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Redhawks drop pair to Panthers
Southeast lost both games to Eastern Illinois 8-7 on Saturday.
Southeast Missouri State coach Mark Hogan and Eastern Illinois coach Jim Schmitz agreed on one thing following Saturday's doubleheader at Capaha Field.
The first-place Ohio Valley Conference showdown lived up to its billing.
But only Schmitz was able to savor what had just transpired after EIU claimed a pair of 8-7 victories to establish a firm grip on the OVC lead.
"We came away with two wins, but they were two phenomenal games," Schmitz said. "We came back, they came back. We just happened to get the last outs."
Said Hogan: "It can't get much closer than that. It's disappointing, but both teams laid it out there. There were great plays on both sides and both games came down to the last out."
EIU, ranked 24th nationally by Ping Baseball, improved to 34-10 overall and 12-3 in the OVC.
Southeast fell to 25-18 and 11-6 as the Redhawks dropped three games behind the Panthers in the loss column entering today's 1 p.m. series finale.
"They have a good club and we have a good club," Southeast junior catcher Jim Klocke said. "They kind of shut us down when they needed to."
The games, played in front of an announced crowd of more than 1,200 as River Eagle Distributing provided free food and beverages, followed similar patterns.
Southeast jumped out to early 4-0 leads -- after the first inning in the nine-inning opener and after the second inning in the seven-inning nightcap -- then EIU took control late before last-inning rallies by the Redhawks fell short.
"We scored early in both games but couldn't add on," Hogan said. "That was one of the big things."
EIU broke a 4-4 first-game tie with three eighth-inning runs off Klocke -- Southeast's closer -- with all the damage coming on solo home runs.
It was 8-5 entering the bottom of the ninth when Klocke's two-run homer made it 8-7.
Southeast placed runners on first and third with two outs.
Sophomore Blake Slattery, who has seen little action this season, was at the plate after entering the game as a pinch-runner and then remaining in the lineup with Southeast out of position players.
Hogan had been forced to juggle his lineup after freshman shortstop Kenton Parmley had to come out of the game after a hand injury suffered in practice during the week flared up on him.
Slattery, who was 1-for-13 on the season and had seen virtually no action in recent weeks, fell behind 0-1 in the count. Hogan decided it was a good time to try something on the bases.
Junior center fielder Nick Harris took off from first base in an attempt to get in a rundown, which might have allowed junior pinch-runner Kendal Deason to score from third base if the Panthers mishandled things.
But after a throw to second, Deason barely was tagged out on a quick throw to third as he attempted to scramble back to the bag.
"I thought at that point in the game it was our best chance," Hogan said. "If they throw it around, we score. But they handled it perfectly and they made a great throw to just get Kendal at third."
A two-run sixth in the nightcap -- both runs were unearned after a two-out Southeast error -- put the Panthers up 7-5, and it was again 8-5 entering the Redhawks' final chance in the bottom of the seventh.
Again the Redhawks made things interesting as senior first baseman Matt Wagner's two-run homer with one out made it 8-7. Southeast put a runner on base before the rally died.
"Those games couldn't have been any closer," Schmitz said.
The Panthers showed why they entered the day second nationally in batting average (.365) and slugging percentage (.599), while ranking eighth in runs scored (9.5 per game) and leading the OVC in home runs with 79.
EIU had 28 hits in the twin bill, along with six homers -- all in the opener. Jordan Kreke went 5-for-8, while Ryan Lindquist went 5-for-9 with two homers.
Southeast had 22 hits and three homers. Sophomore DH Louie Haseltine joined Klocke and Wagner in leaving the yard.
Senior right fielder Tyrell Cummings went 4-for-9 and leads the Redhawks with a .393 average.
"They've got a great hitting team and so do we," Hogan said.
EIU's sweep overshadowed a strong first-game pitching performance by Southeast ace James Leigh, a senior left-hander who allowed eight hits and four runs in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked three.