By Robert McKinney, Assistant Athletics Director, Communications
SALEM, Ore. -- Willamette University center fielder Connor Bailey (Sr., San Diego, CA/Scripps Ranch HS) has been selected Northwest Conference Baseball Player of the Year in voting by the NWC head coaches. Bailey and three other Bearcats were named First Team All-NWC. Also receiving First Team All-NWC honors were pitcher Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP, Granite Bay, CA/Granite Bay HS), catcher Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., Oceanside, CA/El Camino HS) and second baseman Justin Scanlon (Jr., San Jose, CA/Leigh HS/West Valley College).
Overall, 45 players were selected for the 2019 All-Northwest Conference Baseball Team. Fifteen athletes were named to the First Team, with 15 players on the Second Team and 16 athletes receiving Honorable Mention. Justin Armbruester of Pacific Lutheran University was chosen NWC Pitcher of the Year. Outfielder Andy Schmitz of PLU was named NWC Freshman of the Year. Head Coach CJ Perry of Whitworth University was voted NWC Coach of the Year.
Willamette is currently 17-15. The Bearcats will take on George Fox University in a trio of non-conference games this weekend, starting with one game at WU's John Lewis Field on Friday, May 3 at 3 p.m. (PDT). The teams will play two games on Sunday, May 5 at 12 p.m. in Newberg, Oregon. Willamette earned a 14-10 record in NWC action (4th place tie).
First Team All-Northwest Conference
Matt Steindorf (Sr., RHP) was named First Team All-NWC for the third year in a row. He became Willamette's all-time leader for career victories with a 32-9 overall record. This year, he was 7-2 with a 2.61 earned run average and 63 strikeouts and only 10 walks in 76 innings pitched. He tossed at least five innings in every start, went seven or more innings eight times, and limited opponents to a .240 batting average. He struck out 10 batters against Whittier College and struck out five or more batters eight times.
As a junior in 2018, he set the Willamette record for wins in a season with an 11-3 mark. He led the NWC with 109 2/3 innings pitched and tied for second with 67 strikeouts. He achieved a 2.87 earned run average for third in the NWC, and held hitters to a .255 batting average. He helped Willamette win the NWC Tournament and reach the NCAA Spokane Regional Final. Steindorf ended the year tied for fourth in NCAA Division III in wins and was tied for fifth with 15 pitching starts. He threw at least five innings in every start and went seven or more innings 10 times. He was chosen Second Team All-West Region by the American Baseball Coaches Association (ABCA).
During his four seasons at WU, Steindorf has pitched in 51 games, while accumulating 227 strikeouts and a 3.25 career ERA. He has thrown seven complete games. He has pitched a total of 349 1/3 innings. He has contributed 83 assists on defense. In addition to holding the Willamette record for career wins, he is tied for first all-time with 48 starts. He is second in innings pitched, third in strikeouts, fifth in ERA, and tied for fifth in appearances. Steindorf registered a career-high 14 strikeouts against Pacific University on Feb. 24, 2018.
"Matt is the definition of a pitching ace," Willamette Head Coach Aaron Swick commented. "We knew when he was pitching we were going to get his best. It's rare to be First Team All-NWC for three seasons.
Connor Bailey (Sr., CF) was chosen First Team All-NWC for the second consecutive season. It was his first time being named NWC Baseball Player of the Year. He was Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2017. Last year, he was selected First Team All-West Region by the ABCA and was chosen Third Team All-West Region by D3baseball.com.
As a senior this spring, he topped the Willamette offensive chart with a .386 batting average and a .661 slugging percentage, and was second with a .470 on-base percentage. He also led the team with 127 at bats, 49 hits, 36 runs scored, 22 walks and seven home runs. He tied for the team lead with 12 doubles and was third with 29 RBIs.
In 2018, Bailey earned a .339 batting average with a school record-tying 64 hits. He was the only Bearcat to play in and start all 50 games. He tied for the team lead with 48 runs scored. He led WU with 31 extra-base hits.
He ranked second in NCAA Division III in 2018 with 15 homers and was eighth with 129 total bases. He was 13th in homers per game (0.30 avg.), 25th with six sacrifice flies, and 26th with 55 RBIs. His .684 slugging percentage ranked 45th. He had a 16-game hitting streak that concluded a stretch with hits in 23 of 25 games. He set a school record with 189 at bats.
Including this year, he has set school records with 208 hits and 602 at bats during his career. He is tied for sixth all-time at WU with a .346 batting average, and is third with 29 home runs and 141 runs scored. He also is third with 99 walks. He is tied for third with 42 doubles and is tied for second with eight triples. He is fourth with 134 RBIs. He has earned 312 putouts in the outfield. He has played and started 159 games.
"Connor had another great season and a fantastic career," Swick said. "He earned all of his success. I couldn't be happier for him to be recognized as the NWC Player of the Year."
Cole Pursell (Sr./Jr., C) was named First Team All-NWC for the first time. He hit .308 with a .561 slugging percentage and tied for the team lead with 30 RBIs this spring. He ranked second on the team with six home runs and was third with nine doubles. He smacked two home runs in Willamette's 10-5 win over University of Puget Sound on Feb. 24.
Pursell scored 19 runs and walked 16 times this season. On defense, he led the Bearcats with 128 putouts. He also earned 13 assists and a 1.000 fielding percentage.
In 2017, he hit .298, while playing in 24 games with 22 starts. He hit a game-winning solo homer in the 14th inning in the Bearcats' 4-3 victory over Whitman College on March 11, 2017. He missed most of the 2018 season due to an injury, as he saw action in just seven games.
His career stats include a .262 batting average, 15 doubles and eight homers. He has contributed 45 RBIs and 33 runs. He has accumulated 332 putouts and 40 assists with a .984 fielding percentage. Pursell set a career high with 12 putouts against Whittier on Feb. 3, 2018 and against Linfield College on Feb. 17, 2019. He has played in 73 games (69 starts).
"Cole persevered through injuries to have a terrific season, Swick said. "Being recognized for All-Conference honors is a great way to cap his career."
Justin Scanlon (Jr., 2B) earned First Team All-NWC recognition for the first time in his first season at Willamette. He batted .348 for the Bearcats to rank second on the team. He led Willamette with two triples and tied for first with 12 doubles and 30 RBIs. He was second with 27 runs scored and a .617 slugging percentage, and was third with a .433 on-base percentage. He played in 29 games with 28 starts.
Scanlon has hit .416 in his last 22 games played. He was named NWC Baseball Position Player Student-Athlete of the Week and was chosen for the D3baseball.com Team of the Week after batting .563 (9 for 16) in Willamette's three-game sweep of George Fox on April 13-14. Scanlon blasted a home run in all three games and ended the weekend with five runs scored, 10 RBIs, a double and a triple. He had a 1.313 slugging percentage during the week.
On defense, he contributed 44 putouts and 53 assists with a 1.000 fielding percentage. He was involved with 14 double plays turned by the Bearcats.
"Justin was a game changer," Swick said. "There were stretches this season where he carried us on offense."
Second Team All-Northwest Conference
Tyler Janitz (Sr., SS) was named Second Team All-NWC for the first time. Last year, he received Honorable Mention All-NWC recognition. This season, he was third on the team with a .347 batting average. He was the only player to see action in all 32 games and he made 31 starts. He scored 24 runs, walked 17 times and earned 15 RBIs. He pounded out five doubles and one triple. He achieved a .429 on-base percentage.
As the Bearcats' starting shortstop, he led this year's squad with 107 assists to go along with 40 putouts. He led the team by participating in 16 of Willamette's 25 double plays on defense.
In 2018, he batted .313 to rank third on the team. He recorded 21 runs, 21 walks and 21 RBIs. He belted a grand slam home run in Willamette's 13-4 win over Concordia University (Texas) during the NCAA Spokane Regional. He finished the season 7 for 10 on stolen bases. He tied for 18th in NCAA Division III with 10 sacrifice bunts. He topped the WU defensive chart with 129 assists.
During his Willamette career, Janitz has played in 144 games with 141 starts. He ranks second all-time with 451 career assists and is fourth with 66 double plays. He also provided 199 putouts. On offense, he registered a .283 career batting average with 79 runs and 60 RBIs. He hit 16 doubles, one triple and two home runs. He tied for 10th all-time at WU with 74 walks. He was 23 of 26 on stolen bases.
"Tyler was a rock in our lineup for four years," Swick noted. "He improved every season and had a great senior year."
Honorable Mention All-Northwest Conference
Brendan Natuzzi (Sr., 3B) was chosen Honorable Mention All-NWC for the first time. He played in 23 games with 18 starts, while hitting .246 with 12 runs and three doubles. He walked 12 times. On defense, he made 13 putouts and 33 assists. He went 4 for 5 at the plate against George Fox in an 8-5 win on April 13.
As a junior in 2018, he played in a 45 games with 44 starts. He hit a career-high .280 with 11 doubles, 25 runs and 14 RBIs. He was credited with four sacrifice bunts and four sacrifice flies.
In his career, Natuzzi earned a .267 batting average, scored 40 runs and produced 19 RBIs. He belted 15 doubles and walked 35 times. He was 11 of 16 on stolen bases. He accumulated 51 putouts and 142 assists on defense.
Natuzzi also pitched in 28 games during the first three seasons of his career. His top season was 2018, when he went 3-0 with a 2.93 ERA in six appearances. He pitched once in the NWC Tournament and one in the NCAA Spokane Regional. His career stats include a 5-1 record, a 4.50 ERA, and 25 strikeouts in 42 innings pitched.
"Brendan was a spark on offense and defense," Swick said. "His ability to change games in various ways was a key to our success."