Southeast Missouri State University's softball team is in third place in the Ohio Valley Conference, having won five of its first seven league games -- but coach Lana Richmond knows the jury is still out regarding the Otahkians as possible title contenders.
That's because Southeast (10-22, 5-2) has played its first seven conference games against the teams holding down the bottom three spots in the 10-team league, and all seven contests were at home.
The Otahkians should get a better indication of where they stand starting with this weekend's three-game series at Tennessee Tech (25-18, 6-4). There will be a 1:30 p.m. doubleheader today and a 1 p.m. single game Saturday.
Tech is the defending OVC regular-season and tournament champion, and the Eaglettes were voted by the league's coaches to repeat, although they are currently just in fourth place.
"It's going to be a real test for us," Richmond said. "Now we'll start playing some of the better teams in the conference and we'll find out more about where we stand."
Southeast is coming off Wednesday's doubleheader split with Austin Peay in which Amy Fahnestock pitched a no-hitter in the 8-0 second game after the Otahkians dropped the opener 5-2.
"It's a big series for us," Fahnestock said. "We know they're supposed to be really good."
The Otahkians' offense has come to life in recent weeks, led by red-hot Victoria Torrez, who has raised her average to a team-leading .355. Also above .300 are Suzi Lair (.319) and Jamie Birk (.310).
Richmond also hopes Southeast will receive a lift from the return of Alana Bagby-Leonard, one of last year's top hitters who missed several weeks with migraine headaches. She returned Wednesday and drove in three runs in the second game.
With Fahnestock (4-6, 4.01 earned-run average) being limited by a wrist injury for several games prior to her no-hitter, the Otahkians' pitching has recently consisted primarily of Kelly Birk (4-7, 2.12) and Jessica Hunter (2-7, 2.25).
Tennessee Tech has struggled at the plate with a .207 batting average -- compared to .242 for Southeast -- but the Eaglettes' pitchers have compiled a 1.29 ERA compared to 2.85 for the Otahkians.
Golf 14th in meet
Southeast's golf team finished 14th out of 19 squads during the Belmont Invitational held earlier this week in Franklin, Tenn.
The Indians had a 54-hole total of 894. Tennessee State won with 851 and Wofford was second with 859.
Southeast's top finishers were Matt Hillis and Brian Sheehan, who tied for 31st with 8-over 221. Kent Phillips and Mark Schmitz tied for 61st (227) while Brandon Couch tied for 83rd (234).
Tennessee State's Robert Dinwiddie was the medalist at 5-under 208.