West Florida Athletics

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- After winning the Gulf South Conference East Division regular season title last year, the West Florida baseball team was picked to repeat as GSC East champions in the 2011 preseason coaches’ poll. UWF also came in one vote behind overall favorite Valdosta State; the Blazers received five votes to win the GSC Tournament and the Argonauts received four.

West Florida finds itself atop the East Division poll for the first time since 2008, when the team was coming off its first GSC Tournament championship in 2007. The Argonauts garnered 24 points in the East Division poll, two points ahead of Valdosta State and nine ahead of the next highest team. Valdosta State led all teams with five tournament champion votes, followed by UWF at four. West Division favorite Southern Arkansas received three tournament champion votes, and Delta State received the other two.

The conference also announced the preseason All-GSC team, which includes all returning all-conference players from a year ago. West Florida led all teams with six preseason All-GSC players, led by returning first-team players Tyler Hastings, Dustin Lawley, Zach North and Daniel Vargas-Vila. Returning second-team players Jason Postill and Greg Pron also were preseason All-GSC picks for UWF.

The conference also announced the top newcomers from around the league. The three top newcomers for West Florida are left-handed pitcher Ben Hawkins, third baseman Josh Huggins  and outfielder Taye Larry.

The Argonauts enter the 2011 season ranked No. 21 in the preseason polls announced by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper and College Baseball Lineup. UWF will open the season at home on Feb. 1 against Montevallo. The Argos will start GSC play on the road March 5 at No. 14 Valdosta State.