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May 4, 2012

Brock Gates Named Conference Player of the Year

All-NWC Baseball Team

Brock Gates, a senior first baseman who in only three seasons is fast closing in on the Pacific Lutheran baseball record for career runs batted in, was selected by league coaches as the Northwest Conference Player of the Year.

The all-conference team was announced on Friday afternoon by the Northwest Conference office.

A two-time first team All-NWC selection, Gates (Federal Way, Wash. / Decatur HS) was one of three Pacific Lutheran players named to the first team. He was joined by sophomore designated hitter Jacob Hoffman (Fircrest, Wash. / Curtis HS), who was a first team outfielder in 2011, and by senior outfielder Jaron Iwakami (Renton, Wash. / Liberty HS), chosen for the first time.

Gates leads all Northwest Conference players with a .406 batting average, and he is among the league leaders in both home runs with seven and runs batted in with 46. He has scored 43 runs and has also swiped eight bases in nine attempts. He is closing in on several PLU single-season and career records with three games remaining this season.

Gates is the first Pacific Lutheran player to earn Player of the Year honors in at least 20 years, and perhaps for several decades beyond that. PLU has had three NWC Pitcher of the Year recipients since 2006. Joe DiPietro was so honored in both 2006 and 2007, and Robert Bleecker was chosen in 2009.

Hoffman enters PLU's final three games of the season hitting .342 with four homers, 32 runs batted in and eight steals. The lanky sophomore saw almost all of his action as a designated hitter while recovering from off-season shoulder surgery. He also had a bout with walking pneumonia, which limited his effectiveness in the latter part of the season.

Iwakami has had his best season in his PLU finale. The left-handed rightfielder has a .361 batting average with 11 doubles and 21 walks. With just one error and a .990 fielding percentage, he leads all PLU outfielders with three assists.

PLU players named to the second team were catcher Curtis Wildung, shortstop Sammy Davis, outfielder Dominick Courcy, starting pitchers Trevor Lubking and Collin Nilson, and relief pitcher Nathan Eisenhauer. Utility player Ryan Frost and second baseman Corey Moore were honorable mention picks.

Wildung (Poulsbo, Wash. / Kingston HS) has had an outstanding freshman season, hitting .302 with two homers and 14 RBI. Davis (Renton, Wash. / Liberty HS) is a three-time second team All-NWC pick. He missed all of the 2011 season with a broken leg and came back this season to hit .261 while driving in 18 runs. His final season ended early because of a shoulder injury. Courcy (Centralia, Wash. / Centralia HS) was the table setter as PLU's leadoff hitter. The sophomore made centerfield his own early in the season and goes into the final three games with a .350 average, 33 runs scored and 17 steals in 20 attempts.

Two of PLU's second team pitchers are freshmen. After some early struggles, Lubking (Buckley, Wash. / White River HS) became the team's ace with a 5-3 record and a 3.61 earned run average while holding opponents to a .211 batting average. More impressively, the left-hander has struck out 70 batters in 62 1/3 innings. Collin Nilson (Milton, Wash. / Fife HS) had his best outing of the season against conference co-champion Whitworth, throwing a complete game five-hit victory against the Pirates. He is 5-2 with a 3.66 earned run average. Eisenhauer (Bellevue, Wash. / Newport HS) has appeared in 14 games this season, tied with two others for most on the team, and eight of those came in relief. He leads the Lutes with a 6-1 record, and he has 40 strikeouts in 47 innings in addition to a 4.21 ERA.

Frost (Olympia, Wash. / Tumwater HS) has pitched and played third base and designated hitter for the Lutes this season. On the mound he was 1-1 with a 3.20 earned run average, and at the plate he hits .277 while coaxing 21 walks. Moore (University Place, Wash. / Curtis HS) had a slow start but is now hitting .290 with 29 runs batted in and 14 steals in as many tries.

Pacific Lutheran, 24-13, concludes its season in McMinnville, Ore., with non-conference games against George Fox on Friday, Linfield on Saturday, and Lewis-Clark State on Sunday.

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