Southeast rolls to second OVC sweep vs. UTM

Monday, March 30, 2009
FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Southeast Missouri State's Matt Wagner is greeted by his teammates after hitting a three-run home run against Tennessee-Martin during the second inning Sunday at Capaha Field.

Ohio Valley Conference series sweeps are hard to come by.

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team has pulled it off in its first two conference weekends of the season.

Southeast capped its latest sweep with Sunday's 12-8 win over visiting Tennessee-Martin.

That came after the Redhawks claimed both ends of Saturday's doubleheader, 6-5 in 10 innings and 9-7.

The Redhawks, who began OVC play last weekend with a sweep at Tennessee Tech, improved to 16-8 overall and a first-place 6-0 in the conference.

FRED LYNCH ~ flynch@semissourian.com
Southeast Missouri State's Justin Wheeler steals second base as Tennessee-Martin shortstop Cody Terry takes the throw during the first inning Sunday at Capaha Field.

"It is tough to get a sweep. It's hard to beat a team three times in a row," senior right fielder Tyrell Cummings said.

The Redhawks pushed their winning streak to a season-high six in a row. Southeast and Eastern Illinois are the only two squads without a conference loss. The Panthers, 5-0 in the OVC, had a game against Tennessee Tech rained out over the weekend.

"It does feel good. It's good momentum for us," Southeast senior first baseman Matt Wagner said. "We've done a good job taking care of business so far."

Sweeping an improved UTM team that has been the OVC's doormat for years was far from easy.

The Skyhawks (9-13, 0-3) had more hits than Southeast in the series -- 39 to 37 -- including a 17-16 advantage Sunday.

"They swung the bats well all weekend," Wagner said.

Southeast coach Mark Hogan was impressed by the Skyhawks.

"They've got a sensational offense," Hogan said. "Every hitter, every swing, they get their money's worth."

Hogan also is impressed with the Redhawks, who have bounced back from a drubbing in a two-game, nonconference series at Missouri State just before the start of OVC play.

"We're playing well. There's not much more I can ask this team to do right now," Hogan said. "To start 6-0 in the OVC. ... you couldn't ask for much more, but it's still so early.

"One thing I talked about after the game is, 'How will we handle success?'"

The biggest difference in the series was the long ball.

While UTM outhit Southeast, the Redhawks banged out eight home runs to three for the visitors.

Wagner had a big game Sunday with three hits and six RBIs. His three-run homer highlighted a six-run second inning that put Southeast up 7-0.

Wagner homered twice in the series -- he hit a walkoff blast in the 10th inning of Saturday's opener -- and now has nine on the season to tie senior teammate Justin Wheeler for the most in the OVC.

Wagner, who has 27 home runs in his three-year Southeast career to move into eighth place on the program's all-time list, said he and his teammates have fun jockeying for the squad's homer title.

"We joke about it," said Wagner, whose 11 homers last season fell just short of Cummings' team-high 12.

Wagner, who has moved up to sixth on Southeast's career RBI list with 128, smiled when asked if he keeps track of his statistics.

"It's hard not to," said Wagner, who has a team-leading 29 RBIs this season to move ahead of Cummings' 27. "But we don't get carried away with it."

Cummings had quite a day himself by going 4-for-4 as he took over the team batting lead with a .402 average, ahead of Wagner's .379.

Lurking not far behind are senior second baseman Tony Spencer (.374) and junior catcher Jim Klocke (.365), who played third base Sunday to give his legs a bit of a break.

Junior center fielder Nick Harris had Southeast's other homer Sunday, a solo shot in the second inning.

Harris' day ended in the eighth inning with an ejection after he said something to the home-plate umpire after being called out on strikes. He will be forced to sit out Southeast's next game, Tuesday's nonconference home date against Evansville.

Wheeler and Klocke both added two hits for the Redhawks. Klocke drove in three runs and went over the 100-RBI mark for his Southeast career.

Junior college transfer John Salazar, who has emerged as Southeast's top middle reliever, notched his first win for the Redhawks.

Salazar (1-2) worked 3 1/3 innings, allowing three hits and two runs, after taking over for senior starter Todd Strahlendorf with two outs in the fourth.

Despite giving up 10 hits and being charged with three runs, Strahlendorf might have deserved a better fate.

Ahead 7-0 in the fourth, a routine pop foul with two outs that initially couldn't be located by freshman catcher Jesse Tierney and then was barely missed by a sliding Strahlendorf kept UTM's inning alive.

The Skyhawks went on to score three times in the frame, which knocked out Strahlendorf.

Trailing 12-5 in the ninth inning, the Skyhawks scored three times off junior left-hander Andy Stephens from Scott City.

Senior Ryan Poole came in with a runner on second base to record the final out. Poole pitched in every game of the series and leads the Redhawks in appearances with 13.

"Our pitching came through for us this weekend," Wagner said.

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