Regular season ends with thud

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Morehead State third baseman Andrew Deeds tags out Southeast baserunner Matt Wagner but failed to complete a double play Saturday at Capaha Field. (Kit Doyle)

Southeast fell to the No. 4 seed after being swept this week.

It was a series to end the regular season that the Southeast Missouri State baseball team would just as soon forget.

Not so for Morehead State, which capped a three-game sweep of the host Redhawks with Saturday's 9-6 win.

That came after the Eagles swept Friday's doubleheader 12-10 and 10-3.

"Their coach [Jay Sorg] told me that's the best ball they've played all year," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "This is the highlight of their year. It's the lowlight of our year."

Southeast (26-23, 12-11) suffered its seventh loss in eight games, all within the Ohio Valley Conference.

The Redhawks, who just a few weeks ago were challenging for first place in the OVC, wound up fourth in the nine-team league.

Fourth-seeded Southeast will open its 15th straight OVC tournament appearance -- the longest current streak in the league -- at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday against fifth-seeded Tennessee Tech in Paducah, Ky.

"It's a new season," senior first baseman Matt Wagner said of the six-team, double-elimination conference tournament. "We know we have a good ballclub."

Morehead (19-30, 12-10) jumped ahead of Southeast to finish third in the OVC. The Eagles will make their first tournament appearance since 2005.

"They played really good," junior catcher Jim Klocke said of the Eagles. "They outhit us in every game."

A bad start doomed the Redhawks in Saturday's regular-season finale that also served as their senior day.

Junior center fielder J.D. Ashbrook deposited the first pitch of the game from senior Todd Strahlendorf over the left-field fence.

The Eagles exploded for seven second-inning runs to go ahead 8-0.

Strahlendorf (2-3) retired just four batters. He allowed five hits, along with two walks, and was charged with six runs, five of them earned.

"We haven't done it on the mound for three weeks now," Hogan said. "It's showing up."

Sophomore Corey Harness kept Southeast in the contest by allowing just one earned run on five hits in 5 2/3 innings.

Hogan was so impressed by the work of Harness, who reeled off four straight scoreless innings from the third through the sixth, that the coach said Harness will start Southeast's second tournament game Thursday, after senior ace left-hander James Leigh gets the ball Wednesday.

"He earned the right to start in the tournament," Hogan said.

Senior Daniel Schuh worked two scoreless innings to finish out things.

"Corey and Schuh pitched good," Klocke said. "I guess you could see Corey was in a zone."

But despite the strong relief work, the Redhawks got no closer than the final three-run margin following the bad start.

"We fought and came back, but it's tough when you get down 8-0 out of the gates," Klocke said.

Klocke continued his torrid hitting for Southeast by going 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. He went 7-for-12 in the series with two homers, a double and six RBIs.

"I've felt good the past couple of weeks," said Klocke, who is batting a team-high .404. "I hope it carries over into Paducah."

Wagner had a big senior day by going 4-for-5 with a double. Junior center fielder Nick Harris doubled twice and delivered three RBIs.

Harris also turned in perhaps the defensive play of the year for Southeast in the eighth inning when he laid out to catch a deep drive that was behind him.

But Ashbrook matched that gem in the bottom of the eighth with a play that might have saved the win for the Eagles.

Southeast already had a run in to make it 9-6. There was a man on first with one out when senior right fielder Tyrell Cummings smoked a ball to left-center that looked like a certain double.

But Ashbrook tracked down the ball and laid out to make the catch across his body.

"That was a super play," Hogan said. "That's the way it's gone for us lately."

Southeast was outhit 12-11 on Saturday and 39-26 in the series.

Freshman right fielder Luke Bainer finished off a big series for the Eagles by going 3-for-5. He was 7-for-14 in the three games.

Ashbrook had two hits and three RBIs.

Junior first baseman Michael Bottoms was Morehead's series MVP. Bottoms, 2-for-4 Saturday with an RBI, finished 5-for-12 with a homer, a triple and five RBIs.

Bottoms also shined on the mound. He was the first-game winner by closing out things with three one-hit, shutout innings. Saturday he retired the game's final five batters for a save.

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