Falcons picked to repeat GSC East

SPECIAL TO THE REPORTER

The University of Montevallo baseball team looks to add to their list of firsts under the tenure of head coach Greg Goff.

Picked as the favorite to win the 2007 Gulf South Conference in the pre-season coaches poll, the Falcons made the most of the school&8217;s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance to close last season. UM advanced to the semifinals of the 2006 NCAA Division II National Championship Series in Montgomery after claiming its first-ever NCAA Division II South Central Regional Championship.

UM also battled through the always competitive GSC East Division, and came away with the schools first GSC East title on their way to a 43-18 record overall and a No. 3 national ranking in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll.

Ranked fifth in the nation to start the 2007 season, the Falcons opened the season last weekend with an opening day split with Southern Arkansas University, winning 10-5 and falling 5-4. They bounced back to win the series with a 13-8 win on Sunday.

As the season gets underway, Goff uses cautious optimism.

&8220;Last year was a great season.&8221; Goff said. &8220;Our goal this year is to play with great effort and passion everyday. If we can do this and not be content with what we did last year, than we can be in a position to be successful and have an opportunity to compete in the postseason.&8221;

Three of the Falcons&8217; top returnees were named as First Team All-Gulf South Conference and two were named the Rawlings/ABCA All-South Central Region Team.

Junior pitcher Zach Andrews, a Second Team All-American in 2006, returns after posting a record-breaking performance with a new single season record for saves (11) and tied single season record for appearances (32). He also posted a 6-1 record and 2.53 ERA with 68 strikeouts his sophomore year.

Senior Travis Fultz joined Andrews as one of 13 players in the nation on the Baseball America Magazine Players to Watch list. Fultz hit .330 with seven homeruns and a team-high 68 RBI in 2006 and will return to the lineup at third base. Fultz tied a single-game record with eight RBI via two grand slam home runs at Martin Methodist College last April.

The East Division of the Gulf South Conference remains as competitive as ever, including perennial favorites North Alabama, West Alabama and West Florida. The 2007 schedule is equally challenging with the Falcons facing several teams that were listed in the Top 40 Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll.

UM (2-1) hosts Auburn University-Montgomery Wednesday at 3 p.m