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The Great West Conference is a sprawling affiliation of ex-Division I independents, with teams spread out from Utah in the West, to Texas in the South, to New York in the east, to North Dakota in the north.
Utah Valley has dominated the awkward geographic alignment in its first two years of operation, posting a combined 48-4 record in league play while setting a school record with 42 wins in 2010. The Wolverines slipped to 34 wins a year ago, but are again expected to run away with the league title. Unfortunately, it won’t pave their way into the NCAA tournament as the young conference still doesn’t have an automatic bid exemption.
The Wolverines feature a veteran lineup led by junior shortstop Kai Hatch (.335-2-33) and senior first baseman Goose Kallunki (.311-4-60), both returning all-conference players. But the team’s strength is expected to be a pitching staff that features senior righthanders Jeremy Gendlek (7-3, 1.71), the conference pitcher of the year in 2011, and Josh Swenson (1-2, 2.38, 6 SV), the league’s top closer.
HOW THEY STACK UP
Overall/conference won-loss records from 2011 indicated; preseason national ranking in parentheses, expectation level denoted -- College World Series= CWS, NCAA Super Regional= SR, NCAA Regional= R
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