Early excitement is timely
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
The football team is mired in an extended slump, while the basketball team hasn't enjoyed a conference win since Jan. 29, 2008, a span of 23 games.
Entering this season, it looked like Mark Hogan had pieced together a nice ballclub, one that would score some runs, and if things broke right, could be in the mix in the Ohio Valley Conference. Southeast was picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll.
How things have changed in five days.
The Redhawks won the three-game series at then-No. 16 Alabama over the weekend behind solid pitching and some bigs hits, then basically took batting practice through four innings against NAIA Lyon College on Wednesday at Capaha Field. Southeast homered in each of the first four innings in its 11-6 victory over the Scots.
The hot start has generated a new set of expectations, but that would be hard to tell from the way the Redhawks players tell it.
"We're not coming in overconfident or cocky," Redhawks catcher Jim Klocke said. "We're coming out with the attitude we're going to be in every game."
Hogan said he hasn't had to rein in egos.
"This is a smart group of kids," Hogan said. "We don't have a lot of ego problems. ... A lot of these boys have had a lot of success. I think they're groomed for it."
Hogan pointed to the team's attitude after Saturday's win over Alabama as an example of his players keeping the proper perspective.
"When we won the first game on Saturday, they didn't go crazy and act like a bunch of idiots," Hogan said. "It was a seasoned club that enjoyed the win in a positive way. Then Sunday we did the same, and I think they handled it really well."
Part of the reason for the excitement is because the first two wins came against a nationally ranked opponent, the first time Southeast has taken a series against a top-20 ranked team. Now the Redhawks turn their attention to another team from a power conference, Purdue of the Big Ten. Hogan said he wants his schedule stacked with powers at the beginning of the season.
"You're not going to get any better hammering teams," he said. "You can schedule that if you want to, but early on, I think the best way to get better is to play really good clubs."
The season is only four games old, but there's reason for hope, an appreciated change from the fall and winter seasons at Houck Stadium and the Show Me Center.
A better feel for this year's Redhawks team should develop after this weekend's four home games against Purdue. The Boilermakers finished second in the Big Ten last year and return seven position players this year.
"The series at Alabama, when you really put it in perspective, is a great start and that's about all it is," Hogan said. "It won't mean anything if we don't do the job, and we've got our hands full with Purdue coming in."
But for now, expectations jumped from where they were when the season started.
That's what happens when you take two of three from the No. 16 team in the country, and Hogan knows it.
"It shouldn't mean any more, but it does," he said. "It's neat to go in those venues and play the top-notch teams."
It's even better when you beat them.
Kevin Winters Morriss is sports editor of the Southeast Missourian. You can reach him at: email@example.com.