Falcons ranked in preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll

The University of Montevallo baseball team is ranked No. 33 in the preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll heading into the 2014 season. (University of Montevallo/Matthew Orton)

The University of Montevallo baseball team is ranked No. 33 in the preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll heading into the 2014 season. (University of Montevallo/Matthew Orton)

FROM STAFF REPORTS

The University of Montevallo baseball team is ranked No. 33 in the preseason Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll heading into the 2014 season.

The Falcons, who finished with a 34-20 overall record last season and a 16-14 mark in Peach Belt Conference play, are one of five conference teams ranked in the preseason poll.

USC Aiken is ranked No. 14 in the initial poll, while Lander is ranked No. 20 in the preseason poll. UNC Pembroke is ranked No. 23 in the first poll of the season and Georgia College is ranked No. 32 in the poll.

Tampa University is the top-ranked team in the preseason poll.

Montevallo finished one win shy of reaching the NCAA Division II Southeast Region tournament a year ago following a 3-2 loss to Georgia College in the conference tournament championship game.

The Falcons advanced to the conference tournament championship game while defeating the No. 1 ranked team in the country for the first time in their NCAA Division II history following a win over USC Aiken in the process. Montevallo also clinched conference series wins against a pair of nationally ranked teams during the regular season following series wins over UNC Pembroke and USC Aiken.

The Falcons secured 34 wins with the No. 1 strength-of-schedule ranking in the NCAA Division II Southeast Region.

Montevallo spent seven weeks ranked in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper NCAA Division II poll, climbing as high as No. 14 in the poll in early April. The Falcons were ranked in all three major polls, including the College Baseball Lineup and D2BaseballNews.com national polls, for several weeks during the season.

The Falcons finished the season undefeated in mid-week games with a perfect 13-0 record in games not part of a weekend series. Montevallo also finished unbeaten against in-state opponents, which included a pair of wins over nationally-ranked UAH in a home-and-away series. The Falcons also finished the season with a 11-8 record against nationally-ranked teams during the season.

Montevallo has seven starters returning in the field, including a pair of second team All-Peach Belt Conference performers in juniors Vinny Rodriguez and Zack Willoughby, with Rodriguez also being selected third team National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association (NCBWA) NCAA Division II All-Southeast Region. The Falcons also return a pair of starting pitchers.

The Falcons open the 2014 season with a three-game home stand Feb. 1-3 at Kermit A. Johnson Field against the University of West Georgia.

First pitch in the series opener is set for Saturday, Feb. 1 at 1 p.m.