing just one hit in 12 at-bats. She scored one run and drove in another. Watilo has yet to decide on a major. She’s leaning toward becoming a history teacher, but “I’m not positive,” she said. On the field, the numbers Watilo put up this season have given her the confidence she’ll need to be a stalwart on the mound for Willamette in the years to come. “It was definitely the high level of play I was expecting, and the season we had was amazing,” she said. “It was a good way to start my four years here.”