Central grad delivers game-winning slam in Southeast baseball win

Sunday, April 4, 2010
Southeast Missouri State's Blake Slattery holds up his helmet as he is congratulated by teammates after hitting a home run during the fifth inning of the first game of Friday's doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky at Capaha Field. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

Southeast Missouri State junior center fielder Blake Slattery is having a big season, but one thing had been missing from his resume.

Slattery was 0 for 6 with the bases loaded entering Friday's Ohio Valley Conference doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky.

Check that off Slattery's to-do list.

Slattery belted a walk-off grand slam in the bottom of the seventh inning of the seven-inning nightcap, giving Southeast a 7-4 win and a sweep after the host Redhawks romped 17-9 in the opener.

"It was a great hit by Blake," senior catcher Jim Klocke said.

Southeast Missouri State's Louie Haseltine slides into second behind Eastern Kentucky's Richie Rodriguez during the fifth inning of the first game of a double header at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau, Mo., on Friday, April 2, 2010. Haseltine was called safe at second. (KRISTIN EBERTS)

With the bases full and one out, Slattery jumped on the first pitch from Matt Harris and drilled a shot to left field.

"I had been getting fastballs on the first pitch but he'd been throwing a lot of curveballs and I thought I might get one," Slattery said.

Slattery initially thought he had pulled a blunder, even though it would have had nothing to do with the outcome.

Slattery saw his hit go well over the head of the left fielder, meaning at worst he would have a two-run, walk-off single.

But Slattery said he didn't think it was a home run, so after rounding first base and watching the tying and winning runs cross the plate, he immediately ran off the field to start celebrating with his teammates.

Slattery soon found out, much to his surprise, that his low line drive had cleared the left-field fence. He initially was credited with a single and two RBIs.

"I thought the ball was still in [play]. I thought I saw the ball," Slattery said just moments after his game-winning hit. "It doesn't matter. We won."

Added Slattery with a smile: "I had no idea. It's kind of embarrassing. I wish I could run around the bases now."

Any embarrassment that might have lingered was erased later that night when, after Southeast's sports information department checked the rule book and consulted with OVC officials, Slattery was credited with a grand slam.

Grand slam or single, either one would have made a big impression on Southeast coach Mark Hogan.

"What he did was exceptional, to come through like that," Hogan said. "I ragged him a little bit. I said all it is is a single. He said who cares.

"But it's nice he gets credit for the grand slam because he deserves it."

Sophomore shortstop Kenton Parmley led off the seventh with an infield single.

After junior college transfer left fielder Michael Adamson sacrificed, Klocke singled and advanced to second on a throw.

Juco transfer third baseman Casey Jones then was walked intentionally to load the bases for Slattery, who continued his impressive campaign.

Slattery, a former standout at Central High School, was bothered by back problems during his first two seasons at Southeast. He still saw considerable action as a freshman in 2008 before being limited to 13 at-bats last year.

Although finally healthy this season, it was hard to gauge just how much playing time Slattery would receive because senior Nick Harris was established firmly in center field.

But Harris suffered a season-ending injury after playing just one game, which eventually opened the position for Slattery. He has not looked back.

Slattery went 4 for 8 with two home runs, a double and seven RBIs in the doubleheader.

Despite going hitless in Saturday's series finale, Slattery is batting a robust .378 to rank among the OVC leaders. He has four homers, six doubles, a triple and 22 RBIs. In addition, he is tied for the team lead in stolen bases with six in eight attempts.

"It's a great feeling," said Slattery, who saw a 12-game hitting streak end Saturday. "It's always fun to play and to be doing OK right now."

Slattery is doing more than OK, which does not surprise Hogan. The coach always has seen the potential in Slattery, who has considerable ability.

"He's got so many tools. I knew it was in there," Hogan said. "He's finally healthy now and a lot of it was just getting an opportunity.

"He's had to wait with the injuries. ... We were sorry for him the first couple of years. I'm thrilled for him."

Slattery, who batted a combined .184 in his first two college seasons, said playing in his hometown makes things even more enjoyable.

"Having a lot of people in the crowd, my family, it's a lot of fun," said Slattery, who has started 22 of Southeast's 27 games.

A strong bounceback start by junior left-hander Logan Mahon and the continued stellar relief work of freshman right-hander Shae Simmons helped keep the Redhawks close to set the stage for the rally.

Mahon, after allowing eight runs while recording just two outs last weekend at Morehead State, worked five innings and struck out a career-high seven against one walk. He allowed five hits and three runs.

"He was really impressive against a good hitting team," Hogan said. "He really pitched well."

Simmons, a former Scott City star, pitched a perfect seventh inning and struck out two. He was rewarded with the win when the Redhawks rallied.

Southeast also got a solid pitching performance in the opener from its ace, senior right-hander Kyle Gumieny.

Gumieny improved to 5-0. He wound up allowing seven runs in 6 2/3 innings, but held the heavy-hitting Colonels to just three runs through six innings as Southeast built a 14-3 lead.

"He's got almost a third of our wins and he's facing everybody's best [pitcher]," Hogan said. "He's really grown since last year. He's been really consistent."

With a strong wind blowing out to right field, Southeast pounded six home runs on the day, although most were to left field.

Four of the homers came in the opener that also featured three dingers by EKU, which added three more in the nightcap although all were solo shots.

Junior right fielder Louie Haseltine homered in both contests, continuing a long-ball stretch that saw him leave the park in seven of eight games. He has a team-leading nine home runs.

Also homering in the opener, which featured a season-high nine runs in the fifth inning that broke open things -- all the runs came with two outs, as did Southeast's first 14 runs in the contest -- were Slattery, Parmley and Jones.

Southeast, the OVC leader in batting average, had 27 hits on the day, 18 in the first game. The Redhawks added seven doubles and a triple.

Haseltine went 5 for 8, while Parmley and Klocke matched Slattery with four hits apiece.

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