All-American Falcon: Preuitt celebrates honor, ponders baseball future

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Senior seasons are supposed to be ones to remember, and that was the goal of University of Montevallo left fielder Trent Preuitt, who was named to the First Team of the 2005 Rawlings/American Baseball Coaches Association Division II All-America team May 31.

The Hartselle native became only the fifth UM player to be named an All-American since the school joined the NCAA in 1996-97, and the first since 2000 when Tony Cappola and Jeff Segar were First Team selections, while Josh Johnson was a Third Team selection. Bill Martin was also a Third Team selection in 1998.

Preuitt found out about the honor while searching online at his house for Division II World Series updates. After noticing the All-America team was out, he scrolled through the names thinking at the best he’d be Third Team, but then there it was, First Team All-America.

&uot;I took off down the stairs,&uot; said Preuitt.

That may describe his excitement the best, especially for a player who says he doesn’t know how to describe how it feels.

&uot;It’s the best honor you could have as far as an individual award. I’m honored to be considered one of the top outfielders in the nation,&uot; he said.

&uot;I think this award not only shows the player that he is, but the commitment he has made to be excellent both on and off the field,&uot; said head coach Greg Goff.

TP, as he is known to his teammates, entered the 2005 season with a list of goals: collect 100 base hits, hit over .400, go to the Gulf South Conference Tournament, launch 10 home runs, hit 15 doubles and drive in 50 runs.

Through 58 games he managed to go beyond almost all of his goals, leading the team this season with a .436 batting average, collecting multiple hitting streaks and setting multiple UM records, including most hits in a season (105), hits in a game (five) and triples in a season (seven). He also collected a team-best 60 RBIs and helped take the Falcons to the GSC Tournament the second week of May.

&uot;Those (hitting) goals are the ones you never really expect to reach, but every goal I set, I met, and that’s awesome … Well, except for home runs …,&uot; said Preuitt, who collected a team third, six home runs and team second, 14 doubles.

To make his story even better, TP only struck out six times this season, that’s once every 43.6 times to the plate, or once every 9.6 games.

After hitting at his lowest last season, Preuitt took the off-season to focus on his game. A more mental pursuit than physical, says Preuitt, who gives credit for the physical conditioning needed to Goff and assistant coach Jeremy Browning.

&uot;They have us in shape physically, possibly better than anyone in the nation,&uot; said Preuitt, who also credits the coaching staff with assisting in the mental preparation by not giving up on him as a hitter last season.

&uot;Trent has been such a loyal person to me since I got here. He did struggle last year, and I thought that was because he needed to make adjustments both on and off the field…he is now sold to a commitment to be a winner off the field. I’m a strong believer that good things happen to good people,&uot; said Goff.

&uot;Plus, my daughter (three year-old Kiley) calls him her boyfriend, so I have to love him,&uot; said Goff jokingly.

After setting the goal of 100 hits during the preseason, Preuitt focused this year on each game individually, pumping himself up before every leadoff at bat by saying to himself, &uot;This is going to be a season to remember.&uot;

It was.

After UM lost four straight at a University of West Alabama tournament in February, Goff called Preuitt and first baseman Brett Davis into his office after getting off the bus. They were to become the captains of the team.

&uot;When someone tells you you’re a captain, it’s a big deal. I wanted to do everything I could to lead our team in the right direction.&uot;

Preuitt and Davis’ first display of leadership came the next day in a team meeting, when Goff presented them with a new award, the Baby Kolby Award. The not-so-positive award was a pacifier named after Goff’s third daughter due later this summer.

&uot;You should have seen their faces. They couldn’t believe I was putting a pacifier on their lockers,&uot; said Goff, who created the award on the way back from the 0-4 tournament.

&uot;I wanted to show our guys that these were the best two guys on our team and not even they are excluded from getting the award. [Preuitt and Davis] went with it, and no one ever received the award on our team,&uot; said Goff.

With the responsibility of leadership, Preuitt stepped up to bat every game looking to get on base for those behind him.

&uot;I went in telling myself I was going to get at least a hit a game, but a little into the season I realized I could probably get two a game,&uot; said Preuitt, who starting in the second game of the season, set the school record for a hitting streak, reaching safely in 23 games.

Preuitt nearly tied the record in the same season, ending the season with a 22 game hitting streak after going 0-4 against North Alabama in the GSC Tournament.

By the time Preuitt reached the previous record of 21 games in a row with a hit, UM also built their longest win streak of the year at 15 games after a double-header against Stillman College. In between games, Goff joked with Browning about Preuitt, &uot;Well coach, I guess that Preuitt guy is the real deal after all.&uot;

As the hit streaks mounted and the games of multiple hits climbed above 30 (35 by season’s end), Preuitt started thinking about Jeff Segar’s school record of 98 hits in a season set in 2000. Segar showed up at Kermit Johnson Field for the final home weekend of the season to offer TP encouragement saying, &uot;Records are made to be broken.&uot;

The following weekend, Preuitt and the Falcons traveled to Harrogate, Tenn. for the final three games of the regular season at Lincoln Memorial, a place where Preuitt struggled hitting the ball in the past, however this time, sitting on 97 hits, he didn’t waste any time.

Facing a 1-0 count to leadoff the first game, Preuitt turned on an inside change up and pulled it down the right field line for a leadoff home run.

&uot;That was memorable,&uot; said Preuitt. &uot;It was the first time I’d led off a game with a home run all year, and it tied the record.&uot;

Number 99 would take a little while longer to come by though.

&uot;It seems like it took forever to get,&uot; said Preuitt, who went 0-6 after the home run. &uot;After a while I starting thinking, ‘Man, I don’t know if I’m going to get this hit,’ and you wonder if it wasn’t meant to be.&uot;

However, hit 99 came on an RBIs double to left in the third at bat of game two of the series, followed up by hits 100, 101, 102 and 103 throughout the double-header.

Preuitt’s season might have ended in Millington, short of a GSC Championship, but he looks back on the year and career with satisfaction.

&uot;This season was unbelievable for me, to see the team go from where it was when I first got here to where it is now. You always want to be able to see the team be better when you leave, and I’m 100 percent sure it’s going in the right direction,&uot; said Preuitt.

&uot;When I look back at who I played with and look back at the leaders it feels good…Coach Goff has done such a great job, and is so much more than a coach. He teaches you about life…As long as he’s here, [Montevallo’s] going to be a great group.&uot;

&uot;He has experienced the program go from one of its lowest years (in 2002) to one of its highest years (this year). And I’m glad I could be a small part of it,&uot; said Goff.

Preuitt was also named the Gulf South Conference East Division Player of the Year, First Team All-GSC, First Team All-South Central Region and an Honorable Mention selection to the National Baseball Writers of America All-America Team.

He is working baseball camps this summer with former Falcons Segar and Rusty Riley, while working out to keep in shape.

&uot;You have to be ready, just in case the opportunity does come,&uot; said Preuitt, who is hoping to sign as a free agent to play professionally.

&uot;We’re hoping that his next step is to play professional baseball,&uot; said Goff. &uot;I think even though he didn’t get drafted, he’ll have the opportunity to play professionally some where.