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Southeast stuns Eastern Kentucky with another ninth-inning comeback
Eastern Kentucky left the door wide open Sunday.
The Southeast Missouri State baseball team stormed through with an improbable ninth-inning rally and an equally improbable series win.
Southeast, trailing by three runs entering the bottom of the ninth inning, took advantage of several miscues by the visiting Colonels to score four times and pull out an 8-7 victory.
That came on the heels of Saturday's doubleheader, which the squads split and featured a Southeast first-game win in 10 innings despite trailing by four runs entering the ninth.
So the Redhawks took two of three during a series in which they were outplayed and despite leading in only two of 26 innings.
"They [EKU] controlled us all weekend," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "But that's baseball. You never know. Winning two out of three was big for us."
The Redhawks improved to 21-21 overall and 11-11 in Ohio Valley Conference play as they set themselves up nicely to earn a spot in the OVC tournament entering their final league series.
Southeast moved up to fifth place in the 10-team OVC, with the top six finishers making the tournament. The Redhawks are just a half-game out of third place.
The Redhawks play their final three OVC games Friday and Saturday at ninth-place Morehead State. Assuming there are no rainouts around the league, taking two of three from the Eagles will assure Southeast a tourney berth.
"It was another crazy one for us, having to come back in the bottom of the ninth," Southeast's Matt Wagner said. "But it was big, to get two out of three, to help us get in the tournament."
For the third time in the series, Southeast's normally potent bats were controlled by a starting pitcher. In 20 innings against EKU's starters, Southeast managed 11 hits and three runs (two earned).
But for the second time in three games, Southeast rallied against EKU's bullpen, although this time it was defense more than relief pitching that did in eighth-place EKU (23-26-1, 10-14).
Southeast trailed 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth -- four errors led to five unearned runs for the Colonels -- when things got interesting.
Strikeout ignites rally
Leadoff man Tony Spencer struck out swinging but reached first base when the pitch in the dirt got past catcher Joe Oliver.
Nick Harris walked, and then came the key play of the inning.
Jim Klocke hit a routine grounder to shortstop that should have been a cinch double play. But Tyler Barnett bobbled the ball for his 27th error of the season.
Instead of having a runner on third with two outs, the Redhawks had the bases loaded with nobody out.
"That double-play ball was huge," Hogan said.
Wagner followed and appeared to go too far on a check swing with two strikes, but the umpires ruled he held up.
After a home run distance fly ball by Wagner hooked foul, he doubled down the right-field line on a 3-2 pitch to make it 7-6. Klocke stopped at third on the double.
Tyrell Cummings then sent a slow roller down the third-base line that Jason Langfels threw away for an error as Klocke scored the tying run.
With runners on first and third, freshman Trenton Moses bounced a single to left past the drawn-in infield as Wagner scored the winning run.
"They gave us a lot of opportunities in the ninth, and we took full advantage," Wagner said.
Said Moses, who got his second walk-off hit in OVC play: "When a team gives you extra outs, you have to take advantage."
Southeast received a solid start from Ivan Nails, one of six Redhawks recognized before the game on senior day.
Nails allowed seven hits and four runs (two earned) in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Ryan Poole gave up three unearned runs in 2 1/3 innings.
Senior Lance Rhodes (3-4) worked 1 1/3 scoreless frames and received the win.
"Nails threw really well," Hogan said. "And Poole and Rhodes did the job."
Southeast's maligned pitching staff was charged with only eight earned runs in the series.
"Our pitching staff was good this weekend," Hogan said. "It was a big shot in the arm."
Wagner had three of Southeast's 11 hits. Moses and Justin Wheeler added two each. Matt Wulfers homered.
The Redhawks host Central Arkansas at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in nonleague play.