Capahas faced a tougher road than expected to reach the NBC World Series

Sunday, July 22, 2007

I wrote in a recent column that this year's National Baseball Congress Mid-South Regional didn't appear much more daunting for the Plaza Tire Capahas than the last two, when they tore through the field without having a close game.

But that was before I had a chance to speak to the coach of the Springfield (Mo.) Generals, who told me about some of the solid players he had on his squad.

That's when I figured the Capahas might have their work cut out for them as they prepared to face the Generals in the four-team tournament's opening round.

I was right. The Capahas trailed most of the way and appeared on the verge of defeat, but they somehow found a way to pull out a 6-5, 10-inning victory.

After that, it was smooth sailing for the Capahas last weekend as they won their final two tournament games by identical 13-3, run-rule scores.

The result was a third straight regional title for Plaza Tire and a 26th consecutive NBC World Series berth, with play scheduled for July 29 through Aug. 12 in Wichita, Kan.

The result from last Sunday's title-game victory over Pine Bluff, Ark., was also win No. 1,300 in the remarkable 41-year career of Capahas manager Jess Bolen.

Bolen ended the weekend with a 1,300-338 record for a staggering winning percentage of .794.

But the phenomenal record aside, what makes Bolen's career extra remarkable in my eyes is the fact that, for more than four decades, he has devoted so much time and energy to allow the region's premier baseball talent a place to play in the summer.

Along the way, Bolen has given area baseball fans who attend Capahas game -- for free, I might add, which makes it about the biggest bargain around -- countless thrills.

Although the Capahas have been around for more than 100 years, I don't think it's a stretch to say that, if not for the tireless work of Bolen and his wife Mary, the organization would have folded before it surpassed the century mark.

Bolen, who I am honored to consider a friend -- he's as fine a person as he is a manager -- is a true Cape Girardeau sports icon.

Since he appears to be in fine health, there is no telling just how much longer Bolen will continue to manage the Capahas.

Let's hope it's for many years to come.

One more Capahas note:

Don't forget that the team closes out its home schedule today with a 1 p.m. doubleheader against Evansville, Ind.

This will be the last chance for fans to wish the Capahas well before they depart for the NBC World Series.

I'll write more on this when it gets a little closer to the induction date, but I think it's great that former Southeast Missouri State men's basketball coach Ron Shumate is finally going to be a part of the university's athletic Hall of Fame.

In the 2007 class of inductees announced Tuesday, Southeast's 1985-86 team that was led by Shumate and finished second in the NCAA Division II national tournament will be enshrined during this year's ceremony Dec. 7.

Shumate, who coached at Southeast from 1981 through 1997, is by far the winningest men's basketball coach in school history with a 306-171 record. Nobody else has more than 175 victories.

While Shumate's departure from Southeast was somewhat dubious -- he was dismissed for various NCAA violations in the program -- his impact on Southeast basketball cannot be understated.

Shumate turned around what had been a floundering program and built it into a Division II powerhouse, leading the then-Indians to a pair of runner-up national finishes.

Before Shumate came to Southeast, old Houck Field House was lucky to be half-filled for games.

Once Shumate got things rolling, you couldn't get a ticket to the venerable building, and the Show Me Center was also close to being packed for the early Division II seasons at the new arena.

Some might debate me on this, but had Southeast not experienced so much basketball success at the Division II level under Shumate, I question whether the university would have even considered making the jump to Division I.

I'm already looking forward to seeing Shumate at the induction ceremony -- along with the players from that team -- and hopefully somewhere down the line he'll become a part of Southeast's Hall of Fame as an individual.

Also, I've been told that all of Shumate's former players at Southeast -- not just the 1985-86 squad members -- are invited to the ceremony. It should be a great night.

One more Southeast Hall of Fame note:

The first five induction ceremonies were held during the football season, during the day of a home contest, and the inductees were then introduced at that night's game.

Because the headliner of this year's class is no doubt that basketball team, it was decided to hold the ceremony during hoops season, with the inductees introduced at the Dec. 8 basketball game against Tennessee Tech at the Show Me Center.

I've been told there is no definitive season -- football or basketball -- during which future Southeast Hall of Fame induction classes will be honored.

Everybody who has been anxiously awaiting the results from an NCAA investigation regarding alleged rules violations in the Southeast women's basketball program -- myself included -- might not have to wait much longer.

A source close to the situation told me that the Southeast matter will be addressed when the NCAA infractions committee next meets beginning Aug. 10.

How soon the findings will be released after that is not known, but you wouldn't think it would be too much later.

And it would be about time because this thing has already dragged on much too long.

Just to refresh your memory, after Southeast administrators initiated an investigation, in June of 2006 the Ohio Valley Conference cited several NCAA rules violations and the university imposed various sanctions, including a reduction in scholarships to 12 from 15 for the 2006-07 school year.

B.J. Smith, Southeast's coach at the time the alleged infractions took place, resigned in December, after he had been placed on paid leave the previous month.

Smith, who was 79-41 overall at Southeast -- including 51-17 in the OVC -- did not coach a game during the 2006-07 season. He still lives in Cape Girardeau.

There was an interesting article on the Internet at a few days ago about OVC member Jacksonville State looking into the possibility of moving up to Division I-A for football.

Even if that eventually happens, it will probably be a while down the road. For people who follow OVC sports, it's at least something to keep an eye on.

If Jacksonville State does eventually move up to football's highest classification, it will almost certainly mean the university would leave the OVC for all sports.

But really, with Samford leaving the OVC after the 2007-08 school year, it's not like Jacksonville State's potential departure would harm the conference all that much.

In fact, logistically, it might even help.

For one, it would get football down to eight teams, meaning Tennessee State would not have any conflicts with its "Classic" games and all OVC squads could once again play a full league schedule.

Also, basketball would still have a healthy number of teams (nine) and it would eliminate for all sports any trips to Alabama -- which are especially long ones for several OVC schools, including Southeast.

But we'll see how it eventually plays out down the line.

Former Southeast baseball star and major leaguer Kerry Robinson thrilled a bunch of young baseball players from Advance on Wednesday.

Robinson attended the practice for an 11- and 12-year old team in Advance that will compete in the upcoming Show-Me Games in Columbia, Mo., later this month.

Tim Below, one of the squad's coaches, played with Robinson at Southeast in the mid-1990s. They have remained friends over the years.

Below called Robinson about possibly meeting with the youngsters, and he was eager to oblige.

Robinson, who retired from professional baseball earlier this year and now lives in his hometown of St. Louis, spoke to the players, basically conducted the practice, signed autographs and even gave away an autographed bat.

I've always known Kerry as a good guy who is quick to lend a hand wherever possible. He proved it to those youngsters in Advance.

Fans of American Legion baseball won't have to travel far to get their fix of games in the next two weeks.

Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons will host the District 14 tournament at Capaha Field beginning Monday, while Jackson will host the Zone 4 tournament beginning Aug. 2.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian

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