A pair of non-league rivalry games this week will help Southeast Missouri State University prepare for the start of Ohio Valley Conference play.
The Indians (8-9) visit Southern Illinois-Carbondale (3-13) at 2 p.m. today and host Missouri (18-4-1) at 6 p.m. Wednesday, the latter contest being Bluff City Beer Night, with the local distributorship providing free food and beverages.
Southeast opens its OVC schedule this weekend with a three-game home series against Murray State.
"These are two of our biggest non-conference rivals and we usually have interesting games with them," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, whose squad has been playing both the Salukis and Tigers twice each season.
After seeing their record suffer early by playing one of the nation's more challenging schedules, the Indians have posted four victories in their last five games, although they are coming off Sunday's 6-2 loss to Southwest Missouri State.
Getting into the black
Getting above the .500 mark -- where Southeast has not been all season -- doesn't figure to be easy over the next two days.
While SIU has struggled so far this year against a rugged schedule, the Salukis were highly regarded entering the season after a 30-25 record in 2003. And Missouri of the Big 12 Conference, 36-22 a year ago, is off to a strong start.
"I think both games will be very tough tests for us," Hogan said. "SIU's record isn't good but they've got a solid team, and Missouri is off to a great start. They're very good."
SIU and Missouri both feature a local flavor as former area high school stars are on their rosters.
For SIU, junior pitcher Jason Chavez (Central) has seen limited action after transferring from Mineral Area College. The right-hander is 0-1 with a solid 3.38 earned-run average. In eight innings spanning five appearances -- all out of the bullpen --Chavez has allowed 11 hits while striking out five and walking six.
Missouri junior pitcher Garrett Broshuis (Advance), in his third season as a member of the Tigers' starting rotation, is off to a strong start. The right-hander is 5-0 with an impressive 2.19 ERA after beating Chicago State Sunday. In 37 innings, he has allowed 30 hits while striking out 35 and walking eight.
Also for the Tigers, sophomore infielder Adam Garrett (Sikeston) has received just nine at-bats, with one hit, after batting .449 (22-for-49) during a freshman season that saw him fill in strongly for an injured regular, earning 12 starts.
SIU opened the season with 12 consecutive losses before winning three straight, including Saturday's upset of sixth-ranked Notre Dame. The Irish came back to beat the Salukis the following day.
The Salukis have a team batting average of .262, led by Greg Andrews (.345, six home runs, 16 RBIs) and Nathan Emrick (.343). SIU has a 5.83 ERA. Top starters have been Eric Haberer (1-0, 3.44) and Marshall Tucker (0-4, 3.86).
Missouri is batting .303 and has a sparkling 2.84 ERA. James Boone (.382), Cody Ehlers (.364, six homers, 27 RBIs), Lee Laskowski (.360, five homers, 21 RBIs) and Ryan Rallo (.321, five homers, 24 RBIs) lead the offense. In addition to Broshuis, other top starters have been Nick Admire (1-0, 0.69), Eric Dessau (5-1, 1.53) and Nathan Culp (1-1, 2.92).
Southeast won both meetings with SIU last year, 7-5 and 4-3, but the Salukis lead the all-time series 29-18-1. Southeast dropped a pair of tight games to Missouri last season, falling 9-8 and 11-10, but the Indians beat the Tigers twice in 2002. Missouri leads the series 17-6.