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Jacksonville St. rallies for split
After winning the opener 18-4, Southeast lost a six-run lead in the nightcap and fell 8-7.
The Southeast Missouri State baseball team continued the program's best league start in 26 years by winning the opener of Saturday's doubleheader.
Southeast lamented the fact its undefeated Ohio Valley Conference record did not last the day.
The Redhawks built a 7-1 lead through four innings off Jacksonville State All-American pitcher Ben Tootle, who is projected as a first-round draft pick.
But the visiting Gamecocks rallied and salvaged a split with an 8-7 victory in the seven-inning second game.
That came after the Redhawks romped 18-4 in the nine-inning opener.
"It would have been nice to get the sweep," freshman shortstop Kenton Parmley said.
Southeast (17-10, 7-1) fell into second play in the OVC, one-half game behind Eastern Illinois, which improved its league mark to 7-0 by sweeping a doubleheader from Murray State.
JSU, the defending OVC regular-season champion and this year's preseason favorite, is 16-11 and 5-3.
"I think they showed what they're made of by coming back to get a split," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "The runs they got weren't cheap. They earned it."
While most of a crowd of more than 1,100 fans at Capaha Field might have gone home a bit disappointed, the Redhawks preferred to look on the positive side.
Asked if he would have been satisfied before the season for Southeast to win seven of its first eight OVC games, Hogan didn't hesitate.
"Absolutely," he said.
Added junior catcher Jim Klocke: "We'll take what we can. We're still playing good baseball."
Southeast pulled away from a 4-4, fourth-inning tie in the opener with the game's final 14 runs.
When Southeast handled the hard-throwing Tootle -- who has been clocked near 100 miles per hour -- rougher than any team has this season and maybe in his career, the Redhawks were tantalizingly close to a sweep.
Southeast senior Todd Strahlendorf fired off three scoreless innings to start the nightcap and held a 7-1 lead through four frames.
Strahlendorf ran into trouble in the fifth, allowing a run and leaving men on second and third with one out when he was removed.
"Todd gave us a great performance," Hogan said.
Hogan felt good when he called upon senior Ryan Poole, Southeast's most consistent middle reliever this season.
But Poole allowed a two-RBI single -- those runs were charged to Strahlendorf as JSU pulled within 7-4 -- then a hitter reached on an error and Poole hit a batter to load the bases.
Poole hit another batter to make it 7-5. That was the end of his day.
"Ryan's been so good for us," Hogan said. "I would have bet the house. ... That was very unusual."
Klocke, the OVC's top catcher who has turned into a premier closer during his first season of collegiate pitching, was summoned from behind the plate.
Hogan knew he was asking a lot of Klocke -- not only to escape the fifth-inning jam, but also to try and secure the victory with two-plus innings of work. Hogan also knew he had few other options.
"I hated it," Hogan said. "But Jim has been so good, and we had a chance to sweep. We had to go for it, and we almost pulled it off."
Klocke preserved the 7-5 lead in the fifth by escaping the bases-loaded jam with a strikeout and a pop out.
Todd Cunningham's solo home run in the sixth inning -- his second homer of the day -- pulled JSU within 7-6.
JSU freshman Kyle Bluestein led off the seventh with his second homer of the day to tie the score 7-7. Daniel Adamson followed with a single. He was on second base with two outs when Spencer Brandes delivered an RBI double.
"I made some bad pitches and they capitalized," said Klocke, who has six saves and suffered his first loss against two wins. "I just kind of ran out of gas."
JSU's Bill Henke retired Southeast in order in the bottom of the seventh, notching his sixth save to tie Klocke for the OVC lead.
The Redhawks lamented the fact they did so much damage against one of the nation's top pitchers, but could not dent JSU's bullpen.
Jordan Beistline (4-1), who recorded the victory, worked two scoreless, one-hit innings to get the game to Henke.
"Their bullpen shut us down," Parmley said.
Said Hogan: "We were able to get some runs off Tootle. When he came out, we couldn't get anything going. That's a credit to them."
Now the Redhawks will look to claim today's 1 p.m. series finale and break JSU's OVC record of 14 consecutive series wins dating back to the 2007 season.
"They haven't lost a series in how long?" Parmley said. "To take the series would be huge."