Excitement only should build for Redhawks

Monday, April 6, 2009

I'm sure nobody thought Southeast Missouri State's undefeated Ohio Valley Conference baseball record would last long. Sports just don't work that way.

Still, it's hard to argue with the Redhawks' 8-1 OVC start, especially after Southeast took two of three from perennial OVC power Jacksonville State over the weekend.

As a pure baseball fan, you couldn't have asked for much more from the series that saw the OVC's premier program come to Capaha Field.

After winning Saturday's opener 18-4, the Redhawks lit up expected first-round draft pick Ben Tootle in the nightcap for a 7-1 lead through four innings. A great comeback by the Gamecocks led to their 8-7 victory.

Southeast waited out a two-hour rain delay to claim Sunday's series finale 7-4, snapping JSU's string of 14 straight series wins that is believed to be an OVC record.

It should be a great conference race as Southeast dukes things out with first-place Eastern Illinois -- 7-0 in the league and just percentage points ahead of the Redhawks -- and several other talented teams.


It was an unbelievable atmosphere at Capaha for Saturday's doubleheader.

A picture-perfect day for baseball, a big-time matchup, free beverages provided by Kohlfeld Distributing and free food courtesy of O'Charley's came together for a season-high crowd of well over 1,100 fans.

If you didn't have fun at the ballpark Saturday, then something is wrong.


Here's a quick shoutout to Southeast super-fan Bill Gosche, who never seems to miss a Redhawks home sports event.


It would have been nice if Sikeston senior forward Michael Porter had decided to play his college basketball for new Southeast coach Dickey Nutt.

That apparently won't be the case after Porter announced last week that he chose Missouri State among four finalists that included Southeast.

I'm not sure how good a player Porter will be at the next level, but I believe he eventually could have become a force in the OVC.

The Missouri Valley Conference, in which Missouri State is a member, is a much stronger league. But from everything I've heard about Porter's desire and work habits, I see no reason he can't succeed there.

The bottom line is that Porter made the decision that he believes is right for him, and I wish him the best. Hopefully he'll thrive not only athletically but also academically at Missouri State.

Another player Southeast also targeted apparently won't play for the Redhawks.

James Washington, a point guard at Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College, reportedly has given Middle Tennessee State a verbal commitment.

But from what I've been told, forward Leon Powell from Indian Hills still plans to sign with the Redhawks.

Of course, nothing is official on any of the above trio until they sign national letters of intent. The spring signing period begins April 15.


While Nutt lost out on Porter, it looks like Southeast's new coach has landed his first assistant.

As I wrote last week, former Kansas University player Jeremy Case is expected to join Nutt's first staff, probably some time this week.

Case worked as a graduate student manager this past season on Bill Self's KU staff.

Case, a reserve guard, played in 94 games in his four-year KU career that ended in 2008, averaging 4.9 minutes and 1.8 points. He averaged 4.9 minutes and 1.6 points on the Jayhawks' 2007-08 national championship team.

A native of McAlester, Okla., Case was a two-time Academic All-Big 12 first-team selection. He graduated with a degree in communication in May 2007 and took graduate courses this past season.

I think Case is a great hire. How often has an OVC program had an assistant who played for a national champion and was a two-time Big 12 Academic first-teamer? Probably not many times.

You don't think he'll be able to relate to young athletes? I know he's only 24, and I'm sure he won't be Southeast's chief recruiter, but I've got to believe he'll be able to help bring some good players to Cape Girardeau.


Missouri came one win short of its first Final Four berth after a hard-fought loss to Connecticut in the Elite Eight.

But I can't imagine any MU fan being disappointed in the Tigers' resurgent season that came after last year's 10th-place Big 12 Conference finish.

Under third-year coach Mike Anderson, the Tigers set a school record for wins with 31 and were the nation's most improved team, after posting just 16 victories last season.

The Tigers lose plenty of talent, led by DeMarre Carroll, Leo Lyons and Matt Lawrence, but a host of young players filled key roles so the cupboard doesn't appear bare for next season.

MU's future looks bright under Anderson, so it's no wonder university officials did everything in their power to keep him in Columbia for quite some time as he signed a seven-year contract last week, including a substantial pay hike.


It's still several months away from the start of the 2009 college football season, but Southeast will begin preparations for the upcoming campaign Wednesday.

That's when the Redhawks hold their first of 15 spring practice sessions allowed by the NCAA.

As has been customary under coach Tony Samuel, the Redhawks generally will work out at 6 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with scrimmages set for April 18 at about 11 a.m. and April 25 at about noon, followed by the annual spring game May 2 at a time to be determined.


Tennessee State recently filled the OVC's final men's basketball coaching vacancy.

John A. Cooper takes over the Tigers' program as his first head coaching position.

Cooper has been a college assistant since 1993, most recently spending five years at Auburn. His other Division I stops include Oregon and South Carolina.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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