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Redhawks open OVC series with one-win Skyhawks
Tennessee-Martin has struggled like no other Ohio Valley Conference baseball team so far this season, winning only one of 19 games.
Southeast Missouri State hopes to keep the Skyhawks down when the squads square off in a three-game weekend series in Martin, Tenn.
There will be a 1 p.m. doubleheader today and 1 p.m. contest Sunday.
"We're looking forward to getting back into OVC play," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said.
The Redhawks (9-8, 2-1) took two of three from visiting Tennessee Tech last weekend in their first conference series.
UTM (1-18, 0-3) was swept at Samford in its opening OVC series, being outscored 31-9.
The Skyhawks, who have suffered nine straight losses, have been outscored 184-78. Their lone win was 2-0 at Arkansas-Little Rock on March 11.
But Hogan said Southeast would be making a huge mistake by overlooking the Skyhawks, who are picked to finish last in the 10-team OVC.
"The worst thing we can do is expect it to be easy," Hogan said. "They always seem to play us tough, and this will be their first conference games at home, so I'm sure they'll be excited.
"We can't go in there thinking we'll have an easy time or we'll be in trouble."
Southeast is coming off Wednesday's 7-6 home loss to Missouri State as the Bears scored two unearned runs -- without the benefit of a hit -- in the ninth inning.
The Redhawks beat the highly regarded Bears 6-2 in the opener of the two-game series. Hogan believes Southeast has picked up its play in recent weeks.
"I think we're showing a lot of signs of being a good ballclub," said Hogan, whose squad has won five of its last eight games. "I'm very encouraged by what I've seen lately."
Hogan again will start junior left-hander James Leigh in today's nine-inning opener.
Leigh is 4-1 with an 0.72 ERA. He leads the OVC in wins and strikeouts per game, while ranking second in ERA.
Leigh began the week fifth nationally in strikeouts per game, eighth in ERA, tied for 12th in hits allowed per game and tied for 14th in wins.
Senior right-hander Dustin Renfrow, last year's ace when he made second-team all-OVC, will start either today's seven-inning nightcap or Sunday's nine-inning finale.
That all depends on whether Renfrow (1-1, 3.00) is needed to close out either of today's games.
Sophomore lefty Josh Syberg (0-2, 5.01) rounds out Southeast's conference rotation. He'll get the ball either in today's nightcap or Sunday, depending on what happens with Renfrow.
"We'll start with Leigh and then see how it goes," said Hogan, whose team has the OVC's second-best ERA at 4.09.
Southeast is hitting .270 as a unit, led by freshman Trenton Moses (.370), Matt Wagner (.343), Jim Klocke (.333) and Justin Wheeler (.328).
Tyrell Cummings, batting .289, leads the OVC with six home runs while ranking third with 25 RBIs. He entered the week tied for 16th nationally in RBIs per game and tied for 42nd in home runs per game.
Wagner is tied for second in the OVC with five homers.
UTM has struggled at the plate and on the mound. The Skyhawks are hitting just .239, and they have the OVC's worst ERA at 8.37.
Still, Hogan is wary.
"I look for a tough series," he said.