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Break out the brooms: Southeast sweeps baseball series
There is no slowing down the Southeast Missouri State baseball team right now.
The Redhawks remained red hot Saturday, completing a three-game Ohio Valley Conference series sweep of visiting Eastern Kentucky with an 8-7 victory.
That came after Southeast captured Friday's doubleheader 17-9 and 7-4.
"I feel like everybody on the team has got confidence," junior college transfer left fielder Michael Adamson said. "We're hitting real well and the pitchers are doing the job."
Southeast has won 12 of its last 13 games and 14 of 16. Much of the damage has been done at home as the Redhawks are 15-1 at Capaha Field.
"It's nice to get a lot of wins at home and getting conference wins is important," juco transfer second baseman Tim Rupp said.
The Redhawks improved to 18-9 overall and 5-1 in OVC play. Although it's still early in the conference race, Southeast sits in a first-place tie.
"It was a great OVC series and we had huge crowds. I'm really proud of the guys," Southeast coach Mark Hogan said. "We've got a good thing going but there's a long way to go. It's not time to celebrate too much. Being 5-1 [in the OVC] doesn't mean anything unless you follow up on it."
EKU (12-14, 3-3) held early leads in all three games of the series.
Southeast broke a 4-4 tie on a two-out, fourth-inning home run by Rupp that didn't receive any help from a strong wind that blew out to right field the entire series.
Rupp's first Southeast homer was a blast that zoomed well over the left-field fence.
"It felt good. I'm glad I got the monkey off my back," Rupp said. "Just about everybody else has a few [home runs]."
Southeast later boosted its lead to 7-4 but had to survive an EKU threat in the top of the ninth inning, which began with the Redhawks ahead 8-6.
With one out, an error and a hit batter by juco transfer right-hander Nick Thomas put runners on first and second.
On came freshman Shae Simmons, the hard-throwing right-hander from Scott City who has been sensational out of the bullpen. Nothing changed in that regard Saturday.
EKU pulled off a daring double steal, pushing the runners to second and third. Simmons got the second out on a sacrifice fly that made it 8-7, then ended things by striking out Michael Garcia looking on a 2-2 curveball.
"He shows a lot of confidence. He pitches more like a veteran than a freshman," Rupp said of Simmons.
Added Adamson: "I love that kid. I don't think he even feels any of it [pressure]. He's been big for us."
Simmons picked up his third save Saturday. He also worked a perfect final inning in Friday's nightcap and earned the win when Southeast rallied, pushing his record to 2-0.
Simmons has allowed just four hits in 16 2/3 innings spanning 11 appearances. He has 21 strikeouts against nine walks and a sparkling 1.62 ERA.
"What can you say about Shae? He's just been incredible for us and I loved the way he ended the game," Hogan said.
While Southeast's sizzling offense continued to thrive, aggressive coaching by Hogan at third base accounted for the Redhawks' final run that turned out to be vital.
Sophomore shortstop Kenton Parmley led off the seventh inning with a single and still was at first base with two outs.
With Parmley moving on the pitch, juco transfer third baseman Casey Jones sent a ball past where the second baseman was before moving over to cover the bag.
As Parmley headed for third, Hogan kept waving him around and he scored all the way from first on the single, making it 8-6.
"I felt like we had a shot at it and decided to take a chance," Hogan said.
Said a smiling Parmley: "I wasn't expecting it. I kind of needed an oxygen mask. I was pretty tired."
Juco transfer left-hander Jordan Underwood (3-3) got the win with six solid innings.
After allowing two runs in each of the first two innings -- the second-inning tallies were unearned -- Underwood fired four straight shutout frames. He gave up six hits and walked two while striking out six.
Thomas allowed two seventh-inning runs but worked a perfect eighth and retired the first batter in the ninth before running into trouble.
"Jordan gave us a good start and Nick did a nice job," Hogan said.
Southeast had 12 hits and three home runs. The Redhawks finished the series with 39 hits -- including nine homers -- and 32 runs. They boosted their OVC-leading batting average to .355 after entering the week ranked 12th nationally.
"That's amazing," said Hogan, whose regulars are all hitting better than .300.
Senior All-American catcher Jim Klocke also homered Saturday, as did Adamson. Both had three hits and Klocke added two RBIs.
Klocke, who had a team-high seven hits in the series, has a 15-game hitting streak. The four-year starter moved into third place on the school's career hits list while also ranking high in many of the program's other all-time categories.
Adamson doubled in all three games of the series, giving him an OVC-best 15 doubles. He is batting .410, second on the squad.
Jones, Southeast's top hitter at .437, delivered three RBIs Saturday. Parmley added two hits.
Southeast returns to action Tuesday with a 3 p.m. nonconference home game against SIU-Carbondale.