Hogan will use Renfrow in closer role

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Because of late-inning pitching problems, Southeast Missouri State ace Dustin Renfrow's role has changed.

Renfrow, a senior right-hander, was the Redhawks' No. 1 starter for Ohio Valley Conference games last season after transferring from Jefferson Community College in Hillsboro, Mo.

Renfrow was among the OVC's best as he went 5-1 with a 2.46 ERA that ranked third in the league and 40th nationally.

This year's plan was for Renfrow to man the top spot in the conference rotation.

But Southeast coach Mark Hogan grew weary of seeing the Redhawks struggle to close out games.

So instead of pitching Friday's first game of an OVC-opening doubleheader against visiting Tennessee Tech, Renfrow laid back in case he was needed to close out one of the contests.

"I'm fine with it. Whatever the team needs me to do, I'll do," Renfrow said.

Renfrow went on to say he is more than fine with it. He was a closer in junior college, and also filled that role one summer for the Plaza Tire Capahas.

"It's what I used to do, so I'm comfortable with it. It's a role I enjoy," Renfrow said. "We've had some issues in the eighth and ninth innings. I talked with coach, and we decided to give it a shot."

Hogan likes the setup for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that he still has the flexibility to start Renfrow in one of the three games during an OVC series.

That's what has happened for this opening set against Tennessee Tech.

Renfrow was not needed Friday -- things weren't close late in either contest as Southeast won the opener 16-3 and lost the nightcap 8-3 -- so he'll get the ball for today's rubber game.

"I like it because James Leigh is throwing so well, and there are several ways we can go with it," Hogan said. "If we throw Dusty an inning in game one [of a doubleheader], we could start him in game two.

"If we lose game one, we can start him in game two. Or like what happened today, we can start him in game three."

Renfrow is looking forward to that final scenario as he takes the ball today to try and help Southeast capture the series.

"I'll be ready," he said.

Harris bounces back

When sophomore shortstop Nick Harris suffered a knee injury during the Feb. 22 season opener at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, it originally was thought he could miss as much as six weeks.

But Harris bounced back quickly, returning after three weeks for last weekend's series at Memphis.

"I'm surprised. I didn't figure I'd be back that quick," Harris said.

Harris filled the designated hitter role in the three games at Memphis as Hogan wanted to ease him back into action.

Friday's doubleheader marked Harris' first time back at shortstop.

Harris started both ends of Friday's twin bill at his normal position. He reported no problems in the field, and also belted his first home run of the season.

"It's good to be back out there [at shortstop]," Harris said. "My knee didn't bother me at all."

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