'Hawks will try to locate offense vs. MU

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Southeast carries a .220 average into tonight's game against Missouri.

Southeast Missouri State's struggling Redhawks hope to rekindle some of the magic from last year's home game against the University of Missouri.

In that early April contest, the Redhawks -- also slumping at the time -- stunned the nationally ranked Tigers 8-5 on senior Ernie Bracamonte's three-run home run in the bottom of the 10th inning.

An announced crowd of more than 2,700 fans, the second-largest in Southeast baseball history, witnessed the battle of state rivals at Capaha Field.

The Redhawks (6-14) would like nothing better than a repeat performance -- and turnout -- tonight when they face the Tigers (15-8) in a 6 p.m. first pitch.

"It's always a good time when Mizzou comes to Cape," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "We've had great crowds against them in the past, and I'm sure we'll have another one."

In 2004, when Southeast played Missouri at Capaha Field, an announced crowd of 3,084 set the baseball program's all-time attendance record.

Southeast could certainly use plenty of support tonight, because the Redhawks are in an offensive funk that has Hogan searching for answers.

The Redhawks, who have lost seven straight games -- including three at Tennessee-Martin over the weekend to start Ohio Valley Conference play -- have a .220 team batting average, by far the worst in the OVC. Their 77 runs also rank last in the conference.

Southeast has scored seven runs in its past six games. The Redhawks' offensive struggles have negated their pitching, as their hurlers allowed Tennessee-Martin just six runs in the three-game series.

"We just have to hang in there," Hogan said. "Hitting is a contagious-type thing. Right now it's just gut-wrenching for our guys. They're really working hard. I think eventually the hard work will pay off."

Hogan knows it won't be easy to get the offense cranked up against Missouri, which sports a 2.81 earned run average.

The Tigers, off to a 5-1 start in Big 12 Conference play, were ranked 10th nationally to start the season, although they have since dropped out of the polls. Missouri has earned three straight NCAA regional berths.

"They've got a great club, and an excellent program," Hogan said.

The Tigers have a .296 batting average, led by outfielders Evan Frey (.436) and Zane Taylor (.417).

Among three other regulars hitting above .300 is former Sikeston High School star Jacob Priday (.305). The sophomore catcher/outfielder leads Missouri with three home runs, six doubles and 26 runs batted in.

Last year, Priday was named to the Baseball America Freshman All-American team after having a team-high nine homers and finishing third in the Big 12 with 67 RBIs.

Two other former local high school standouts also play for the Tigers, but they have seen limited action.

Central graduate John Thies, a sophomore left-hander, has pitched 6 2/3 innings spanning six games out of the bullpen. He is 1-0 with a 5.40 ERA. Thies pitched for Meramec Community College in St. Louis as a freshman.

Notre Dame graduate Matt Wulfers, a redshirt freshman outfielder, has appeared in one game and received two at-bats without a hit. He sat out fall play with an injury.

Southeast has only two players even batting above .250: freshman first baseman Aaron Rave (.369) and junior outfielder Dustin Pritchett (.367), who went 5-for-10 in the series at Tennessee-Martin after missing about two weeks with a wrist injury. Rave leads with 10 RBIs.

With both teams coming off conference series and looking ahead to league series this weekend, pitching plans are somewhat up in the air, although each squad figures to use several hurlers.

The Tigers lead the all-time series 20-7 and they have won five of the past six meetings. The teams split two games last year, with Missouri romping 10-2 in Columbia.

This year's rematch in Columbia will be April 12.

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