Indians try to stay over .500 against Billikens

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Southeast Missouri State University's baseball team finally has a winning record for the first time all season, thanks to a three-game weekend home sweep of Ohio Valley Conference opponent Samford.

The last thing the Indians (16-15) want is to fall back to the .500 mark, which will happen if they don't beat host St. Louis University (9-23) in today's 3 p.m. non-league matchup.

"It was big for us to get over .500 for the first time," said junior outfielder Bryan Kurt, a St. Louis native. "Hopefully now we can keep building our record."

Southeast coach Mark Hogan knows it won't be easy for the Indians to post their fifth consecutive victory, primarily because of an injury-riddled pitching staff.

Senior right-hander Bill Clayton (shoulder) and junior left-hander Jon Nourie (elbow), two of Southeast's top returning pitchers from last season, have missed virtually the entire campaign with injuries and aren't expected back this year. Nourie recently had surgery.

While the Indians' pitching has been solid recently, the staff is short on numbers.

"We just don't have a whole lot of depth there right now," Hogan said. "Fortunately our schedule of mid-week games has lightened up. We've got no more than one mid-week game per week the rest of the season."

A bad weekend for the BillsSoutheast will face a SLU team that is reeling after being outscored 41-7 during a three-game weekend home sweep at the hands of Conference USA opponent Southern Mississippi.

The Billikens, 1-10 in league play, have lost seven of their past eight games, although they did upset Missouri 3-1 last Wednesday for their lone victory during that stretch. Southeast beat SLU 7-4 on March 10 in Cape Girardeau.

"They've struggled some lately but they're a very scrappy team and we always seem to have good games with them," Hogan said.

SLU has struggled offensively with a .250 batting average while the Bills' earned-run average is a bloated 8.06 and opponents are hitting a whopping .350 against SLU pitchers.

The Indians have come alive offensively in recent weeks and have their batting average up to .297 as six players are hitting better than .300. Leading the way is Frankie Montiel (.371), followed by Eric Horstman (.350), Ernie Bracamonte (.350), freshman Brent Lawson (.333 in 42 at-bats), Kurt (.321) and Freddy Lopez (.310).

Gary Gilbert, who is closing in on the .300 mark at .297, is tied with Bracamonte for the team lead in RBIs with 24. Lopez is first in home runs with five.

Southeast has a 5.91 ERA and opponents are batting .285 against the Indians' hurlers.

The Indians, 6-3 in the OVC, resume league play this weekend with a three-game home series against first-place Austin Peay (20-10, 7-2). There will be a 1 p.m. doubleheader Saturday and 1 p.m. single game Sunday. Southeast is in a five-way tie for second place.

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