A dark day for the Redhawks

Saturday, March 26, 2005

After Murray State rallied for a 7-6 victory in 13 innings, darkness forced suspension of the second game.

MURRAY, Ky. -- Southeast Missouri State appeared on the way to bouncing back from another disheartening loss when darkness halted its momentum Friday.

The Redhawks will attempt to finish the job today.

Host Murray State scored four runs in the bottom of the ninth -- all with two outs -- to force extra innings, and the Thoroughbreds posted a 7-6, 13-inning victory in the first game of an Ohio Valley Conference-opening doubleheader.

Southeast recovered to lead 6-3 after three innings of the nightcap when play was halted because MSU's Reagan Field has no lights.

The Redhawks (7-12) and Thoroughbreds (12-10) will conclude Friday's suspended seven-inning game at noon today, followed by a regularly-scheduled nine-inning contest that completes the three-game series.

"It was a tough first game. It hurt," said Southeast shortstop Ernie Bracamonte, who broke out of a slump with five hits Friday, including his first home run of the season. "But we had to put it behind us, and I think we did a pretty good job of it.

"We got off to a good start [in the second game]. It would have been nice to be able to finish it [Friday], but we just have to pick up where we left off. It's a four-inning game, and we have to start off strong, finish it off, and then get the last one. Two out of three is what you look for on the road."

In the Redhawks' previous game, they saw Central Michigan score four ninth-inning runs to rally for a 5-3 victory Sunday. Friday's opener, scheduled for nine innings, followed a similar pattern as All-American closer Brad Smith blew his second straight save opportunity.

"It's been a tough stretch for us," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "It was a crushing defeat, but I thought we bounced back well. Hopefully we'll pick it back up."

What began as a pitcher's duel -- Southeast broke a 2-2 tie with an eighth-inning run -- turned wild in the ninth.

First, the Redhawks plated three insurance runs, the big blow being first baseman Jordan Payne's inside-the-park, two-run homer as his line drive skipped past the diving right fielder and rolled all the way to the fence, allowing him to circle the bases. It was Payne's team-high fourth home run of the season.

In the bottom of the frame, Southeast reliever Jamie McAlister -- who had worked three shutout innings in place of starter Derek Herbig -- struck out the first batter, then allowed a single.

Hogan decided McAlister had had enough and brought in Josh Parham, who recorded the second out but then allowed a two-run homer to Clint Griggs, making it 6-4.

Parham gave up another single, which brought on Smith, Southeast's single-season and career record-holder in saves. With a 2-2 count, pinch-hitter Jamie Leidolf drilled a pitch over the right-field fence to tie the contest and stun the Redhawks. Leidolf had been 2-for-11 on the season, both singles.

Southeast freshman Joey Evans recorded the final out of the ninth, then worked three shutout frames to match MSU reliever West Harris, as both squads failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities.

The Thoroughbreds finally did just that in the 13th. Michal Perconte -- the No. 9 batter -- led off with a double and was sacrificed to third. Southeast intentionally walked the next two hitters to set up a force at home, but Alex Stewart drilled a single just past drawn-in second baseman Bo Jenkins to end the contest.

"It was probably the most exciting game I've played in my life," said MSU second baseman Seth Hudson, a Central High School graduate. "When it was 6-2 it didn't look good, but we just work on staying positive."

Southeast had 14 hits, led by Bracamonte and Jenkins with three each. Payne and center fielder Frankie Montiel both added two hits and two RBIs.

In five-plus innings, Herbig allowed six hits and two runs (one earned), with four strikeouts and two walks. McAlister fanned six without a walk in 3 1/3 innings, allowing two hits and one run.

Evans (1-3) was the tough-luck loser. In 3 2/3 innings, he gave up two hits and a run, with four strikeouts and three walks, including the two intentional passes.

"Herbig pitched really well, and McAlister and Evans were both fantastic," Hogan said.

Stewart had four of MSU's 13 hits, while Griggs added three. Starter Craig Kraus allowed seven hits and three runs in 7 1/3 innings, with eight strikeouts and one walk. Harris (2-2) worked four shutout frames for the win.

The Redhawks quickly broke on top in the nightcap as Montiel belted a three-run, first-inning homer. After MSU tied it in the bottom of the frame, Southeast got three more in the second, on left fielder Bryan Kurt's RBI double and Bracamonte's two-run single as both players had two hits through three innings.

Southeast starter Ryan Forsyth settled down with two scoreless innings as Southeast led 6-3 after three when play was halted.

"We'll just have to sleep on it and see how everybody feels," said Hogan of a pitching staff that went through six arms Friday.

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