Arkansas-Monticello baseball coach John Harvey has the Weevils headed in the right direction early in the 2012 campaign. UAM jumped all over Lamoyne Owen College in Saturday’s opening-day double-header, winning both games in shutout fashion (8-0, 9-0).
Harvey is entering his second season at UAM. After a 17-26 record last year, Harvey recruited a host of Division I and junior college players in an effort to bolster the program.
Harvey has an entirely new infield with shortstop Christian Gallegas headlining the revamp. Gallegas was an All- Southland Conference selection at Texas State last year. At third base will be Lipscomb transfer Josh Chism. Texarkana College transfer Hunter Allday is expected to start at first base while Panola College (Tex.) transfer Taylor Eaves will be at second base.
“I wanted to bring in some guys with experience that were ready to play right away,” Harvey said. “This is my first recruiting class and I want to change the perception of UAM baseball around the state.”
Harvey noted Pine Bluff’s own Kenny Marshall as “probably the best guy” on the mound for the Weevils. Marshall went three innings in the opener and fanned six.
Harvey added two other transfers to the pitching staff with Chris Guzman (El Paso Community College) and Russell Watts (Central Arkansas). He will also look to Chism, Eddie Smith and Brent Noble out of the bullpen.
The Weevils will continue diamond play this weekend in Magnolia with three games. UAM will play Angelo State Friday at 2 p.m., Arkansas Tech Saturday at 11 a.m., and Southern Arkansas Sunday at 6 p.m. UAM will return home to play Delta State Wednesday at 1 p.m.
After reaching the finals of the 2011 NCAA Division II South Regional last season, the Arkansas-Monticello softball team will start the 2012 campaign ranked No. 12 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 Poll.
UAM is the lone GAC representative in the preseason NFCA poll.
The Cotton Blossoms, picked as the co-favorite in the inaugural Great American Conference preseason coaches poll along with Southeastern Oklahoma State, made the largest jump of any team from being ranked No. 24 in the final 2011 NFCA poll to No. 12 to start the 2012 season. UAM returns six starters from last year’s squad, including All-America pitcher/first baseman Kayla Jackson.
Jackson went 29-9 in the circle last year with a 1.13 earned run average, while also being among the nation’s leaders offensively. The Hallsville, Texas native finished the season hitting .434 with 79 hits, including 12 homeruns. She is a two-time NFCA All-America selection.
“We feel good about our returning players,” said UAM coach Alvy Early. “We have won 101 games in the last two years. But that doesn’t mean we have won any this year. We have had an experienced team that has had some success the past couple of years. This year we have some speed, power and one on the best pitchers in Division II.”
Other returning starters include: Jennifer Hickman (SS), Beth Johnson (CF), Taylor Russell (1B), Brittany Eitel (C), Meagan Wilson (3B), Summer Huddleston (2B), and Katie Bowman (LF).
Early has added a late addition to the 2012 schedule this Friday, as the Cotton Blossoms will take on the Arkansas-Pine Bluff Lions in Star City at 3:00 p.m.
After last week’s season opener with Midwestern State was cancelled due to field conditions, Coach Early felt it necessary to get his team on the field before the weekend’s games in Arkadelphia.
“The teams we’re playing this weekend already have multiple games under their belt and we couldn’t go in without having played a game, and Coach (Chrystal) Bowers was kind enough to meet us halfway,” Early said.
The Blossoms are coming off a 46-16 campaign last year. Early has career softball coaching record of 512-260-2 at UAM(1997-present).
The Great American Conference softball coaches have selected the UAM and Southeastern Oklahoma State University as the preseason favorites to win the inaugural conference championship.
The Boll Weevils are coming off their first home loss of the season after suffering a 74-73 setback to Arkansas Tech on February 2.
UAM is currently 15-7 overall and still in the hunt in the Great American Conference race at 5-5.
Losers of four of the past five outings, the Weevils will be looking ahead to the remainder of the schedule to get in playoff position. UAM will host Henderson State on Feb. 11 before playing at Southwestern Oklahoma State on Feb. 16 and East Central University on Feb. 18. The Weevils return home to play Southern Arkansas on the 20th and Harding on the 23rd.
The Blossoms are currently 7-13 overall and 3-7 in the conference after a roller-coaster past couple of weeks. The women’s team is 3-3 over the last six games and have failed to win or lose two games in a row during that span.