Redhawks try to take winning streak to four games

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Southeast Missouri State will go for its first four-game winning streak of the season today at Southern Illinois.

The Redhawks (16-22, 7-8 Ohio Valley Conference) and Salukis (25-15, 9-6 Missouri Valley Conference) square off at 3 p.m. in Carbondale. Southeast won the earlier meeting 7-3 on March 10 in Cape Girardeau.

"It would be great to continue our streak and get it up to four games," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "Three is the longest we've gone, which is unlike our program."

Southeast is riding its second three-game winning streak of the season, thanks to this past weekend's OVC sweep of Eastern Illinois. Not only was it the Redhawks' first OVC series sweep, it also marked the first time they have even won a conference series this year.

"We really needed it," said Hogan, whose squad has moved up to sixth place in the OVC standings and will resume league play this weekend at Eastern Kentucky. "We played well, and hopefully we can continue that."

Extending the winning streak doesn't figure to be easy as SIU is having a strong season. The Salukis, led by a stout pitching staff, are in third place in the MVC.

"They're having a good season. They have a nice club," Hogan said. "We played well the first time against them, and it will take another good game."

The Salukis boast an impressive 3.45 team earned-run average, although like Southeast, they don't figure to throw any of their primary conference starters.

"But they don't have many bad numbers on their pitching staff, so anybody they throw figures to be tough," Hogan said.

One Salukis hurler who could see action today is Central High School product Jason Chavez, a senior right-hander.

Chavez, who had a strong junior season last year as he worked his way into the conference starting rotation, struggled some early this year and has been used solely in relief in recent weeks.

But Chavez has pitched well recently, including notching the first save of his two-year SIU career. Chavez (2-2, 4.73) has made the fourth-most starts of any Saluki with five, although he has not started a game since March 16.

Freshman left-hander Casey Johnson (1-3, 5.60), strong in his most recent start, will get the nod for Southeast today. Against Arkansas State last week, he allowed just one run in five innings.

One pitcher who won't be on the mound today is senior right-hander Brad Smith, the Redhawks' All-American closer from last season who was shut down several weeks ago with elbow problems.

Smith had hoped to be back by now, but he said doctors fear there is nerve damage, which puts the remainder of his season in jeopardy.

"It's disappointing," Smith said. "I don't know what's going to happen."

Southeast signs player

Hogan said Southeast has signed Zak Blemker of Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana, to a national letter of intent for the 2006 season.

Blemker, projected as a shortstop at Southeast, missed the beginning of this season with an injury, but he has been on a tear since returning to the lineup, batting .467. Vincennes has gone 9-1 since Blemker's return, and is now 15-11.

"Zak should step in and compete for the starting shortstop position next season," Hogan said. "We are excited to have signed him."

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