Redhawks rally in extra innings to split twin bill

Sunday, April 20, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Southeast shortstop Nick Harris waited on a high grounder Saturday during the first of two games against Samford at Capaha Field.

Maybe it wasn't absolutely necessary that Southeast Missouri State salvage a split of Saturday's Ohio Valley Conference baseball doubleheader.

But the Redhawks felt a lot better about themselves after breaking a season-high six-game losing streak by capturing a thrilling nightcap against Samford.

Southeast rallied with three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to post an 11-10 victory in a game that was scheduled for seven innings.

That came after OVC leader Samford cruised 11-6 in the nine-inning opener at Capaha Field. The squads will close out their three-game series at 1 p.m. today.

"We needed to win it bad," said junior center fielder Tyrell Cummings, who drove in the winning run with a single.

Added junior second baseman Tony Spencer, who tied the contest in the eighth inning with a two-out, RBI double. "This was big. This could turn our season around."

Southeast (15-16, 6-6) moved into a fifth-place tie in the 10-team OVC. The top six finishers make the conference tournament. Samford (23-13, 10-3) remained in first place.

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Southeast freshman Trenton Moses watched his pop fly to center field end in an out Saturday, April 19, 2008, during the first of two games against Samford at Capaha Park.

"It was an exciting win against a very good club and we really needed it," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, whose squad has 13 OVC games remaining. "It was great to see the guys keep battling back like that."

Samford appeared headed for a doubleheader sweep at several points late in the nightcap.

The Bulldogs led 7-5 after 4 1/2 innings, 8-7 after 6 1/2 innings and 10-8 entering the bottom of the eighth.

Southeast staged three rallies, including junior left fielder Justin Wheeler's leadoff home run well beyond the left-field fence leading off the bottom of the seventh that forged an 8-8 tie.

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com ABOVE: Southeast freshman right fielder Blake Slattery couldn't catch the home run by Samford's Michael Marseco during the first of two games Saturday at Capaha Park.

Samford scored twice in the top of the eighth to go back on top 10-8 and set the stage for the thrilling finish.

Sophomore shortstop Nick Harris drilled a homer to center field that pulled Southeast within 10-9 to lead off the bottom of the eighth.

Senior infielder Zachary Blemker, whose two-run single with two outs in the fifth tied the contest 7-7, was hit by a pitch. Blemker was sacrificed to second by junior designated hitter Kieran Bradford.

Blemker was at third with two outs when Spencer stepped to the plate.

The left-handed hitting Spencer fell behind Samford lefty Kyle Nichols 1-2, and then barely got a piece of a pitch to remain alive on the foul ball.

Spencer, who acknowledged that he had not looked good against Nichols to that point in the at-bat, reached out and sent a ball down the left-field line that was a few feet fair. The double brought home Blemker to tie the game.

"He [Nichols] froze me on a fastball to make it 1-2, then I barely fouled one off," Spencer said. "Wherever he threw it, I was going to go with it. I just went with it the other way."

Wheeler was intentionally walked to bring up Cummings, who entered the day tied for the OVC lead in home runs and RBIs, but has struggled this season against left-handers despite hitting from the right side.

Cummings, one of several impact junior college transfers for the Redhawks, said he was not surprised by Samford's move to put Wheeler on.

"I expected it," Cummings said. "But it gives you more incentive. You always take it personal."

Cummings sent a hard ground ball up the middle that easily made it into center field. Spencer cruised home with the game-ending run.

"I was just trying to get a hit, not do too much," said Cummings, who hit a changeup.

Cummings went 5-for-9 with two doubles in the twin bill as he extended his hitting streak to 11 games. He is batting .350 with nine homers, 13 doubles and 41 RBIs.

Wheeler, like Cummings and Spencer a junior college transfer, homered in each contest. He has six on the season.

Harris blasted two second-game homers, giving him eight this year. Southeast leads the OVC with 41 homers.

But while Southeast had several impressive offensive performers — the Redhawks finished with 25 hits — Samford junior shortstop Michael Marseco stole the show.

Marseco, already a two-time first-team all-OVC player, went 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs in the opener. He added three more hits in the nightcap to finish the day 7-for-10, including two doubles and a triple. He has hit in 21 consecutive games and raised his average to .407.

Marseco, listed at 5 foot 9 and 132 pounds, also made several dazzling defensive plays as he displayed his cannon arm.

"He's one of the most special players I've seen," Hogan said. "He made some plays that were off the charts."

Southeast senior ace Dustin Renfrow allowed 11 hits and nine runs in five innings of the opener to take the loss.

Junior James Leigh gave up seven hits and six runs in four innings of the nightcap. Todd Strahlendorf, Southeast's fourth hurler, got the win.

While the Redhawks were thrilled to finally get back in the win column, Saturday's games did nothing to mask their recent pithing woes.

In the past seven games, Southeast hurlers have allowed 86 hits — including 27 on Saturday — and 64 runs.

"We had some of the same problems, but we were able to overcome it [in the second game]," Hogan said.

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