Southeast opens OVC play with split of doubleheader

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Considering how well the opener went, Southeast Missouri State wasn't very happy to settle for a split.

But that's the situation the Redhawks found themselves in following Friday's doubleheader against visiting Tennessee Tech that kicked off the Ohio Valley Conference schedule for both baseball teams.

The Redhawks bombed six home runs and James Leigh continued his masterful pitching as Southeast romped 16-3 in the nine-inning first game.

Southeast failed to capitalize on that momentum as the Eagles bounced back with an 8-3 victory in the seven-inning nightcap.

The Redhawks (7-7, 1-1) and Eagles (14-6-1, 1-1) will decide the series with today's 1 p.m. nine-inning contest at Capaha Field.

"It's very disappointing," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "There were so many wonderful spots in game one. ... We just go into game two and we just flatten out. We have to be tougher than that.

"We had them down, but they got back up. Give them total credit."

Said sophomore catcher Jim Klocke, who had two of Southeast's six homers in the opener: "We started off really good, then we kind of fell flat during the second game. But I have a feeling we'll pick up the intensity again [today]."

Taking advantage of a strong wind blowing out to right, the Redhawks belted six balls out of spacious Capaha Field during the first game.

One of Klocke's home runs, to center, might have been wind-aided, but the other was a rocket shot that hit high off the right-field foul pole.

"We hit the ball pretty hard the first game," Klocke said.

Junior first baseman Matt Wagner had the loudest homer, a massive blast to right that got out in the blink of an eye and hit high off a light standard.

Junior left fielder Justin Wheeler had the only homer to left -- against the wind -- as he and Wagner are now tied for second on the squad with four home runs each.

Also leaving the yard were junior designated hitter Matt Wulfers and sophomore shortstop Nick Harris. Both got their first homers of the season.

The Redhawks banged out 17 hits -- three doubles along with the six homers -- as they knocked out Tech ace Jake Edwards in the fifth inning.

Wagner went 4-for-5, while junior right fielder Tyrell Cummings and freshman third baseman Trenton Moses both had three hits.

"He [Moses] continues to play well," said Hogan of the Advance High School product who is batting .324.

Klocke and Wheeler both added two hits. Wulfers drove in four runs, while Harris, Klocke, Wheeler, Wagner, Moses and Cummings all had two RBIs. Cummings leads Southeast with five homers and 20 RBIs.

"Everybody hit the ball," said Harris, who recently returned from a knee injury suffered during the opening game of the season.

The way Leigh has been pitching, a few runs probably would have been enough. But he was more than happy to receive Southeast's season-high total.

"I can't complain when your batters go out and get 16 runs," he said.

Leigh made the OVC's top-hitting team -- the Eagles lead the league in virtually every major offensive category, including a .340 batting average -- look feeble.

In his first career OVC start, the junior left-hander allowed two hits over seven shutout innings as he improved his record to 4-0 and lowered his ERA to 0.75.

"He's been really good," Klocke said. "He's been almost unhittable."

Leigh struck out eight, although he did lament that he walked five, including two in the first inning.

"I was a little shaky at first, but the runs really helped," he said.

Leigh threw just 17 1/3 innings last year as he continued to bounce back from shoulder surgery that forced him to miss his entire 2006 junior college season.

But right now Leigh leads the OVC in wins, ERA and strikeouts per nine innings. He has fanned 36 in 24 innings, while allowing just 13 hits.

"He's been unbelievable," Hogan said. "And the way they [Tech] hit the ball in the second game puts what he did today in perspective because they have a very good offensive club."

The Eagles had 14 hits in the nightcap -- four by Thomas Nelson -- and used a five-run second inning to take the lead for good after the Redhawks scored twice in the first.

Sophomore lefty Josh Syberg was knocked out in the fourth after allowing six runs and 10 hits.

"Josh just didn't have it," Hogan said.

Tech's Michael Alcorn did as he limited Southeast to only one run and five hits over the final six innings.

"He did a great job. Give him credit," Hogan said.

Klocke had his second two-hit game of the day, while Wagner added a hit to finish the doubleheader with five hits.

"We just have to come out and win the series," said Harris, pointing to today's rubber matchup.

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