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Redhawks drop doubleheader to Morehead State
Southeast dropped both games of Friday's doubleheader to visiting Morehead State.
Friday's doubleheader at Capaha Field was important for both Southeast Missouri State and Morehead State.
Only Morehead was able to take advantage of the situation.
The visiting Eagles clinched a berth in the six-team Ohio Valley Conference tournament with a 12-10, 10-3 sweep.
Southeast was eliminated from contention for a second-place OVC finish, which would have meant one of the two byes for the first round of the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Paducah, Ky.
"We came out and battled on both sides of the ball," junior catcher Jim Klocke said. "Unfortunately they pitched better than us and hit better than us."
The Redhawks' road to second place in the nine-team OVC entering the final regular-season series was clear cut.
Southeast needed to fare better against Morehead than Murray State, which led the third-place Redhawks by percentage points, did against Austin Peay.
Murray and Austin Peay split Friday's doubleheader, meaning even if the Thoroughbreds lose again today, the best Southeast can do is match Murray's 1-2 series.
That still would leave Southeast percentage points behind the Thoroughbreds, who locked up second place and a first-round tournament bye.
"It's disappointing," senior second baseman Tony Spencer said. "We felt it [a bye] would have been a good position for us. But it's something we have to deal with."
Southeast (26-22, 12-10) can lock up third place and the No. 3 tournament seed by winning today's 1 p.m. contest.
But if Morehead (18-30, 11-10), which moved from sixth place to fourth with Friday's two victories, completes the series sweep, the Eagles will finish third and Southeast fourth.
"They're playing with some confidence now and we're not," said Southeast coach Mark Hogan, whose squad already had secured its 15th straight OVC tournament berth since he took over the program, the longest current streak in the conference.
The Redhawks are reeling, having lost six of their past seven games, all within the league.
It's been a particularly rough last two series for the Redhawks, who have suffered three defeats in contests that saw them score at least 10 runs.
"We've just been in a bad spot pitching wise," said Hogan, who along with senior first baseman Matt Wagner had to sit out Friday's opener per OVC rules after they were ejected from Sunday's 11-10 loss at Eastern Kentucky.
Both of Friday's games were tied entering the final innings, when Morehead pulled ahead.
The nine-inning opener saw Southeast trail 4-0 early before grabbing a 10-7 lead after six innings.
Morehead tied things with a three-run seventh, then an eighth-inning run put the Eagles up for good.
The seven-inning nightcap saw Southeast score three unearned runs in the first inning off Morehead ace Tyler Bess (5-6), who then blanked the Redhawks on just two hits over the final six frames.
"I thought he was one of the better guys I've seen all year," Spencer said.
Morehead tied the contest with a three-run fourth inning, then broke open things with a seven-run sixth that started with a solo homer by freshman Taylor Davis and ended on a three-run bomb to dead center by junior Michael Bottoms.
Davis led off the frame with his tie-breaking shot against Southeast ace James Leigh (7-2), who was removed after throwing just 80 pitches and allowing only four hits.
"We didn't get James enough run support," Klocke said.
Hogan said he took his senior left-hander out with an eye toward having him as fresh as possible for the OVC tournament, in which Leigh will pitch the opening game.
"After Murray won their first game [Friday] and we fell behind, I was thinking about next week," said Hogan, mindful that even if the Redhawks won the final two games of the series, they still would have needed Murray to lose its last two to gain a bye. "We're in the tournament. I didn't see any reason to keep him in the game and throw 40 more pitches."
Klocke continued his hot hitting for the Redhawks, going 4-for-7. He went 3-for-4 with two homers, including a massive blast to right, and four RBIs in the opener.
"I'm seeing the ball fine," said Klocke, who is batting a team-high .399.
Sophomore Louie Haseltine -- normally Southeast's DH who replaced Wagner at first base in the opener -- also homered in that contest and finished the day with three RBIs.
But Morehead's high-powered offense dominated the day with 27 hits, compared to 15 for Southeast. The Eagles had four homers, seven doubles and a triple.
Freshman Luke Bainer had four hits, including a homer and two doubles. Sophomore Travis Redmon also had four hits.
Bottoms had a big day. To go along with a homer, a triple and four RBIs, he was the first-game winner by closing out things with three one-hit, shutout innings.
"Give them credit," Hogan said. "They had a really good day."
While Southeast won't have a great deal on the line in today's regular-season finale, Klocke said he would love to send the Redhawks' eight seniors out on a high note. The eight will be recognized before the first pitch on senior day.
"They're a great group of guys," Klocke said. "It would be great to get a win for them."