Redhawks boost title hopes with sweep

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Southeast Missouri State baseball team had to endure a wet weekend and plenty of down time in Jacksonville, Ala.

But I doubt if the Redhawks are complaining today after returning to Cape Girardeau following a bus trip of more than 400 miles.

Why would the Redhawks have anything to gripe about after their magical season continued with Sunday's doubleheader sweep at perennial Ohio Valley Conference power Jacksonville State?

Southeast had never won a series at JSU, which has posted more wins than any other OVC squad since joining the league in 2004.

What was supposed to be a three-game series was sliced to just a pair after Saturday's doubleheader was rained out.

No problem adjusting for the Redhawks, who rolled 10-5 in Sunday's opener and then rallied for a 6-5 victory in the nightcap for their first series win at JSU.

Now 25-14 overall and 10-4 in the OVC, the Redhawks lead the nine-team league by two games over JSU, their nearest pursuer.

Not bad for a squad that was picked to finish seventh in the OVC after graduating many of its stars from 2009, then was hit early this year by several potentially crippling season-ending injuries.

Southeast has overcome all of that to not only set the conference pace but also rank among the nation's top offensive clubs with a .357 batting average. And lately the pitching also has improved.

The Redhawks can't rest on their laurels because they have nine conference games left, but they certainly have a leg up on the program's second OVC regular-season title and first since 2002.

Signing Missouri transfer Tyler Stone last week was a nice pickup for the Southeast men's basketball program.

Stone, who saw limited playing time at MU this past season, is said to have the exceptional athletic ability and strength that should give him a chance to be at least a solid OVC player.

There is no guarantee Stone will shine at Southeast, but a player who was deemed worthy of a major-conference scholarship should have the talent to accomplish that.

Stone, a 6-foot-7, 225-pound forward, will have to sit out the 2010-11 season under NCAA transfer rules but he can practice with the Redhawks. He'll then have three years of eligibility.

I tried to reach Stone for an article I wrote last week about his transfer but couldn't make connections. Be did return my call a few days later.

Stone told me he's really excited about coming to Southeast after seriously considering the Redhawks out of high school last year following the hiring of coach Dickey Nutt.

Stone said he has known Southeast assistant Jamie Rosser -- like Stone a Memphis, Tenn., native -- for a while and felt comfortable with Nutt and Rosser.

Stone said he primarily left MU for more playing time and is confident he can be an impact performer at Southeast.

While he won't be able to compete in games next season, Stone told me he believes practicing with the Redhawks will do him good as he gets acclimated to his new teammates and Nutt's style.

Also on Southeast men's basketball recruiting, the Redhawks will not land a junior college power forward they were targeting.

Aloysius Henry, a 6-9, 235-pounder, has signed with North Carolina-Greensboro. Henry spent the past two seasons at Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo.

Southeast has one available scholarship, and I know Nutt is still looking for the right player to use it on.

Although the Southeast softball team is struggling without ace pitcher Giana Zimmerman, coach Lana Richmond notched another career milestone last week.

Richmond posted her 800th softball win as the Redhawks beat host SIU-Edwardsville in the opener of Thursday's doubleheader.

Richmond has a 800-577-2 record in her 28th season at Southeast. She is the winningest softball coach in OVC history and the winningest coach in Southeast history for any sport.

Counting the 203-91 record she compiled as Southeast's volleyball coach from 1982 to 1988, Richmond has more than 1,000 collegiate victories.

Kudos to Richmond for a sensational career that doesn't appear on the verge of ending any time soon.

Southeast associate director of athletics coach Cindy Gannon told me last week that the university is in the process of searching for a gymnastics coach.

Gannon said the plan all along was to conduct a national search for a permanent coach after Kristi Ewasko served this past season as the Redhawks' interim coach.

By all accounts Ewasko did a fine job, and you would think she would at least be under consideration for the permanent position.

The OVC had two players selected in the NFL draft, both in the fifth round.

Eastern Illinois offensive tackle Otis Hudson was taken by Cincinnati with the No. 152 overall pick, while Murray State defensive end Austen Lane went to Jacksonville at No. 153.

Also, Missouri State tight end Clay Harbor was taken in the fourth round by Philadelphia at No. 125.

And SIU running back Deji Karim was picked in the sixth round by Jacksonville at No. 180.

By the way, Karim and Sam Bradford -- the NFL's top overall pick by the Rams -- played on the same high school team in the Oklahoma City area.

Marty Mishow is a sports writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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