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Southeast totes hot lumber into series
The Redhawks lead the OVC with a .351 batting average as Eastern Kentucky visits for a three-game series
It's not hard to see why the Southeast Missouri State baseball team has the best overall record in the Ohio Valley Conference so far this season.
Statistics tell the story.
The Redhawks lead the league in batting average (.351), earned-run average (5.48) and fielding percentage (.961).
That batting average, in fact, ranks 12th nationally. The Redhawks are also 24th nationally in runs scored at nearly nine per game.
"Wow. I didn't know that," junior right fielder Louie Haseltine said Thursday when told about Southeast's lofty offensive status. "I knew we could hit, but that's something else.
"But we've been playing well in all phases, the offense, the defense and the pitching."
Southeast will try to keep rolling during its second OVC series of 2010 and it's first home conference action of the season.
The Redhawks (15-9, 2-1) welcome first-place Eastern Kentucky (12-11, 3-0) to Capaha Field for a 1 p.m. doubleheader today and a 1 p.m. contest Saturday.
OVC series are usually played Saturday and Sunday but are moved up for Easter.
"We're looking forward to it, especially that first home [conference] series," Haseltine said. "It would be big to keep building momentum."
EKU opened its conference schedule with a surprising home sweep of defending OVC regular-season champion and preseason favorite Eastern Illinois. The Colonels have won four straight and five of six.
"That was a real surprise to everybody in the OVC I think, so give them credit," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said of EKU sweeping Eastern Illinois. "I think that opened a lot of eyes around the conference."
Southeast began its OVC slate by taking two of three at Morehead State, making it nine wins in 10 games for the Redhawks. They have been especially strong at home, posting a 12-1 record at Capaha.
"I'm always glad to be at home. I love playing at Capaha and I know our players do as well," Hogan said. "We always get tremendous fan support and I expect some big crowds. It should be an exciting series, with two hot ballclubs."
All nine current Southeast position regulars are batting at least .300, led by junior college transfer third baseman Casey Jones at .447. He leads the OVC and ranks 34th nationally.
Juco transfer left fielder Michael Adamson (.410) is seventh in the league, while junior center fielder and Central High School graduate Blake Slattery (.385) is tied for 12th.
Adamson is also tied for second with 12 doubles and ranks fifth with 43 hits.
Rounding out the current regulars are senior catcher Jim Klocke (.346), sophomore shortstop Kenton Parmley (.343), juco transfer second baseman Tim Rupp (.342), juco transfer DH Brett Russell (.333), sophomore first baseman and Oran product Kody Campbell (.304) and Haseltine (.300).
Haseltine leads Southeast in home runs with seven. Klocke is first in RBIs with 30.
"I have confidence in every hitter in our lineup," Jones said.
Said Hogan of the offense: "We've had a pretty good run. When you get past 20 games you're showing consistency. I'd say the average is pretty legitimate. I've been really proud of the kids, with all the injuries we've had and what they've had to deal with. We've had some guys really step up."
On the mound, senior right-hander Kyle Gumieny is 4-0 with a 4.12 ERA. He will start today's nine-inning opener.
Gumieny is tied for second in the OVC in wins while ranking fourth in ERA and first in innings pitched with 39 1/3.
Two juco transfer left-handers round out Southeast's conference rotation: Jordan Underwood (2-3, 5.08) and Logan Mahon (2-1, 6.28).
Underwood has the OVC's seventh-best ERA and Mahon also had been ranked high before both hurlers saw their ERA suffer at Morehead State's hitter-friendly park.
Mahon will pitch today's seven-inning nightcap, with Underwood working Saturday's nine-inning series finale.
"Our defense has been really good and so has our pitching," Jones said. "Everything is going real well right now and we just want to keep it up."
EKU also has compiled solid statistics, although not quite up to Southeast's level.
The Colonels rank sixth in the OVC with a .306 batting average. They are fifth with a 6.93 ERA and second in fielding at .959.
Top hitters for the Colonels are junior Jayson Langfels (.411), junior Ryan Faidley (.400), sophomore Richie Rodriguez (.379) and senior Anthony Ottrando (.364).
Langfels, an All-American who leads EKU with seven homers, is the OVC's No. 6 hitter. Faidley and Rodriguez rank 10th and 15th, respectively.
Expected to start on the mound for EKU are junior right-hander Stephen Hefler (1-1, 4.66), junior left-hander Paul Duncan (2-1, 5.84) and freshman right-hander Anthony Bazzani (1-2, 8.32). Junior right-hander Ryne Purcell is tied for the OVC lead in saves with six.
"It should be a really good series," Haseltine said. "Hopefully we can keep playing well."