Indians launch OVC title quest with Murray St.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Beginning today, things will really start to count for Southeast Missouri State University.

The Indians (8-11) open their Ohio Valley Conference schedule with a 1 p.m. home doubleheader against Murray State (5-14). The squads will close out the three-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday.

"We're excited about getting the conference season started," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "I feel like our club will compete well in the OVC and it's important to get off to a good start."

Despite losing most of its top players from last season's team that won more than 30 games for the fourth consecutive year, the Indians were picked second in the OVC's preseason coaches' poll. Baseball America tabbed Southeast to win the league title.

"That's probably more out of respect for our program than anything else," said Hogan, whose squad finished second in the OVC last year.

Murray State was picked to place eighth out of 10 teams in the coaches' poll despite winning last year's OVC tournament title after finishing fourth in the regular season. The Thoroughbreds, 25-31 a year ago, have a new coach in Rob McDonald.

The Thoroughbreds lost 10 of their first 11 games but will enter this weekend's series with a three-game winning streak. They are batting just .227 as a team but their offense has picked up in recent outings.

No Murray State player is hitting .300. The Thoroughbreds are led by Clint Griggs (.293) and Geoff Kirksey (.266, 3 HR, 13 RBIs).

Freshman infielder Seth Hudson, a former Central High School standout, has started 11 games for the Thoroughbreds and is batting .231. Hudson broke out of a slump by going 3-for-5 with two doubles during Wednesday's 13-11 win over Western Kentucky.

Murray State has a 7.98 earned-run average. The top starter has been Billy Fares (2-1, 4.39).

Southeast, which has lost three straight, is batting .276, led by Bryan Kurt (.420) and Frankie Montiel (.380).

Starting pitchersThe Indians' ERA is 5.77. Hogan said Anthony Maupin (2-2, 4.08) will start today's nine-inning opener, with Mike Fitch (0-2, 5.52) going in the seven-inning second game. Ryan Forsyth (1-2, 6.23) is the likely starter for Sunday's nine-inning series finale. All three have had solid outings recently.

Southeast's pitching staff continues to be shorthanded due to the absence of Bill Clayton and Jon Nourie, two of the top returning hurlers from last year who have missed most of the season with injuries. Both are questionable for the remainder of the campaign.

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