Struggling Redhawks try to end skid vs. Evansville

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Southeast Missouri State's baseball team has faced plenty of tough nonconference opponents this season and the reeling Redhawks will take on another one tonight.

Evansville, which has already posted 30 victories, pays a visit to Capaha Field for a 6 p.m. first pitch. The Aces, 30-14 overall, are 8-7 in the Missouri Valley Conference, good for a fourth-place tie.

Other nonleague foes for the Redhawks (16-26, 7-11 Ohio Valley Conference) have included nationally ranked Tulane, Mississippi and Missouri, along with Bradley, Southern Illinois, Arkansas State and Central Michigan -- all of whom are having impressive seasons. Southeast has played multiple games against all those squads.

"So many of the nonconference teams we've played this year are having really good seasons, and Evansville is another one of those," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "This is the best club they've had in a while, and I'm sure it's going to be another really tough game for us."

Evansville has a .278 team batting average, with five players above .300, led by Kern Watts (.355) and Dustin Knight (.342). Erik Lis (.319) has team highs of eight home runs and 39 runs batted in. The Aces have stolen 76 bases in 93 attempts, led by Robbie Minor (14 of 16), Kyle Smith (13 of 15) and Watts (13 of 17).

The Aces' pitching staff has a 4.29 earned-run average. Top starters have been Adam Rogers (4-2, 2.73) and Fred Jones (4-3, 3.68), while Mark Murray (6-2, 3.09, 12 saves) has been sensational out of the bullpen.

Southeast, which has struggled much of the season offensively, is batting .267, led by Eric Horstman (.331), Frankie Montiel (.327) and Ernie Bracamonte (.317). Those are the Redhawks' only hitters at .300 or better.

The Redhawks have a 5.03 ERA, led by freshman Joey Evans (6-4, 2.91).

With 12 regular-season games remaining, Southeast would have to get extremely hot down the stretch to avoid just its second losing record since Hogan took over the program in 1995.

Right now, the Redhawks -- who have suffered four straight losses -- are simply trying to gain some confidence prior to resuming OVC play this weekend with a three-game home series against first-place Morehead State.

With nine OVC contests left, Southeast is in a three-way tie for sixth place among 10 teams. Only the top six finishers qualify for the conference tournament. The Redhawks have never missed out on the OVC Tournament under Hogan, their lowest league finish being fifth.

"It's been a tough season for us in a lot of ways, but the guys haven't quit and I'm proud of them for that," Hogan said. "There's still time for us to get something going and get in the tournament. That's got to be our goal right now."

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