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Tigers strike for 12 runs in fifth inning to sweep Redhawks
Memphis outscored Southeast 31-14 in the two-game series.
Memphis proved during Tuesday night's shellacking of Southeast Missouri State that it could deliver in two-out situations.
It didn't help the Redhawks' cause Wednesday to give the Tigers an extra out during the 12-run fifth inning that blew open the finale of the two-game midweek series.
Memphis set a school record for most runs in a single inning by clouting two home runs -- one a grand slam -- and getting some help from two catcher's interference calls en route to a 19-8 victory at Capaha Field.
The Tigers sent 15 batters to the plate -- getting nine hits, a walk and the two catcher's interferences -- and scored four runs in the fifth after two men were retired. In the two-game set, Memphis (27-16) scored 19 of its 31 runs with two outs.
The outcome of the series was not a complete surprise.
The Tigers, who are ranked 46th in one Web site's RPI replicator, were a potent team (.291 team average) coming in from a poor weekend in Conference-USA play. And without games scheduled for this weekend, they could pitch one of their top three starters -- Scott McGregor, an all-conference pitcher last year.
Southeast (25-17), on the other hand, was strapped on its pitching and is gearing up for an important Ohio Valley Conference series with Eastern Illinois. The Redhawks are No. 159 in that same RPI ranking. They fell to 15-12 in nonconference games.
"Memphis is a tremendous offensive club," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "When I saw their scores over the weekend, I knew they were going to come in hungry. You have to give them credit, they hit the ball all over the place."
Four of their hits went over the fence -- two by Joey Lieberman to give him 11 on the year. Bill Moss also hit his 11th home run of the season.
Lieberman and Moss combined for 12 RBIs. Chris Kirkland had five RBI -- all in one inning.
Lieberman drilled a three-run home run with two outs in the third to make the score 4-0. Moss hit a three-run blast with two outs in the fourth to make the score 7-0. And after Lieberman's grand slam made the score 15-2 in the top of the fifth, Kirkland hit a three-run homer with two outs to cap the record-setting inning and making the score 19-2.
"I don't feel terrible except about the ability of their offense to explode," Hogan said.
Only one of Southeast's five pitchers had cracked double digits for innings pitched this season. Starter Isaac Stoll brought to the mound all of one-third of an innning and a 54.00 ERA.
He improved his stats by allowing four runs on five hits in three innings. He walked none and hit two batters in his first decision of the year.
The best stretch of pitching belonged to James Leigh, who didn't allow any runs over 3 2/3 innings, and Mike Taylor, who closed out the game with two-thirds of an inning.
Southeast also made no errors other than the two catcher's interferences by freshman Andrew Wiese, who was making his first start. Freshman Greg Dambach picked up his first hit in his eighth career at-bat; and freshman Jim Klocke hit his second home run of the year in a 3-for-4, two-RBI day.
Southeast finished with eight runs on 12 hits, scoring four in five innings off winning pitcher McGregor (4-2).
"We hit the ball today," Hogan said.
The bright spot that could help Southeast most when it counts was Leigh's performance, Hogan said.
The sophomore transfer from Texarkana Community College was roughed up in his last start, allowing six runs, three earned, in 1 1/3 innings in a loss at Missouri State.
He allowed two hits, walked three and had Southeast's only strikeout Wednesday.
"That was by far his best outing," Hogan said. "If we found him today, and we can stretch him out and give him the ball, that could be good for us down the road. Sometimes, that works out for you in a game like this."
Leigh entered the game immediately after Kirkland's two-out, three-run homer in the fifth.
"I just didn't want to give them any more momentum, and I wanted to give our hitters a reason to bat," Leigh said, "I just focused on throwing the ball where the coaches wanted me to throw it. They could swing the bat, and I knew I had to have pretty good command."
Leigh might not have gotten into the game at all if it had been close, said Hogan, who was willing to use his weekend starters in spot situations if necessary.
But Southeast fell behind 7-2 after four, and then the game turned ugly.
Memphis loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, and pinch-hitter Will Petersen drove a fly to right field that was going to advance the two lead runners. But catcher's interference brought in the run and put Petersen safely on first.
Kirkland then ripped a two-run double as part of his five-RBI inning. After a popout for the first out, Michael Murray reached first when catcher's interference was called on a foul ball.
"That was kind of an odd thing," Hogan said of the two calls in one inning.
After Moss singled, Lieberman hit his grand slam.
The next batter was retired before Memphis came up with four straight hits, capped by Kirkland's homer.
Adam Amar had two hits in the inning. He became the school's all-time hit leader with the first one, which was No. 241 in his career.
"Innings like that are a lot of skill and a lot of luck," Amar said. "We didn't try to do too much and some things fell in. That's what it takes."
It was agonizing at the time for Hogan and the Redhawks. Matt Carter pitched to two batters in the inning and finished with five earned runs in one inning. Derek Hayden allowed 10 runs, eight earned, while retiring two batters.
"We had our weekend guys ready to go in the fifth, sixth, seventh innings if it was something like a 5-4 game," Hogan said. "I wanted to send one of those guys out there to stop them from scoring all those runs."
Instead, he may have found a silver lining in Leigh's performance.